Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Post-Colonial Anxiety Redux, or "Meaningless Personality Test of the Day"

Damn, my post-colonial anxiety will never be alleviated:

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

I took it three times too. Only by severely fudging the answers could I arrive at a different conclusion, although I am divided on quite a few. But, it seems that I'm Paris, for the most part.

Take the quiz here for all of the questions, but these are the ones that gave me pause:

1. The Perfect City's Vibe: at this age, it's undeniable that my intellectual elitism and pretentions (despite my democratic and populist politics and policies, I yam what I yam) demand that I live in a city with great arts and culture offerings, good food and good coffee and great bookstores. But with an eye towards the future, I know that I ultimately want some place homey and quiet. Ten years from now I'll prefer the suburbs to the urbs, and a college town to a city. I'm not really an urban rat. I'm not a country mouse either. I think I'm more of a town gerbil.

2. Reason to live in Europe: I'm going to Europe for the first time this summer, and so while the new experiences excite me, I am soon exhausted by novelty. Newness is not really an end in itself...because it ends so quickly. A moment passes and it becomes inexorably the past, the old. I'm too workaholic Type A for the European way of life, and grow too quickly bored sitting at a cafe for more than an hour. And I always want to bring something along to read--I can never sit still. So since I don't care about parties, fashion (well, I like it but it's not the most compelling reason and it chafes at my anti-snobbery side) and hate beer, the only thing that would draw me to live in Europe is the culture. The architecture, the art, the history. Which I've studied from afar, and will likely continue to do for the rest of my life, because culture isn't enough reason to ignore the other impulses that convince me that I'm meant to live here, enjoying the American culture (not an oxymoron). I have interest in visiting the culture of Europe, but it's not ever something I feel like I can appropriate as my own.

But oddly, I think of American history and culture as familiar even if strange and unexperienced. And though I'm the native-born daughter of immigrants, when Willa Cather is describing the mesas of Utah or the missions of New Mexico or the plains of the Midwest, they are my own. Something I really want to experience, and somewhere I can imagine living, something that could be a part of me. I think of the real-life castles that survive into the future in Europe, and they're still fairytales to me, turrets for ancient princesses. I think of O'Connor's Georgia, and absurdist as it often was, it is real and palpable. I can't explain it. Maybe seeing is believing, but living is more than experience. I think I could experience Europe and never really think of it as more than temporary: a vacation, a fellowship, etc. But I could think of almost anywhere in America and think it could be--eventually--home. I think I could fall in love with Europe, but I would always be faithful to America. My mistress as opposed to my marriage.

3. If I could live in any city in America, it'd be either San Francisco or Seattle. I love the verve of San Francisco--its beauty, vitality and culture that is at once relaxed and active. It's all about the good life, but it's a busy good life that runs from morning till night, from the office to the outside and weekday to weekend, full of art and literature, new sights and sounds. I like Seattle for it's natural beauty and really healthy, laid back lifestyle. The lush greenery that surrounds, how outdoorsy everyone is even though it rains a lot (something foreign to this former desert dweller), and its coffee and bookstore culture. Seems like a good place to raise a family, just cosmopolitan enough to satisfy former hipster parents, but low-key enough to be healthy for the kids. So these are two very different answers, for two different phases of my life that I am transitioning between. I imagine, the closer I get to having a family of my own, that I'll eventually think of a place like think of a place like Williamstown, MA as the perfect place to live.

Personality tests are generally bunk (remember Myers-Briggs? I'm an ISTJ!) and blog quizzes sillier (apparently, if I were a poet, I'd be John Ashbery), but they're fun for making us think about how we would answer certain questions differently at certain moments, and how we become different things (people, cities) when we change our answers just a little to reflect our current state.

So I'm Paris for now. Maybe one day I'll be Amsterdam. Maybe one day I'll be Denver, Colorado (seriously, I can imagine it).

Hat Tip: Michael Froomkin


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