by Réginald-Jérôme de Mans


An essay topic, exploded like a soap bubble, both flimsy and eye-stinging: memories of a short story (by whom? sounds Frenchabout a woman (a duchess? a marquise?) who was able to fixate on some tiny item, a ring or a ribbon, at every difficult time in her life, to the exclusion of all other stimuli, until it became her undoing. Parallels to draw between her and some trinket from my wardrobe – perhaps otherworldly-looking unpolished semiprecious gem cufflinks – that in its own way provided a sort of style ASMR at stressful times. Ethereal speculation collapsed under its weight and lack of structure, lack of internal coherence and support.

Anyway, what is the comfort of today? Not the things we are buying. I mean, don’t get me wrong. My inner #iGent neurosis has me compulsively buying small pick-me-ups that I can look forward to, but I know that no actual acquisition can actually numb dull, overpowering reality. Like my fellow #iGents, I have the strange feeling that isolation is not so different from my normal life because I hardly go out anyway. Then, with immediacy, hits the anxiety of responsibility: having to parent, work, and stagger hours to accommodate a partner trying to do the same. No vintage piece of knitwear or other doodad is going to help me successfully explain to my son why one of us is working extremely early, the other extremely late, and why both of us are making up time on weekends. I agree with him that it’s not fair. It’s better than the alternative.

At this time, material acquisition seems even more a reminder of insecurity and precarity. Taking pleasure in the possessions I do have? The things any non-sociopath would truly want in order to feel fulfilled are calm and community. Every thing that presents itself serves some purpose in relation to a maddening world. By that relation they cannot transport us away. A good shirt and crisply pressed trousers become the uniform of professional time, quickly given the lie when splayed on the floor for necessary video game breaks with the kid. Cufflinks, jackets, ties become a mocking audience, hooting almost audibly to remind us of a register of dress this era has rendered ridiculous. Not a possession to dazzle me, but one to make me wryly laugh: an old, beautifully patterned silk scarf from Sulka Paris had to become my ersatz mask for a couple of outings. I supposed that’s the closest a possession has come to helping screen me from reality.

A companion for outings. As a prequel to this episode, a week before distancing orders took place we lost our dog to various illnesses of his well-lived 16 years. As if anything further needed to remind me of the uselessness of material acquisition. It reminded me of many reasons I hate being an adult, being able to expect this happening, to be calm about it, to know that whatever our beloved pet was experiencing was far from the narrative idea of lived experience that we humans have, that we wanted him to share. In truth, my most effective diversion was looking at posts tagged #spanielsofinstagram in the last weeks.

Not a possession. Fans of rescue dogs, of having a loving presence in our house, we eventually found another foundling of vastly different personality yet comparable sweetness, a new family member who can be a new investment in hope for a different time. Let this responsibility be a blessing. Meet Jade.