toy

Missing the crush of the crowd

I'm sad not to be in the Bay Area for the Super Bowl. Not because I would attend it, but because I enjoy uncomfortably large crowds organized around massive, limited-duration public events. Problems: 1) I'm an introvert, so I shouldn't like big crowds; but really big ones feel deliciously impersonal. If you are there with one or two people, then being with them feels not impersonal, but quite intimate. 2) Reflecting on this, I see my male privilege, and possibly a limited-scope "large-bodied privilege" as well; I can be in most crowds and not worry about being harrassed or badly squished. Also, as a friend used to remind me, I have never worked as a server. I do not think I would like harrassing crowd energy at all; I've certainly heard of this happening, but I can't really think of a time when I've seen it in person. Maybe this inability to remember is also a function of privilege; or maybe it is a function of having been harrassed (not in crowds) and getting good at self-protective forgetting.

I have seen crowds panic. Sometimes that is unpleasant: when I was caught up in the panic myself. I remember something at D2KLA involving cops on horseback and a kettle or a corral of some sort and it is all hazy but it seems I may have been one of the cattle and I got out without a scratch but a few minutes there were not pleasant. But sometimes the crowd behaves as if it is panicking when there is nothing meriting this, and one can look out and see every absurd wrong lurch every gross overreaction. This to me is a quite delicious, laughing at oneself, an absurd behavior outside of one's own control, like a limb falling asleep from the vantage point of a conscious cell perceiving the silly numbness.



I remember reading a book of theory about crowds, with N., in 2005 or 6. Did that really happen? Does that book even exist? I'm fairly sure it did and it must. We were like a little, structured reading group. There were no substances involved to my memory, and no traumas, nothing that should make it hazy, just a pleasant, tiny community of reading. But I have never been able to find a citation for that book since.

I like the feeling of being pressed on all sides, of being slightly squished, of being unable to move except in a direction I may not will. Of course I also have the privilege of being a person who has been able to get out of crowds, to go to places where I'm not squished at all, to places where I can just flabb out grossly, allow my distended blobby skin to glisten on the ground, places like Wyoming or the desert or my bedroom. I have spent a great deal of time alone. More, it seems to me, than most people in most cultures and eras of history, more than is properly healthy for a communal animal perhaps, something between austere Western US Germanic white person alone and Yellow Wallpaper you're probably already being shut away from your family going slightly nuts alone. That is assuredly a spectrum, but there seems to be the assumption that one will always progress in a single direction, that the Telos is Madness. I'm here to tell you, there's no Telos; one minute you are contemplating a yawning pit of have I finally slipped over into certifiable, and the next you are doing something utterly banal, and faking it fine, and it's not even faking because everyone else is too, buying fruit at the grocery store even if your eyes are fixated on the weird thing about the carrots. At least that is me. Maybe if I was more special, or more insistent on myself, or more willing to damn the consequences, I would let myself be mad, or maybe probably of course I would just be unable to control it. Maybe if I was more like my father. He was more special, more insistent, and more willing to damn. But maybe he was also just totally different in ways I could never feel or access. Instead I can always dial it back, pass, and wonder if the feeling of out of controlness was anything real.

Thus self-consciousness spoils it, stops it short of the ability to generate anything that would approach the productive fits of high modern melancholia. Perhaps this is part of what I enjoy about being in a crowd, a true, dense, large enough crowd where the energy of whole takes over, that one is forced to accept a mode of functioning that is outside the individual-rational, not mad, not affected, of a limited duration, outside your control, not of chemical provenance.