Sometimes a person will decide that he wants to be seen as an Intellectual, and so dresses as if he’s unaware of everyday traditions. Someone who has selected this persona carries at least one book with him, usually wears glasses, and exhibits a serious, thoughtful expression.
An Artist may choose clothing that he thinks an artist would wear. He may believe that an artist shouldn’t care about traditional style, but have some particular quirky manner about his appearance. My ex-husband had many neckties that celebrated famous painters: Van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso, Dali and many others. They were rather nice, actually and announced to his students that he appreciated artistic endeavors.
His desire to present himself as eccentric and creative, could also be seen with the gifts he bought. A few days before Christmas, one of the first years we were married, he staggered up the basement stairs, carrying an enormous carton and placed it under the Christmas tree. I couldn’t imagine what it could be. Lifting it was useless. I still couldn’t identify what was inside.
When Christmas morning arrived and all the other items had been opened, I finally removed the bow and pulled apart the end of that bulky box. I stared, speechless, unable to believe my eyes. He was thrilled with the creativity of the gift. I was shocked.
It was a case of toilet paper, ninety six rolls.
I had no bathroom problems or fixation on toilet paper, but he knew that a few years earlier, five-year-old Susan and I had returned from a year-long trip around the world. In countries, such as India, there seldom was toilet paper supplied for the usual hole-in-the-floor toilets, or even in the few Western ones we encountered. In order to be prepared for this lack, I carried a roll of toilet paper with me. It was an essential that I kept wrapped in a plastic bag, next to my camera, in my corduroy zipper bag.
Hearing that I carried that basic necessity amused him and he thought he was being clever to give me such a gift. I, on the other hand, was dismayed and slightly embarrassed. I also felt disappointed that it hadn’t been a personal gift to please me, rather than something that he thought made him appear imaginative, a daring individual not afraid to push the envelope of predictable and conventional gifts.
My ex-husband cultivated the aura that he was an artist. He wanted to be thought of as creative and innovative in his way of living. In his younger days, he created a large number of oil paintings, sculpture, and the house he built himself in Vermont, but in later years he lived in the fantasy world of what he could or would do, without actual work even beginning.
We eventually used up all that toilet paper and today, when I’m in Stop & Shop, on occasion I may momentarily remember that day, especially if I buy one of the large packages of that personal necessity.