Sometimes I Google search Emma Watson, just to, you know, stay in touch. She’s this contemplative introvert who values privacy, thrust into a world of celebrity that she seems uncomfortable inside of. It is endlessly appealing. The coy smiles. The love of literature. The gentle, strong-willed feminism. It’s enough to make someone want to invite her into his book club. “What did you think about Lila, Emma?” “Please, can you read this passage for us?” My heart is beating harder just thinking about it.
And of course, I was enamored by the recent news that she entered a week-long vow of silence to better understand herself. It simultaneously humanizes her and heightens her celebrity. It’s so easy to imagine her curled up on a couch, or walking along woodland paths, furrowing those smartly arched brows as she evaluates what it means to enjoy her own company. It’s always hard to imagine that someone as universally loved as Emma might not enjoy herself. It makes you want to reach out and say, “Come here, Emma. Let me enjoy your company for you,” which would, in combination with the casual use of her first name, probably unsettle her more than anything else. I mean, I struggle enjoying my own company as well, but no one is seeking me out to be their Hermione Granger, or Moses’s daughter, or Belle. It’s an easy lie to fall into, that somehow celebrity is a perfect form of validation. The news that she sought out external and internal quiet shows that’s not true, at least for her—she’s fighting with complex internal struggles. I would love to hear every single one of them.
I’ve already perused a few possible places in Seattle to hole up in. I may not be able to enjoy Emma’s company (the dream is real), but I’ll be able to regard my own, which is a very odd thought. The language we use to describe understanding ourselves—“I want to get comfortable with myself,” “I want to love myself,” “I want to learn who I am”—it all seems to involve multiple people. When I am alone, it’s as if there’s “I,” which are the thoughts in my head, and then the “me,” someone who I seem to be observing. That it’s even possible to enjoy one’s own company is mind-bending, though this kind of duality happens on a subconscious level daily. When we’re annoyed at a response we gave someone, or laugh at a comment we’re making before we’ve even finished saying it, or even feel lonely, it’s all from our duality observing itself.
Enjoying my self is almost claustrophobic. It’s hard to know who I am because I have been drenched in my own thoughts and actions my whole life. It’s something like hearing your voice on the answering machine. Who the hell is that? That’s ME? But with ourselves, we don’t ever get that outside perspective. We can’t enter into someone else’s mind and see ourselves. To get over the ending of a relationship that was important to her, Emma couldn’t enter the thoughts of the person she was saying goodbye to, she could only retreat in silence and regard herself. In a sense, this is something like learning that she was in a relationship with herself. A forced union, so to speak.
When I was younger, I used to stand in front of the mirror and stare at my face, and with dawning nausea realize that who I was looking at was me. It was like a physical manifestation that internal duality. This is the person that other people observe walking around the halls at school, talking and making jokes, and I am observing him now as he looks uncomfortably into my eyes. I wonder if Emma deals with this on occasion as she considers herself on screen. She sees herself as other people do, but defined by a different personhood—the one of her character. A silent retreat to understand herself as Emma Watson, and not Hermione Granger, or the focal point of a someone’s blog post, or maybe, simply, the lover of an Oxford rugby player, is all the more important.
I think even if I do eventually figure out how to be at peace with myself, and regard my personhood with love and tenderness, I’ll always desire an observer other than myself to do the same. I am forced to live with myself, but for someone else to know me and voluntarily choose to share a life with me, that is marvelous. For now, and possibly for a lot longer, it’s just me, and I think I would like to love him.