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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Column: Jesus Hippie Chic

Caitlin is a contradiction.

When I met her, I was critiquing her interior perspective drawing for DES 15. She had painted a giant bunk bed, but because she ran out of time to paint the lower bunk, it became a giant table. The room had no walls, and the objects in the foreground were smaller than those in the background.

I targeted the visual impossibility of the bed-table in the background. She tried to justify it by saying it was intentional, given that since it was a kid’s bedroom, the scale made the viewer feel small, like a kid.

“Look at her,” our professor said. “She’s dancing.”

I then found out she was a regent scholar, and came here instead of Berkeley because UC Davis gave her a full ride. This did not make sense. Three years later, Caitlin still does not make sense. I’ve seen her near daily for the past two quarters, and I still can’t figure her out.

She’s athletic, attractive, but doesn’t wear makeup. Her neck, arms, back and legs are long and thin. Her nose slopes down to a marble at the tip. But if she wears a fake beard and hides her hair in a trucker hat, she looks like a man.

One day, she’ll be wearing a summer dress she sewed herself with her hair fanned out in an A-line. The next day she’ll be wearing nylon pants and a Northface sweater, with her greasy bangs (after three showerless days) pulled back over her head with bobby pins.

She got in trouble during high school dances for dancing too dirty. But she gets uncomfortable when I tell her I have to shit at her place after hours of design work. She led Bible studies for a campus ministry a year ago. She downs Wickys at Café Bernardo regularly. She won’t go to a church unless they allow women pastors. She thinks the burning bush in Exodus is a metaphor for love. She is the only white person on the Vent Magazine staff.

Caitlin is a logical fallacy. Her roommates once went around coining each other’s fashion styles in catch phrases. When Caitlin’s turn came, her roommate Meg said, “Jesus Hippie Chic.”

For a research paper she was writing for her landscape architecture class last quarter, she asked me which represents America more: the lawn or the garage. The garage is a close candidate because while it’s designed to store cars, most hide all their unopened moving boxes and their untouched treadmill inside it, choosing to display their cars on the driveway instead.

The lawn, we decide, is the more accurate metaphor, though. In California, at least, the desert climate is unsuitable for lawns. But we waste billions of gallons in drinking water each year trying to keep up the grass, mowing it weekly to keep it controlled – just to make our houses look a little more natural.

The fact that the lawn is a natural impossibility makes everyone want it.

This delusion is also why we, as a country, think we can spend more than we borrow, kill millions and spend billions in two unnecessary wars under God’s name, and expect to lower our national deficit with tax cuts for the people most unaffected by economic crisis.

It’s also why Britney Spears got famous, but lost it the morning after she lost her virginity. And it’s also why one of Caitlin’s main struggles in life is telling guys she doesn’t want to marry them.

She says all her ex-boyfriends live in this fantasy world where people wear white dresses and eat cakes. When she tells them she doesn’t want to get married, they never really believe her.

“Guys either wait to save me or corrupt me,” she said once.

It was three in the morning, the night I helped Caitlin move out of her apartment. In the dark, the haircut she thought made her look old and maternal made her look like Grace Kelly.

The supermen all want to save the jaded, loveless damsel by teaching her how to use a five-column grid in InDesign. The jokers all want to corrupt the Christian saint by making her take enough shots at the bar to get her swimming in the Tanglewood fountain on the way home.

“Have you ever had your heart broken?” I asked her. I asked because I am the exact opposite. I always want more than I give. I take more than I share. But I give more than I actually have. And if we can learn anything from our national trade deficit, when you borrow more than you can pay back, you break.

“I’ve had my share of heartbreak, but my life never fell apart because of someone else,” she said. “I don’t understand that. Maybe I just don’t fall in love.”

During the three-person Bible group I meet with Caitlin in each week, we talked about the Exodus story, and how Moses was drawn to a bush that could burn but simultaneously self-sustain. It’s inherently contradictory. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t try to make sense. But it exists. And the closer you get, the less sense it makes. But you get closer, closer, closer.

GEOFF MAK and Caitlin both want you to go to the Vent Magazine Release Party at The Grad. If this gets posted on the website before 11 p.m. on Thursday, this will still be relevant. If you want a copy with Geoff’s article as the cover story, reach him at gemak@ucdavis.edu.

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