My husband and I saw the movie GONE GIRL a few days ago. I read the book when it first came out and enjoyed it, so with David Fincher at the helm, I assumed I would like it.
“Like” is the wrong word to describe the experience. Horrifying and unnerving are more apropos (and perhaps, the point). And not because of the Hollywood plot constructs or gratuitous gore designed to do so. The movie was unnerving because through its depiction of the perfect “It” girl (“Amazing Amy”) gone berzerk, it temporarily puts a crack in the lens of what crazy looks like. It causes men to look at women, be it their girlfriends, wives, sisters or mothers, and wonder, no matter how subconsciously, “Could that brand of crazy be lurking in her?”
Seven years ago, on the heels of a devastating divorce, I discovered that I had some meshugah lurking in me. It crept up on me slowly. One morning, while vacationing in a big old house in Martha’s Vineyard with a few newly single girlfriends (a sequel called “Gone Girls”?), I awoke early to make coffee and as I stood at the kitchen sink looking out over the Dickensian landscape of gray rolling hills, I pictured myself standing on that hill, my long black skirt billowing savagely in the wind, and I thought to myself: That woman (me) looks mad. What if her husband came home at that moment and saw her there, and realizes, by the subtle way she dips her head or moves her arm, that she is mad, and that he is afraid of her? Would he be right, or is it only his perspective?
I thought of writing a novella about a husband and wife’s alternating points of view of the wife’s descent into madness, which explores the meaning of “crazy” and the moment it springs into being. But then… well… I had some more crazy exploits to tend to, so I forgot. And then “Gone Girl,” the book came out. And here we are.
The questions that plagued me at the time were maddening in their own right. Had my own sense of “crazy” been lurking all along, waiting for a trauma to unleash it? Or, was it just a temporary side effect of that trauma? And how do we even define “crazy”? Is it subjective, depending on circumstances and perspective? Or is it diagnosed only by visible, tangible behaviors? Can we feel crazy but not act or necessarily be crazy?
I don’t know, nor am I equipped or educated enough on the topic to attempt to answer any of those questions. But for me, it was defined by a feeling that was strange and disorienting – of being lost and off balance; in emotional survival mode, intent on protecting my raw wounds from infection by enveloping them in a prickly shell. I would act impulsively or speak inappropriately, and it was this specific lack of control – which I only recognized after the fact – that concerned me. (Plus a few instances of being “that” person at the bar, sobbing in public for no apparent reason, and going to a public restroom to pee without noticing the urinals until my exit.)
Filled with shame, I retreated into myself. It wasn’t that I feared going Crazy Amy on anyone. I just didn’t want to be around people who might detect this about me. I wanted to hide until it passed. I was hoping that this was a phase, and not the “real me.”
And eventually, in time, it did pass. As I healed, I emerged from that murky place and left that “me” behind. I got my shit sorted and met the man I am now married to, who is kind, patient, and as sane as they come. Those qualities bring out the stable, rational, and self aware qualities in me and my sense of self and grasp on life feel peacefully balanced. Most of the time anyway.
When GONE GIRL was over and my husband and I walked out of the dark theater, I turned to him and blurted, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t marry a crazy person?”
My question didn’t require an answer, because it wasn’t really a question. I was only seeking validation for what I already knew. That the crazy girl is gone, and the real one’s been found.