The week before we went into lockdown I had one of those vertiginous mood plummets that feel otherworldly, as though I’ve been struck down by a curse. I was fine one day, more than fine, humming along full of energy and forward momentum. The next day, being alive hurt. I white knuckled through dropoff and came back to my apartment and couldn’t stop crying. I hated everything I had ever done. Every choice I’d ever made seemed wrong. Most of all, I wished never to have published any writing. Why had I made myself so vulnerable to attack, what had I been thinking? I had hurt myself and the people I loved in ways I didn’t even understand. Waves of pain radiated out of my joints every time I moved. I talked myself through each infinite minute by reminding myself that this was temporary and not without cause or precedent. I had just had my IUD removed, I was experiencing some kind of hormonal withdrawal. If I could take some benzos and nap, Ruth promised, my brain would “hard-restart” and I would feel better, and I did, but the next morning was also bad. I sat on the aisle at a school assembly in case I had to cry or faint or vomit. I got through it and the next day felt tentatively normal.
The day after that was when we all started to talk seriously about whether they should close the schools, and the day after that whatever was happening to me got sort of swept along in the wave of what was happening to everyone. Crisis adrenaline replaced whatever toxic hormonal cocktail had been poisoning my blood. After I finally stopped bleeding from the IUD removal I didn’t get another period for 48 days, so long that I bought a pregnancy test. Then I started to have regular cycles again, with ups and downs that felt bad in predictable, non-catastrophic ways: a spike in anxiety around ovulation, a return to calm with the first day of bleeding. It’s strange for me even to remember that random day of abject misery now. If I hadn’t just had my IUD removed I would probably think it had been some kind of psychic premonition about the coming crisis, but it wasn’t, it was just my defective body doing one of the things bodies reliably do, which is: get sick and sometimes, if we’re lucky, get better.
Raffi is obsessed with Lady Gaga right now. Specifically, the Stupid Love and Rain on Me videos, but also and most enduringly the Bad Romance video. He keeps asking me to explain the plot of it, which I can’t because it makes no sense. Stefani, if you want to step in here and explain wth is going on in this video in terms that would make sense to a newly-5 year old, please email me at email@example.com. Also hi, I love your oeuvre, thanks for subscribing to this newsletter?? As best I can tell, the video opens with a lot of monsters in white latex emerging from coffin-pods with their eyes covered by latex crowns. Then there is a closeup of some bottles of fancy vodka (?) and in the next sequence some ladies are trying to forcefeed it to Gaga, who has just emerged in a pink wig and dilated pupils from a bathtub in another translucent latex corset. Later, she and the monsters dance towards a man with a metal jaw ornament. She is wearing crystal underpants and what Raffi cannot be dissuaded from calling a “boof-bra” (a bra), also made of crystals. This is intercut with extreme closeups of Gaga’s relatively normal-looking face and also scenes of monster-Gaga’s knobbly spine in a … shower? But she just took a bath? I guess she was really dirty! Then there’s a whole other sequence involving ornate head-to-toe Balenciaga looks (“walk, walk, fashion baby”) and more lingerie, a black set and a red set, and a culminating scene where she marches toward metal jaw man, who is reclining on a bed flanked by taxidermied antelopes (taxidermy, so hot in the 00s!) wearing a polar bear-skin cape. Then the closing shot of the video, MAXIMALLY important to Raffi, features Gaga lying next to the ashen remains of metal jaw guy in bed. Flickering flames are still spurting from her metal boof-bra, and she is smoking a cigarette and looking very disaffected. Why did she kill him, he wants to know, and also how, and also, what is a “bad romance?”