He calls me “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948”

Over the past several months, I’ve re-read a few different pieces of literature originally introduced in my hazy high school years. I’m at a point where books and movies I first experienced over 10 years ago have exciting new meanings.

Re-reading “Brave New World” helped inspire my move to Brooklyn (I can explain). Quotes from Fight Club swirl through my mind on a daily basis and increase in volume whenever I contemplate buying anything. (This is the only movie I think was better than the book.)

But of all the re-read books, J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” was definitely one of my favorites. In fact, the only high school English paper I remember writing was on this and other works by Salinger. I remember reading this short story and thinking, “This dude totally gets it.” So then I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase everything he had published.

Salinger had a way of developing characters I could really relate to. I can see myself in all of the Glass children. My go-to username for a long time was “Seymour’s Fat Lady,” and I even went through a phase of dressing  like Margot Tenenbaum (that family is obviously based on the Glass family, right?)

All that aside, it’s the bananafish parable within this story that really freaked me out in high school, and the reason why I’m writing about it today.

Bananafish, according to Seymour Glass, look normal at first, then they swim into a hole where there are a lot of bananas. They eat so many bananas that they get too fat to leave the hole and die of banana fever.

That’s it. That’s the story that horrified me in my adolescence. The foreboding tale that somehow penetrated the psychopharmacological fog and shaped my entire life from that point on: No matter what happens, I must never let greed trap me in a hole for the rest of my life.

Now that I’m almost 30 (according to my mother, but I beg to differ), I can see it all around me. It’s really disturbing to watch people lose their passion and motivation in exchange for material comforts and financial security. Additionally, a lot of them are getting fat. Too fat to move. Once you succumb to banana fever, what is left of your life? How much can you consume before you realize it’s no longer satisfying?

I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the past year or so and made a lot of amazing new friends. When I meet new people who don’t already know where I come from, they often assume that I was raised by a pack of wild hippie nomads. Really, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. So when people ask, “How did you end up like this?” or when I get into a deep conversation with a like-minded individual about what makes us different, I often think about bananafish.

This message reverberates in my beloved hardcore punk that preaches, “stay curious, stay wild, stay hungry.” These values are so deeply ingrained in my being that they feel more like genetic code embedded within every cell of my body than processes carried out by my prefrontal cortex. That’s what I think of when people want to know how I ended up with such an unconventional lifestyle.

I don’t want to sound preachy or self-righteous. It’s not my intention to make anyone feel bad about their lives, just to inspire change the way others have inspired me. I have totally let myself get sucked into some holes.

The last time I found myself in one, I was lying in a fetal position on the floor of the kitchen that I shared with my ex-boyfriend and having a nervous breakdown. Wondering how I ended up working a job that I hated just to pay ridiculously high rent for a stuffy attic apartment in yuppie-ville, NJ, feeling stuck in a destructive relationship just because I had convinced myself that I should be married by a certain age.

I asked myself, “well, how did I get here?” Pulling myself out of that one was tough, but trust me, it’s worth the fight. I’m so astonished by the wonderful turn my life has taken since putting all of my effort and energy into crawling out of that last hole that I’m convinced it must be some kind of reward from the universe.

Or maybe just a little relief before I get slammed with the next wave of life challenges. Either way, it beats feeling stuck.

I don’t know if “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” is really the reason I am who I am. There must be something that attracts me to such literature, music, and movies in the first place. Maybe it was all the Buddhist philosophy I dove into at age 13?

Honestly, I don’t really know exactly what it is that sparks my desire to keep growing, moving, and learning. I don’t know why some people ask questions and some people just don’t.

I’m grateful for every person I meet who understands and will spend hours in conversation exploring such topics with me. Sometimes I get tired and wish I could be on the other side of the fence, but I know it’s already too late.

We’re the ones they couldn’t keep in line. Livin like we know there is no time.

4 thoughts on “He calls me “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948”

  1. I don’t think the story Seymour told about the bananafish is about people losing their passion and getting fat. I believe it’s about war since he was in war. I think the bananafish going into the banana hole normal, is about the young men going into war are normal. But once they’re in the bananahole (war) they go crazy and eat too many bananas (see too much war and bloodshed) and become fat and get banana fever (mental illness, like PTSD which Seymour has) and they can’t get out of that hole (the illness) so they die (kill themselves, like Seymour did). So when Sybil says she spots a bananfish, i think that’s when he realizes “yup, she sees me as I am, a madman, she’s spotted me” because then he immediately says it’s time to go. He leaves her, freaks out on the lady in the elevator, then kills himself. Just a thought!

  2. I don’t know why I feel compelled to reply to a 6 year old comment, but I do, and I’ve committed to it.
    The popular interpretation of bananafish is that they’re representative of soldiers going out to war and being incapable of reintegrating with society afterwards, isn’t it? It’s an interesting thought, no doubt, but I also like Laruen’s more materialistic interpretation of them, even if that’s probably not what Salinger intended (it’s definitely more likely that he—being a war veteran—intended the book to mainly reflect on war). Part of the beauty of art is its ability to be interpreted in a multitude of ways, I think. I’d like to believe there’s no such thing as a bad interpretation, just one’s with more or less evidence, one’s that are more or less resonant and interesting. Just a thought! (I’d like to end more of my statements with that send off now, it’s cute.)

    1. Thank you for sharing this! I wrote this at a very different stage in life and am sure if I re-read bananafish now, I’d write a completely different analysis! The thing with art is that, once you put it out there, people will interpret it many different ways, regardless of what it means to you (the artist). I love hearing other points of view on this story that made such a huge impact on my creative life!

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