25. Deep down I’m a hopeless romantic and a terrible perfectionist.
Illustrated by Livia Fălcaru
1. My descent is 100% Romanian but I often get by as Russian, Moldavian, Ukrainian, Swedish or French. I only speak the latter.
2. I have dermographism so each scratch or bump I take will show up like braille or like liquorice on my skin.
3. The first word I articulated was “Dan”. He’s a friend of my father’s, and my mom says his name always popped up in their conversations in our house. I was 16 months old.
4. I used to be a music journalist and that helped me see some hundreds of shows across 3 years when I was younger. I still miss it some days.
5. As a child, I used to create my own magazines, inspired by the glossies my mother used to buy after 1990. They were lengthy, filled with text and pictures I drew myself and populated by animal characters which had love affairs, issues and dates just like regular celebrities. I’d also record entire radio shows on tape cassettes with me as the host, guests and took imaginary phone calls from listeners. They’re all gone now and I wish I had at least one copy left to bemuse myself, cry and cringe while day drinking.
6. My tattoos are all symbols for hope. “Karlek”, the Swedish word for love, written on my ring finger, was my first, done in 2012, and stands for an engagement to myself. “There is a light that never goes out”, splattered across my right forearm was the second, and has less to do with the most popular song of The Smiths and more with choosing to look at life as a series of episodes I’ll never truly regret having lived in spite of how bad they turned. “Redamancy” on my left ribs in my own writing is the dearest to me, a word that went missing from the English language circa Shakespeare, meaning infinite and reciprocated love (it’s no wonder it disappeared from vocabulary). The ancient scissor-knife on my left forearm comes from an album cover of the band Kuedo, which I first saw in the now defunct All Hollow magazine in 2011. As the left hand is a receiver, this drawing stands for cutting off ties with the undesired people/things/energies in my life. “Live to tell” on my upper right arm is another tattoo I used my own handwriting to design. It’s a song from Madonna, but to me it also has to do with the strong belief that writers should not kill themselves (not until they have finished putting their stories into the world). Lastly, the constellation on my right shoulder and Polar star under my right breast are references to both Seven Stars, a brand of cigarettes I used to smoke back in 2006, and Courtney Love’s lyric “All the stars explode tonight” from “Malibu”.
7. I did a lengthy Tinder experiment in 2014-2015 when I shut down Facebook and exclusively tuned in to this social network in Bucharest, London, Leiden, Amsterdam and Noordwijk. I met around 140 people in order to produce a couple of stories which were later published across different media. I do remember the vast categories and species of people I witnessed there, and I suppose things haven’t changed much since, as when I opened Tinder this year in Madrid, out of both curiosity and boredom, I bounced into the same range of choices. My profile bio reads “My main financial goal is to one day have the means to own a bath tub deep enough that it covers both my breasts and my knees”, followed by “I like Gin Tonic and Brian Eno”. I will not comment on the percentage of guys who placed Eno in “beverages”, I’ll just limit myself to say that I mainly got real estate evaluations in terms of lavatories and bathtubs. 1% of these guys actually made a positive comment that did not relate to tasteless/sappy humour. Around 80% trolled my Instagram account and the rest just bailed out cause of language barrier. Still, I keep wondering, girls, does anyone go for those who start of with “Hola preciosa I’m ready let’s fuck!”? Because it’s either a lot of success, or a lot of persistence. #godknows
8. My dream career is to be a writer for The New Yorker or The New York Times – Modern Love, a speaker for The School of Life Berlin, and the owner of my media company. I’m still too anxiously afraid to press send on any letter to the first, contact the second or kickstart the latter.
9. I started writing in English at 14 and I used to be a national English Olympiad winner.
10. I gathered material for my first book throughout 2005-2010, finished writing it in 5 days in 2011 and published it in 2016. It was a most tiring experience to do the whole marketing and sales campaigns for it, and doing so for almost a year made me lose contact with the contents of it and finally hate what I wrote, as all I ever wanted was to not have my face exposed at lectures, but my words travel to people through the work of an agent.
11. I never learnt to swim, drive, ride a bike and I never worked out a day in my life.
12. Between 2014 and 2016 I changed my address 12 times and packed my bags 24 times. It was the most intense, liberating experience in my twenties.
13. When I was 22, I was about to get married and move to New York, but life had other plans. I’m glad I didn’t.
14. I used to be a very good singer as a child (and a pretty nervous/overly anxious karaoke singer as I aged).
15. The person I look up to mostly is my grandfather. He was a lawyer, a legal consultant, a judge, a city secretary and imprisoned during communism. He was also the life of the party, this charming hybrid of Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro who turned everybody’s head as he walked into a room. I never met him, and I wish I did, because as I grow older I can feel his influence on everything I do.
16. I’ve been often told that I am more of a man than a woman.
17. I’ve been to 48 foreign cities but never left the (European) continent.
18. I can imitate people pretty well.
19. I think we write poems and novels and lines because men and women never get to understand or know each other and this is our way to address the ideal of understanding each other’s species.
20. I love watching people who are in love with each other and not afraid of publicly expressing their affection. In this silent language that is old, older than the world, I still find the only legitimate reason to keep on living a life that never promised a memorable aftertaste.
21. I’ve struggled with depression since I was probably 10 – the year my grandma, the person who mostly raised me, died, and my family simultaneously moved me to another class. I had no friends and didn’t manage to make any throughout the next four years, I was living a lot in my head, maybe more than I do now. It was about the same time I abandoned the art school I was attending in parallel to gymnasium, and started writing a lot of my thoughts into short stories. Most of the stuff I wrote back then is strikingly similar to what I still write now, the only real difference being context and language.
22. My anxiety, which started in 2014, is something I’ve always believed was a consequence of my father’s lifelong anxiety. Now I strongly believe is a product of being severely addicted to social media (and obsessed with what people think of me).
23. I haven’t really seen many movies in my life because they always have (much too) powerful effects on me.
24. I can’t shoot without music. Models won’t show you their souls unless you have the right words, so you have to be fun, you have to be witty, you have to build up a certain tension, make yourself invisible and in the same time present. This doesn’t work randomly but in perfect articulation, like a sentence, like a night you will dance your feet away and never forget. Ultimately, that’s all what this is about – finding that bare moment where someone’s face gets stripped of premeditation and starts giving you, your camera, the world, a reason to fall in love with: themselves.
25. Deep down I’m a hopeless romantic and a terrible perfectionist.
26. I’m fairly good at self diagnosis. I diagnosed myself with borderline personality disorder when I was 21 and I was right by all odds (and yes, that was before watching “Girl, Interrupted”).
27. I can do Tarot card readings (but it’s exhausting so I don’t do them for other people anymore).
28. The first time I saw a naked woman on TV I asked my parents if she was dirty between her legs. (it was Michelle Pffeiffer but I can’t recall the film)
29. A big part of the work I’ve done and the things I’ve taught myself into came from men I had romantic interests for. My lovers were artists – at most. Even the ones who were just pretending to be artists taught me some things. I started shooting Polaroid film because of the guy I ought to have married. Took to publishing my poems because of the one who got away. Wrote novels because of the ones who left and came back. You have to understand – there’s no regret in these. In the backside of my mind, in the kind of aloneness where the only living wish is to touch others – without knowing them, I did it all with love. From one, I learned I liked Polish cinema, Tindersticks, Cranes and Mikhail Bulgakov. From another, I took to photography. Years later, we did a show together. The one who almost crashed his car after we first kissed sent me Michelle K. poems and made me learn I can be unforgettable. Another one made me understand I suffer from anxiety and that repressed emotion is never healthy. The one I entertained a lengthy long distance online relationship which abruptly ended when he had a tooth against #metoo. There was the one whom I exchanged passionate letters with but almost never real life kisses. He taught me I have magic powers, and that my depression is an accident of circumstances. Then there was this one, because of whom I started smoking Camel Blue label and DJ-ing. With him life felt like the Wimbledon of sarcasm. Our conversations seemed like matches all the time, and someone would always end up raising the bet for the next round. I would picture a ball boy running desperately through the field to throw us more pretentious, witty, and sometimes stuck-up new lines to entertain our dialogues with. I fell in love in spite of all and decided to never regret it, even when I became the woman who left, like Charles Dickens’ Estella. Now I’m dating someone who teaches me, as I speak, to learn patience, and most importantly, to learn I can be part of a relationship, after years and years of running with scissors. And I like that.
30. I’m addicted to dancing and would love to be able to pole dance one day.
31. I coined out the best two names for two bars I want to own by the time I’m 50. They’re so in handy and obscure at the same time that I’m confident no one will guess them by then.