After a short break, we’re back with the Proust Questionnaire series. Today we feature Alexa Catao. Alexa has done work editing for Domesticated Primate, her keen eye and proclivity to ask questions instead of cross-out and change words has become a valuable part of our artistic process here. I hope at some point soon she will be ready to put some of her own work out into the universe through us.
NAME: Alexa Catao
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Long-distance endurance running. And exploitative melodramatic programming like TLC shows/ The Kardashians.
Where would you like to live? There once was a small city by the name of New Bedford that I saw myself in. But futures change.
What is your idea of earthly happiness? The squiggly warm way that my dog readjusts herself against me while she’s trying to get optimally comfortable to take a nap.
That, and being surrounded by people who “see” you, love you, support you, challenge you, teach you, inspire you, and meet your wavelength of weirdness with their own complementary weirdness.
And a jar of Nutella.
To what faults do you feel most indulgent? Internal disregulation to the consistent passing of time. And piles of clothing everywhere—assigned subtle patterns of categorization that only the more delusional parts of my mind can grasp.
Who are your favorite characters in history? I like the wording of this question—the idea that real people who lived a long enough time ago, and did something out of the norm—took action and altered the status quo in some way—are able, with the passage of time, to take on a sort of mythological, archetypal “character” status in our minds. Now just picture Martin Luther King, Jr. farting and giggling with his kids, and nicking himself while shaving, and having a stomache ache on a Tuesday afternoon. Now imagine someone in fifty years filling out this survey and wracking their brain for notable historical “characters” and coming up with your name, in the narrative of the thing you did that you became known for.
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? Pippi Longstocking,
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Lolwut. See above.
Who are your favorite heroines in real life? Malala Yousefzai. Ashley Graham. America Ferrera. Tara Mitton Catao and Lourdes Catao. Elizabeth Warren. Steph Paquette. Terry Gross. Janet Mock. Emerging comedian/writers like Jessica Williams and Abby/Ilana Glazer and Rachel Bloom. Rep Maxine Waters. And about 897 other people I can think of.
Your favorite painter? As a child I adored Monet—the colors, gardens, bridges, soft brightness. In college I loved Klimt—the vivid textured patterns and intriguing figures. Now, I love thick chunky textured paint that globs off the canvas and invites you to break etiquette rules by touching it. And watching watercolor videos on instagram.
Your favorite musician? I’m exploring again. I’m not sure right now.
The quality you most admire in a man? <Again, with these next two questions my initial response was to take issue on the basis of reinforcing gender binaries. But I’ll acknowledge socially-constructed binaries for the sake of the question…>
Critical self-awareness, including deconstruction of gender norms/ toxic masculinity, a sharp intellect that breaks apart and analyzes the world around him, a value on listening to the perspective of others, the ability to reflect and own up to flaws when necessary, and the capacity for growth. And a splash of goofiness.
The quality you most admire in a woman? Unapologetic strength and self-love and opinions and changing the world though acts of radical love and accountability, both big and small.
Your favorite virtue? Genuine curiosity/ a desire to always be learning.
Your favorite occupation? Teacher (the really revolutionary, mind-blowing kind. You know what I’m talking about.)
Who would you have liked to be? To be an entirely different person for their life? I don’t think I would. (This suddenly makes me feel warmly grateful for my own me.)
Your most marked characteristic? Apparently I smile a lot more than the average person. I didn’t realize this was unusual, perhaps because I always mean it when I smile. I wonder how other people smile less. It’s usually the kind of smile that takes over my whole face. I like to make people feel good about their lives. I’m always subconsciously brushing hair out of my eyes. I have opinions and I really like other people’s opinions too. I’ve had my nose pierced for 10 years and I swear I forget that it’s part of my face. If I’m unsure how to answer something, I often default to the open, honest truth.
(Note: I copied/pasted the above response from my OKCupid profile’s “First thing people notice about me” section. See? Open, honest truth.)
What do you most value in your friends? That they’re complex, thoughtful individuals, who also see and value the complexity in me.
What is your principle defect? This reminds me of the “what faults you are the most indulgent” question, but if we’re talking about physical defects, then I’d have to say my body is a temple so fuck all y’all’s conventional beauty standards—but ya I have this weird dark dot on the side of my nose that won’t go away.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? To hide your self and your dreams for your whole life out of the obligation to conform, and never feel “seen” and therefore experience an even more intense sense of isolation than we all already feel. And the misfortune can get greater when bigotry, violence, hatred, and trauma are added to this equation.
What would you like to be? Under the sea. In an octopus’s garden in the shade. (An octopus.)
What is your favorite flower? Those with substantial blossoms, an overabundance of fleshy layered petals, like peonies and ranunculus, that make you want to take a bite out of them.
What is your favorite bird? Fluffy-chested springtime ones, hopping and shivering in a puddle with a certain elation.
Who are your favorite prose writers? Vladimir Nabokov always tops the list. Faulkner. Daniel Handler. Nick LeBlanc. And I recently was reading Elena Ferrante, whose subtle depths I appreciated, so I’ll add her.
Who are your favorite poets? e.e. cummings, Mark Strand, Billy Collins, also the age-defying words of Naomi Shihab Nye, and Nick LeBlanc again (and Moraes and other Domesticated Primate/ local-NB poets that I’ve enjoyed)
What is your favorite color? Teal. Or coral. Or yellow.
What are your favorite names? When I was little I named my favorite doll—the one that looked like me with tan skin and brown straight hair— my then-favorite name. However, it’s currently my least favorite word, because now it makes me think of spaces— actual loft apartments and doily-covered dining room tables and passenger seats—that are not only lost to me, but tainted. (Again, futures change.)
What is it you most dislike? I may have mixed this up with the above question. I dislike the historical figures below and the television programming in the “depths of misery” question. I dislike the way humans can tend to fall back on shallow, judgmental, categorical thinking.
What historical figures do you most despise? 45 and his cronies, puppeteers, and sycophants.
What event in military history do you most admire? Nah.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? The kind of easy self-discipline that allows you to complete the tasks you set your mind to right away.
How would you like to die? I think like most people, at the end of a fulfilling life, with some level of peace and support of loved ones. Sorry I didn’t choose any sort of action-movie response.
What is your present state of mind? Crackling with energy, open and eager for new experiences, but also more settled, certain, confident, and honest to the point of being blunt. On the verge of finding my words again and letting them out on paper. (This has been a fun exercise in that). Present.
What is your motto? Words matter.