The Diagonal Woman


Because, if you actually think about it, it’s totally fine to start something with a conjunction. So that’s how the Diagonal Woman does it, sometimes, when it feels right. And sometimes she does it because it feels wrong—because wrong can be interesting.

The Diagonal Woman has sometimes been a man, when the man felt diagonal enough to get the job done. And don’t you even try to tell me the Diagonal Woman isn’t a woman, or that there isn’t something so perfectly diagonal about the whole woman business.

When she plays you at chess, the Diagonal Woman sometimes imagines she’s playing checkers. It fucks the whole game up, but it’s interesting, and she might just get away with it.

One time, the Diagonal Woman tried to be Icarus—the wee flying guy with wings that melted in the Sun when he flew too high. The Diagonal Woman laughed when she got the idea to turn the complete opposite way, flying east until the Sun set behind her and the night’s sky opened up. She flew wherever the hell she wanted at night, with the moonlight showing her the way and the stars watching on, blinking, taking little pictures of her with their cameras.

That’s what it is to be The Diagonal Woman. You just go diagonally . If you’re built like a sprinter and sprinting is bringing you no joy, stop fucking sprinting. Try going for long runs, gradually, over months and months. It’ll be hard. You’ll want to speed up—to see if you’re still fast. But don’t. Fuck sprinting. You’re a jogger now. Take your time, and don’t push it; not running today, with your achy legs, is the best way to run tomorrow. One day you’ll run five miles. Then six. It’ll be easy and it’ll be so freaking diagonal you’ll laugh.

If you’re the kind of person who does ten things before breakfast and it’s bringing you no joy, just be the Diagonal Woman and do nothing. I dare you to. I bet you can. I bet you can sit there with yourself for hours and it’ll be okay. Sure, it’ll be diagonal, and uncomfortable, but you can do it. You might even like it after a while.

If you give yourself to someone and things don’t work out, you might find an old ache for them months later, like the phantom itch that follows an amputation. And you might want to get back to them but you can’t imagine how to get there. Don’t worry. Be diagonal. Go on a dating app, accidently find them and start a chat like you’re complete strangers—like you don’t know every single detail about them. Maybe nothing will happen. So what.  That’s okay. You’ll be okay. But maybe they’re trying to be the Diagonal Woman too and they play along, pretending they don’t know that your favourite animal is the capybara and that you have far too many shoes. Maybe you’ll flirt; maybe you’ll make little in-jokes about each other yet keep up the farce for days—or weeks. Maybe you’ll meet up and you’ll both be so diagonal that you’ll slot together in ways you never did before.

Sometimes change isn’t diagonal and it finds us in little tiny moments, over years. And sometimes change has already happened and we didn’t even notice it because we were too busy trying to walk in a straight line to realise we’d been going diagonally the whole time. It can be easy and it can be hard, but it’s always interesting.


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