The Proust Questionnaire

I ran across the Proust Questionnaire a few years back, and have been meaning to fill it out ever since. Every time I sit down to fill out the answers, I get caught up in explaining myself perfectly, and always end up putting it off until later. Named after Marcel Proust, the French author who famously said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” the questionnaire is said to reveal a person’s true nature. So what am I afraid of – discovering my true nature, or showing it to others? Either way, might as well get it over with, right?

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    • Short answer: I don’t believe that perfect happiness is possible. The beauty of happiness is that it’s fleeting, at best, and therefore it can’t be perfect.
    • Long answer: Hiking down a trail, pack on back, a friend or two hiking along quietly nearby. The only sounds are natural and healing: the breeze in the tree branches above, the buzz of insects, flowing water from a nearby stream, lowing of the cows in a field somewhere out of eyeshot. I can feel the crunch of the dirt and rocks under my feet, smell the trees and dirt and morning dew, and I have the luxury of slowing down to appreciate every detail around me, knowing there’s nowhere to be besides here, now.
  2. Which living person do you most admire? 
    • I have a hard time with this question, because I don’t really believe in admiration, as much as respect. I respect many people for their choices and hard work in attaining their goals; these are mostly artist types, writers, and particularly talented actors. I will say that Stephen King is one of the people I’ve spent the most time respecting, and wishing to emulate in some small way. He has a marvelous imagination, and it means a great deal to me that he has found a way to make those dark places open and accessible to the entire world. I also love that on both personal and professional levels, he doesn’t take anyone’s shit. He has true grit, and a great sense of humor. Also, despite how some snooty lit critics would disparage him for making “airport reads,” I appreciate the fact that his books end up being deep, powerful, introspective, and fearless, while remaining appealing and available to a wide variety of people from all walks of life. That takes true skill.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
    • Femininity, or lack thereof. I just don’t have it in me to truly care about things like hair, and makeup, and dressing up, and cleaning – all of the gender role bullshit. I try so hard to care, and still end up looking sloppy. But it’s been that way forever, even before I was able to look at it from behind feminist lenses and realize it was OK if I wasn’t the perfect 1950’s woman. Anyway, I still get really discouraged over not just not being able to do some of these defining things – like applying makeup skillfully, or doing my own hair, or vacuuming the couch, or dusting the house every day, whatever – but also I get discouraged over my complete disgust when I think of doing these things. I both want to be more ladylike, but at the same time I absolutely want to firebomb anyone who suggests that happen, including myself. It’s exhausting. It’s also discouraging to know that I will never amount to anything in comparison to a selection of women who do these things as second nature. Those girls who love to wear lingerie and lacy, pretty things (puke), and the ones who shave their legs daily (ha), or keep lotion in their desk drawer to make sure their hands stay moisturized and young. I’ll never be a trophy wife, that’s for damn sure, lol. Sometimes I feel like an outlier. I would have done a great job of being a frontier wife in the mid-19th century, when bathing was optional, there were only one or two dresses to choose from, and the floor was actually MADE of dirt. Maybe I was just born 150 years too late.
  4. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
    • Gregariousness/mass likability. It’s one thing to be friendly and kind, but I’ve met too many people who are selling an image of themselves and trying to be popular and lovable with everyone. What’s the point? Are you scared of the unlikeable parts of yourself? (That’s completely acceptable – you’ll have to work through it at some point, though – might as well start now.) Are you so concerned with having people not approve of you that you’re willing to hide behind a lie for your entire life? On one episode of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, it is said: “Nobody truly interesting is universally liked.” AMEN.
  5. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
    • My face gets really round sometimes; it fluctuates, but sometimes when I’m bloated, I look like my dad, and it freaks me out.
  6. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
    • Straight toss up between the Atlantic Ocean and the BBC.
  7. When and where were you happiest?
    • So far, walking the Camino de Santiago in 2015. Before that, when I was maybe 11 or 12, in the summers I used to set up a tent on the back porch and read books all day. I loved that, for mostly the same reasons – quiet, introspection, no other pressing duties.
  8. Which talent would you most like to have?
    • I’d love to be able to draw the things I imagine. I can barely manage a respectable stick person, but I would love to be able to do pen and ink drawings of animals and architecture, or even just to sketch out my ideas so that a more talented artist could take over from there.
  9. What is your current state of mind?
    • Pensive, obviously. I’m filling out the Proust Questionnaire.
  10. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    • I would be debt-free.
  11. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
    • (Regarding my entire family, including the extended part.) They’d be well-traveled.
  12. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
    • Traveling the world (or at least a tiny portion of it). I plan to see a lot more before I’m through.
  13. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
    • Am I required to come back? Because I really don’t want to. OK, maybe a giant squid, or something that lives very, very deep in the ocean, too far for humans to reach. Like one of those blind, glow-in-the-dark cave fish.
  14. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
    • Codependency/relationship addiction where you feel like you can’t survive without the other person, but you aren’t happy with them.
  15. What is the quality you most like in a man?
    • Emotional intelligence
  16. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
    • Same
  17. What do you most value in your friends?
    • Acceptance, and the ability to read between the lines and understand what I’m trying to say (even when I don’t quite know yet, myself).
  18. Who are your favorite writers?
    • This is constantly shifting. Right now, I’d say Jane Austen, Joan Didion, Lloyd Alexander, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Diana Norman, Deborah Harkness, Margery Kempe, Agnes Humbert, and Douglas Adams.
  19. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
    • Elizabeth Bennet
  20. Who are your heroes in real life?
    • St. Francis of Assisi, Margery Kempe, Major Richard Winters, Various WWII Resistance Fighters, Edward Abbey
  21. What is it that you most dislike?
    • Insincerity
  22. How would you like to die?
    • Suddenly, and with a clean house, so my loved ones don’t have to be shocked and/or horrified by the piles of dirty dishes/underwear.
  23. What is your motto?
    • Lately I’ve been saying the NC state motto to myself a lot: “Esse quam videri,” which means “To be, rather than to seem.”
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