Mr. Wilde and the Awkward Authoress

As I have said in the past, I feel a kinship with Oscar Wilde.  This connection probably stems from my love of Victorian literature and what I have learned about him over time. The more I learn, the more I feel drawn to him, as a person and as a writer.  In a previous post I mentioned how much I love the movie Julie and Julia, and in the same way Julie feels a connection to Julia Child, I feel connected to Oscar Wilde despite living over a century apart. When I think of him, I picture a large man with a quiet yet large presence that isn’t tied to his foppish ensemble.  Along with,  that, I picture champagne, fine dinners, a restaurant gilded and gleaming with a haze of cigar and cigarette smoke somewhere posh.  He was a presence, a man known as much for his wit and intellect as for his talent.  That level of sociability is something I aspire to, but in my introverted, anxiety-ridden bubble, I feel that it is unattainable.  Then, I saw this:power to attract friends It came from a questionnaire Wilde filled out while in America. If you’re having a hard time reading it, the question is “What trait of character do you most admire in man?” and Wilde’s answer is “the power of attracting friends.” This struck me. Why would a man like Wilde, who seemed to be entertaining guests often when he became a successful playwright and was known for his conversation and wit, admire those who could attract friends?  Wilde filled this out when he was in his early twenties, and being a twenty-three going on twenty-four year old, I felt a twinge of hope for my introverted self.  If Wilde could go from someone who had a hard time making friends to a man who seemed to attract crowds, maybe there was hope for me.  Maybe Wilde was a lit/art nerd or an awkward dork too at my age.

I’m one of those people who is able to speak to people I see daily (like in class or at work), but I rarely get to the best friend stage with anyone or it’s completely one-sided on my side.  There has never been someone I could hang out with regularly and share time or a good meal with.  I have my boyfriend of course, whom I love dearly, to do those things with, but a friend besides my significant other would be nice.  I do have a best friend. Unfortunately, she lives across the pond, yet she is the type of person I would imagine doing all the things I hope to do with a friend if they lived nearby.  Luckily in this internet age we can message each other all the time, but it would be nice to go somewhere and have plans for once. The green-eyed monster rears its head when I watch my boyfriend occasionally venture out to a restaurant, pub, or friend’s house.

Part of the problem I know is me.  I don’t drink. I don’t like what many people my age would like, like partying or drinking or carousing.  I’m kind of stiff (prudish according to my boyfriend), and that doesn’t always work to my advantage. I long for someone to go to NYC with me to a new museum exhibit or take a drive to a town 30 minutes away to try a new bakery or restaurant.  Someone I can hang out with and not say anything to because the friendship doesn’t rely on constant activity to keep it going. My interests are limited, and my unwillingness to put a lot of effort into friendships after numerous failures makes it hard for me to step out and try, but Mr. Wilde’s questionnaire gives me hope that I’ll be able to make and maintain friendships one day. Then again, at the end of his life, I think Wilde realized who his true friends were, and they weren’t nearly as numerous as they seemed.

Between my creative writing and literature classes and the friends I have met online, I think I have made some relationships that will withstand time.  I can’t be sure who will come or go, but after looking back at Wilde, it reminds me that it’s quality over quantity, and I definitely have quality friends.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Mr. Wilde and the Awkward Authoress

  1. I can totally relate. I’ve always been the kind of person who would rather have a few really deep friendships than lots of superficial ones. And I see sitting in the same space reading separate books as a form of quality time :]

    I was super-shy and very awkward as a kid. Now I’m only kind of shy and very awkward.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to find a lot of like-minded friends over the years and even, after years of dreaming and talking about it, have gotten to where a few of us moved to live within a few blocks of each other so our families can eat together and hang out and help each other as part of daily life. Which. Is. Amazing! (But complicated to arrange and maintain, obviously.)

    I’ve also gotten a lot more willing to talk to strangers etc. over the years, so maybe I’m in the early phases of that transformation from edge-dweller to sparkling personality.

    Even so, I strongly feel that sense of awkwardness or outsiderness. It feels more like I’ve gotten good at putting on the emotionally costly act that may occasionally yield a real friend than that I’ve gotten comfortable in groups of people. I think what goes on in my head is so complicated that, even in the relatively unusual cases where I find someone who would track with me, it’s hard to make sense of it for others. So I’m left only being able to let people into the parts of my life that I find a little less interesting or core. Probably true of everyone to some extent, but it sure feels like others are better at hiding it/living with it sometimes.

    Anyway, I’d love to hang out sometime if we’re in the same area. Let me know if you’re ever near Baltimore. More feasibly, my family lives in Clifton, so I’m up in north NJ from time to time for visits. I try to make a point of going into Manhattan when I’m in the area just because I need a fix of Manhattan air every so often, and I love trying new food places, so if you want to join me on (or instigate) a low-key adventure I’d love to make it happen. Or also we could sit quietly and read separate books somewhere. If you want. No pressure. But either way, I feel you.

    Cheers!
    Ben

    • Kara Jorgensen

      That would be awesome, Ben. I would love to take you up on your offer if you’re ever in Jersey/NYC or I’m in Baltimore. I go to school up by Clifton. I know what you mean though about your mind being a complicated place. I have a hard time expressing myself verbally sometimes when it comes to more complicated issues or stories. If someone asks about my latest project, I just stutter and stammer because my brain feels the need to spew every minute detail at once. I think my writing has drawn me out of my shell a bit. I’ve met some really great people in the writing program I’m in and we bond over our classes and general love of creative writing. Over the years, I have become more picky about friendships, but as we have both said, quality of quantity. Pursuing someone who would never seek me out is a waste of my social points. I have a certain amount of social energy I can expend at any given time, and once it’s gone, I’m a fried mess who can only go into hibernation mode.

      • Agreed. I think a lot of my writing is basically me making my best effort to get out that complicated core set of ideas and occupations—(I mean, things that occupy me? What’s the word for that? Weird.)—in a way that’s comprehensible to the world at large, or at least to the bits of it who might get it.

        And sweet! We should try to get to gether sometime. Could be super fun. (I just got an idea for a book. Wild Fun for Quiet People: The Joys of Introverted Friendship.)

      • Kara Jorgensen

        Lol, I like that book idea. When I was putting together my thesis proposal, I realized how much I focus on identity in my works: gender, sexuality, social, etc., so I guess I am trying to work through that in my writing. My characters’ major issues revolve around their identities and how they don’t fit into society’s boxes. I think my introversion leaks into them.

      • Really true. It’s still pretty incredible to me the degree to which my (and I assume anyone’s) writing can’t help but start reflecting who I really am and what I care about.

        I always used to wonder how I could write about Big Themes and get my writing to deal with Important Questions and such. (Or rather, whether I ever would, and how it was that great authors did. Honestly, reading and writing that sort of thing struck me as a little intimidating and I mostly stuck with the stuff I liked.)

        But as I started really writing extensively, I found that anytime I try to Deal With A Theme it gets really hamhanded, and my writing can’t seem to help but reveal what’s really on my mind and in my heart.

        So now I just try to care about really interesting things, then write whatever I feel like :] Interestingly, introversion and that sense outsiderness of not liking the noise and parties and activity of social interaction has become a pretty key theme in Frobisher.

  2. amo

    Yup. It’s called being an introvert. One of the things I’ve learned in the course of my life (which has been about twice as long as yours, to date) is that even some people who LOOK like they’re all gregarious social butterflies might feel just the same way you do on the inside – they’re just faking it on the outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde was one of them. It’s immensely encouraging to find that our idols are really not all that different from us – and you’re totally right, if *he* was like that, you can be too.
    As for getting together, I’d say “Let’s do coffee!”, except that I’m on the other side of the continent and across the border from you – makes it a bit tricky…

    • Kara Jorgensen

      Thinking about Wilde has a closeted introvert makes me wonder how much down time he needed to recover from being social. It may explain why he was so productive in the 1890s. More social= more downtime= more writing.

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