By Atreyee Majumder
Dear Lula Mae,
Belated happy birthday! I know it was on 4 May. It took me a week, but I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s to celebrate. I watched your raised eyebrows conveying the pathos of Lula Mae’s hungry childhood into Holly Golightly’s social climbing abandon that avoids cages and waits for the right cage to come along. Fred aka Paul is a version of you. So you like him. But he makes no money. He is a kept man. So he can’t be your right cage. Gangsters, businessmen, wannabe presidents fall for your charm. You blow smoke at their arrogance through that long cigarette-holder of yours. You are irresistible. Your sexuality is the most delicate thing Hollywood has ever handled. You lack the gamine fierceness of Rooney Mara. You lack the warlike impatience of Jennifer Lawrence. You are forever painted in dainty dresses and big hats. You tiptoe across the streets of Manhattan, in and out of fire escapes, harnessing the material from the hearts of old resourceful men. You desire power — the smell, texture, biceps of it. And yet, you avoid addressing it directly. Lula Mae, you’re the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
You are Rooney’s predecessor. You had to fly into the obsessively power-cultivating New York life so that Rooney could emerge a few decades later and bash the shit out of the same men you had so carefully pocketed the hearts of. Do men have hearts? I don’t know, it’s a serious question.
You, like your beau, live out of hunting and gathering opportunity. Years later, Lena Dunham appeared on screen — with her naked chubby intelligence. You could have been an aspiring, self-indulgent writer in Manhattan/Brooklyn, bantering endlessly about life and words in a café. You chose not to procure jobs or degrees or a frying pan. You chose not to name the cat. You respond dramatically at the news of your brother Fred’s death.
Tiffany is really a reflection of your delicate self-image — which wants to put itself on display and be admired like a unique precious thing by fat rich men. Do diamonds have self-esteem? I don’t know. If they do, it’s probably quite a fragile one. How do they feel when they are tucked away in vaults at night, when no one is watching them in desire? They probably feel quite shitty. What of these creatures and objects we create to gaze at, Lula Mae? Why do we create them? Why are we so cruel to the possibility that they may want to grow up and walk out of Tiffany?
You turned into one of those, Lula Mae; maybe that’s exactly what you wanted. But in the 21st century, you turned into a beautiful, pitiable and somewhat disgusting character – Holly Golightly. Paul, the writer, loved you because he needed to rescue something to recuperate his masculinity. What if you had a short story in The New Yorker as well? Would he then fall desperately in love with you and fold you in his arms while throttling the cat in the rainy New York afternoon? You have the fantasy of freedom, Lula Mae. You don’t know what freedom is. You don’t want to know. Paul knows it. He knows you will cling onto him for dear life while he bangs out stories of flighty intensity and masculine exploration of the world.
A man of weighty substance lurks near your birthday, Lula Mae. He gave us a grammar of being that is utterly, eternally violent. Karl Marx, a potbellied, bearded chap. He gave us the idea that being always depends on the worth of other human beings. Marx would point out that you consume the dead labour of diamond workers in Africa when you traipse around Tiffany. Tiffany is the ultimate showcase of capitalist desire, and the flâneuse, Holly Golightly, is the epitome of brutal carelessness of the bloodlines of production that are inscribed onto the body of the city. If you were staged today, there would probably a bunch of intersectional feminists saying how white you were, and how blind your feminine desire complex is to the experience of race and racialised labour across the world. You would smile at them patronisingly and win their hearts as you do with Yunioshi, the caricatured Japanese artist who lives upstairs and whose masculinity is but a thing of ridicule in your world. You traipse along measuring your comparative worth in people’s eyes. That’s how bound you are to the question of value. You are that funny, floating, fragile thing that Marx called ‘theological niceties’ and ‘fetishism of commodity’. You are a thing, Lula Mae. And you want to be so. Marx failed to ponder on the emic desire of things to be just that — things, to be owned and beholden by a proprietor. What is this intricate, intimate death bond between owner and owned? That dresses up the core of human brutality in pretty images and words. We want to be owned at some level — each of us has an internal slave that won’t revolt. That wants to submit to class relations.
The other man who lurks around your birthday, Lula Mae, made sense of this. Sigmund Freud. These were men of hefty words who took their monocles into the business of our delicate souls. He attaches this feeling to lost love of parents — mothers, fathers, gods and demons. We grow tired of hefty words uttered by sombre bearded men. We would rather turn our attention to the light in your eyes, the pathos of your cheekbones. You are sculpted in the contours of our desire, Lula Mae. Paul knows that. You will grow into a clingy old woman who throws parties that everyone comes to, and leave with younger Lulas. What do you think of your childlike persistence at eternity, Lula Mae? There lies your pathetic resistance. Capote was no feminist. He wanted to create a creature that was perfect like the cadence of his text, that he could play with his fingertips like plasticine. He created a chirpy stylish waif. The waif grew into an extension of his fingers and let the world know of the creator’s utter violence.
I pity you, Lula Mae. I am no fan of Holly Golightly. But when you blow smoke and look out into the New York sky on a muggy evening, I can’t help but want a little bit of the lightness of being that drifts out of your heart, through your eyes and onto the rusty fire escape.
Yours in dilemma,