Since last we convened, I have been a bit sleepless. I’ve woken up at 5 a.m. for a series of mornings, then tossed and turned restlessly for hours. When I am finally able to get back to sleep, my alarm clock rings, and my eyes can barely open to read Twitter from bed. Is this Mercury in retrograde or simply summer wining and whining? That is a matter for another column. Let’s talk dreams!
My lack of rest has not, in fact, impacted my dreaming, and maybe it has made it more memorable. In one recent dream I made out with an editor (I will never tell which one; it is not someone here!) In another, an ex-ex-ex-ex-boyfriend confronted me for telling stories about him (I woke up before the matter was resolved). And in yet another, my literary agent presented me with an entire apartment several sizes larger than my own, swept his hands in the air to demonstrate the enormity of his powers, and said, “This is ALL YOURS.” Days later I went to check out my new digs and a real estate agent was holding an open house there, trying to sell the place. I immediately pulled out my iPhone and searched for my agent’s phone number; when I finally found it and called the phone rang and rang and I couldn’t get through. I woke up with that common post-dream feeling of relief and regret — that apartment was not, after all, mine to lose! But it had been a very, very, very nice apartment.
Taken together I’d translate my dreams very nearly literally. I’ve quit my full-time staff job and have become a freelancer, therefore I am “making out with” tons of different editors, and wondering what this says about my loyalty and stability. In my writing I often tell stories that are partly mine and partly other people’s, and I am subconsciously, and also consciously, dealing with the possible repercussions (including some guilt) of that. Oh, and my agent, while very good, has never given me an apartment.
But enough about me! Let’s talk about you. In this edition of Dreaming With Jen Doll, I’m addressing an assortment of intriguing, varied dreams that have come to me via submission. Not every column will be like this, but perhaps it is due to the sleeplessness in my life that a a grab-bag of dreams seems appropriate. So that’s what we will get.
Dream One: The Hairy Eyeball
Inspired by my contact lens tsunami, Jennifer Wright offers up her own vision-related dream. She explains:
I have an exceptionally terrible dream wherein hairs start sprouting out of my eyeball. It’s like they’re eyelashes gone rogue. What’s weird about this is that A) they actually end up obscuring my vision, which is awful and B) In the context of the dream I am worried not about the fact that I have eyelashes growing out of my eyeballs. I am, however, extremely worried that other people will see this and not hire me. As if there was a sort of common discrimination against women with hair sprouting out of their eyeballs (which, to be fair, I guess there would be, if it were a thing that happened). So I spend much of the dream plucking them all out with tweezers. They come out easily, but it’s still painful.
Wright sagely provides her own interpretation — “Frankly, I think this may have to do with the fact that I am constantly contemplating trying Latisse and also getting my bikini line lasered” — and she may be right, but let’s dig deeper.
Like any self-respecting contact lens dream, I believe this is again about the you that you cannot control — you can only prune and attempt to contain it once it reveals itself, much like plucking eyeball hairs. Pair this with the recession that left many of us out of work, or with our salaries cut in half, and we have this dream’s important social commentary: We are all judged for our appearances, and a boss would just as soon fire us for our hairy eyeball than try to help us through our time of need or even suggest a good treatment facility. A prospective boss might not even hire us at all if we don’t toe the line in the expected ideal manner.
But Jennifer, your dream has a wonderful twist. In it, I believe you have the last laugh! In slang, giving someone the “hairy eyeball” is to look askance at them, to deliver a cutting glance of disdain. Are you suspicious of the current employment situation and jobs on offer, as much as you feel like you should want them? Do you both hate and need The Man? If so, you are like all of us. Your hairy eyeball is just the only one brave enough to say it. Take heart: That you have the power (if with a bit of pain) to restore your eye and vision to its rightful place via a pair of tweezers means that you’re the one in charge, here.
Dream Two: Dystopian Israeli Barista
From “Block Megatron,” who lives in Texas and has never been to Israel, comes this travel-tale:
I was walking down the street, in Israel, and people were running toward me because there was some kind of on-going industrial accident in a university research lab, but I snuck past the police. Then I got to a building that was perfect and I knew that it was mine, there were tables and chairs outside and I walked in and it was a coffee shop and everything inside it was exactly right too. So I was like, what should I do? Should we leave because of this disaster? But I just found this perfect place! Does anyone want coffee? And refugees of the disaster started coming in and I made them coffee drinks. It got dark and I went around the building to see who was staying and tucked everyone in and in the last room there was a perfect, beautiful man who said he had painted me a picture. I don’t know what any of that means, it was like viewing Plato’s form of my life and also watching it meltdown.
Block, I am going to Israel at the end of the summer for a wedding and I am going to search for your coffeehouse because it sounds just lovely. Your dream-plot, also, is rather inspiring. In a time of crisis, you found an unexpected place of safety that was not only safe, but also was pretty freaking awesome, had lots of coffee (always a plus), and was frequented by a gorgeous man who rewarded you for your kindness in making others coffee and tucking them in by making you some art. I think what this dream is telling you is, honey, you are all good. Any unforeseen or foreseen troubles that are facing you are going to be taken care of, you just keep on being the person you are, and you’ll get through it, though how it looks may surprise you at times.
Dream Three: Don Draper Dies
I’ve recapped Mad Men for several seasons and am an avid fan of the show, so when Silvia Gonzalez Killingsworth wrote me of her lengthy dream that Matthew Weiner is totally going to want to poach, I was adamant that I must address it here. It is epic, for not only its TV-worthy plot but also for Killingsworth’s unbelievable attention to dream-details:
I was for some reason with Betty and Sally and I was taking them to Don’s apartment, where he lived with that woman who was his druggy girlfriend in the village whose bone structure and feistiness only passingly reminded me of Mary Louise Parker’s character in The West Wing. Anyway, we were there, on Little Jane Way (an offshoot of the corner of Betty St. and Jane Way, of course) and in order to get up to his apartment it was sort of like the mechanism by which you get up to the attic in some houses, where a ladder/chute descends from the ceiling? It was cherry-stained wood and there was this sort of glove compartment thing with an upper and lower compartment (the top one flipped up and the second one flipped down; the second one had a rudimentary sink in it and I made a show of washing my hands before I went up). THEN in the upper, smaller compartment, there were the keys. I put the keys in what seems to me now like a car ignition, and then reached up a little higher to these sort of handlebar grips, to pull myself up to begin my ascent up the ladder.
I don’t know which floor his apartment was on, but once we were there, he was also sort of there, and there was weird tension between him and Sally and Betty, obviously because of what happened this season on the show. Betty was appalled that her phone number wasn’t listed anywhere on a list as an emergency contact, and I realized that we were in an era where there weren’t cell phones, so most contacts had two numbers: home and work (not that Betty worked, but that appears to be besides the point). She was even annoyed that her mother-in-law wasn’t listed anywhere.
Don was sort of there, loafing around, grumbling, and the place was a bit of a mess. I started collecting glasses and picking things up and about halfway through this chore I realized there was a dishwasher, so I started loading that. But once I had it open I saw along the left-hand side of it, between the dishwasher and the counter, was a half-inch of space in which he had tucked a bunch of stuff that would otherwise go in a kitchen drawer—not like silverware and stuff, but a pair of scissors, some boxes of his favorite pencils, chopsticks, random knickknacks. I thought was odd and sort of endangering the stuff–wasn’t it going to get wet when the dishwasher door closed and water came out? But then I noticed the dishwasher was sort of closed or self-contained and because of the plastic lining I realized Don had actually made a clever use of this weird interstitial space, so I let it go, even though it was messy. I focused on piling a bunch of dishes into the sink and dishwasher. All the while Betty was sitting off to the side, and Don was in a white T-shirt and pajama bottoms, sitting on a leather recliner (a cool, sleek sixties one, not a big La-Z-Boy). He walked over past me to a drawer where he found a pack of cigarettes and I took them out of his hand as if to say, nuh uh, nope, remember, you don’t do that anymore. He didn’t see me and didn’t pay attention and reached for pack of matches, which is weird, because obviously he has a lighter. I confiscated both things and he finally saw but was nonplussed (and I mean that in the correct way) by what I did next, which was to throw them in the garbage along with other crap I was picking up and tidying around. He seemed bothered but it didn’t linger with him. There was more discussion among him and Sally and Betty about how this apartment wasn’t that much better than that terrifically depressing one in the Village.
At some point Don left to go to bed, effectively going ‘offstage,’ and suddenly I realized I was in some sort of morphing set or stage. I no longer noticed Betty and Sally but there was Ken Cosgrove to my left and for some reason Lane Pryce was alive and across the room. There were others, without names or faces that I can remember. Suddenly there was an announcement over the loudspeakers, something about ‘The service will begin in fifteen minutes.’ We were all waiting for Don, and then Lane asked after his whereabouts. Ken said, ‘What do you mean? He ran off the road last night. That’s why we’re all here.’ I looked around and first the people, not the set, turned to black-and-white. Then everything was black-and-white for a while. Then I understood that we were somewhere in the future (maybe the mid-1980s) and older men were sort of milling about waiting for something to start. The service, I suppose. It was like Don had died in 1970 but his funeral wasn’t until 1984. And a few of the guys had cell phones—one of them a really old, early-model BlackBerry. Some of them had glasses, and they were a little pudgier. One guy had this thing I still can’t wrap my head around, which was some sort of digital collar that showed his vital signs because he had some kind of maybe heart condition or something.
Silvia, as I wrote to you in response to this dream, I feel that you could be an excellent TV writer, and clearly you’re a fan of the show. I suggest that perhaps you are attempting to entertain yourself given the dearth of entertainment following the conclusion of Season 6.
The flash to black-and-white and the strange futuristic-but-not symbolism here is reminiscent of something Weiner might do, but hasn’t, and it’s also imaginative and inventive. (We all know Draper’s going to die at some point, as are we all, but how and why and when has been a matter of much talk. Here, your brain is working overtime to figure out a solution to the mystery.)
But on to more personal dream questions. I find it interesting that you are here, an observer, interacting but not quite in this dream, almost as if you’ve been sent from another time to investigate, or are the universal character through which we all are supposed to see ourselves. You are — oh, here it is — the journalist! Witnessing, watching, reporting back. I have to ask you as well whether you feel you’ve too often been designated, or let yourself be designated, as the go-to dishwasher in life. Do you have creative pursuits or other desires that are being stifled as you clean up after others? Do you find yourself too often taking care of others, and not spending as much time as you’d like on yourself? You clearly have your own potential to be a star. May I suggest Mad Men fan fiction, to start?
Dream Four: The Subconscious One-Two Punch
The Toast writer Jaya Saxena posits this fascinating physical dream:
Somehow, through whatever events are happening, I will find myself in a fist fight with someone. I’ll go to punch them, but it’ll have no effect. My arm feels like it slows down, or is just weak, and by the time I hit them it has no force. Then I get the crap beaten out of me. Thoughts?
Jaya, you asked for my thoughts, and my immediate thought is this: The first rule of Fight Dreams is, never talk about Fight Dreams! You are being beaten up subconsciously and repeatedly for your failure to adhere to this very important rule. 100 lashes with a wet Brad Pitt noodle, or as I like to call it, a damp Brapoodle.
Still, we’re going to talk about fight dreams anyway, because you asked and because I am intrigued. As a person who has reached a small kind of notoriety due to punching people in bars (including, once, her own boss, which brings us back full dream-circle), I would say that your dream is about desire and the feelings of futility related to a want that we feel we can do nothing to achieve, perhaps because we’ve never acknowledged that want to ourselves. What is it, Jaya, that you are seeking? Have you admitted it to yourself? Do you know what it is? I suggest confessing it on a piece of paper, underlining it twice, folding the paper into as many tiny squares as is possible, and tucking it away in a place so you may never find it again which in no way matters because writing your real life dream down is the important thing. It is the only way to make your arm connect with the face of whomever it is you desperately want to punch. Speaking metaphorically, of course.
On the other hand, if you have rage issues or simply a lot of pent-up aggression, may I suggest a month of kickboxing classes? Please report back after doing one or both of the above and let us know if the dream continues.
Now, a brief dreamkeeping note: Many of you have expressed tooth dream concerns and questions, as well as queries about pregnancy dreams. I have not forgotten! These will be fodder for my next column, so please send additional thoughts on those dream-subjects my way, along with anything else you’d like to discuss that happens post-pillow.
In the meantime, to sleep, perchance to you-know-what.
Tell me your dreams! Send requests for interpretations and questions about your weird and wonderful sleepy mind-muddlings to Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether we write about your dream here is at the discretion of The Toast’s Dream Correspondent, but all dream emails will be read and pondered dreamily.
Illustrator: Esther C. Werdiger writes, draws, and podcasts in New York. She’s not quitting her day job, because that’s how she has her visa.
Jen Doll is a contributor to The Hairpin and The Atlantic Wire. Her first book is due out in Spring 2014. In her dreams, she has perfect vision.