Judith Butler – I truly believe that there is not one person on this earth who can read Gender Trouble or search for the term ‘Judith Butler suit’ without falling in love. Her hair is the perfect ratio of structured to floppy, of grey to silver. A haircut that says yes, I am an intellectual, but one that does not scorn matters of the heart. She is the perfect Confident Academic Butch, and I want to weep at her feet. Imagine having access to her wardrobe of blazers. Devastating.
Foucault – when you asked him the next morning what his number was, he’d claim not to have a phone. Later, perhaps a day or two after your tryst, you’d accidentally be in the same bar. You’d see him furiously texting, smiling to himself as his fingers glided over the keys, experienced and precise. He’d occasionally turn up at the door to your flat, his bald head sparkling in the hallway light, his eyes twinkling, his turtleneck crease-free and pale as the moon. You would let him in, purely to shout at him, and end up having infuriatingly good sex. He would never laugh at your hilarious ‘discipline and punish’ double entendre.
Helene Cixous – When you met Helene, it would be spring. Fat blossoms would droop from the trees, their fleshy leaves unfolding under their own weight. As summer began, you would go for long walks in Paris – you would feel living there trembling in the ends of your fingers, the soles of your feet, the curve of your lips – in the twilight, as the heat of the day melted into the concrete and the flowers stretched their petals, their perfume strong, indecent. Helene would wear a light silk jacket, the smoke from her Gitanes announcing her arrival before she turned the corners of streets. She’d know the names of all the plants you’d pass, cup their inflorescence and raise it to you. You’d repeat the phrases back to her, your French still hesitant.
She’d teach your how to apply her eye-makeup, but it’d feel odd, the liner would never suit you like it does her, although she’d stroke your cheek and deny it if you asked. Instead, you’d wear red lipstick, and when you were with her, in a small bar with low-light and dry martinis, it would never smear or wear into the cracks of your lips. After you kissed, she’d say, my body is yours, take it, and you would feel the hot leap of your flesh as she led you to the bedroom. You would have large, furious cat called Marche: the only French word you knew when you came – Helene thought that it was adorable, that you were adorable. When you broke up, she would tuck your hair behind your ear, kiss you lightly on the forehead. She would say she wanted to remain your friend, and mean it, with thoughtful gifts and warm embraces at parties, not wanting to get too close out of respect for your feelings. On your bed you’d still have the pillow she slept on, delicately smeared with eyeliner, and sometimes you would trace the stains with your finger. Outside, the leaves would slowly brown, and autumn finally arrive.
Bachelard – It would start well – birds’ nests and seashells and lavender-scented cupboards. But then he would say your sex toy drawer had a ‘communicative light’ and you would stifle a laugh. You’d perhaps tease him a little about his Rilke obsession, about his musings on locks. He would never forgive you, and would live in the attic until you moved out.
Derrida – Lo! The silver hair, curled and bouncing like a newborn babe, a ruddy cherubim, eyes glinting like heavenly stars! Jacques, gentle Jacques, you are my pharmakon and my pharmakon, my différance, my signifier and my signified.
(My friend insists that Derrida looks like George Costanza. I think that this is not only patently false, but actively hurtful).
Pierre Bourdieu – If you google image search Bourdieu, one of the results is a photograph of an early noughties, shirtless Brad Pitt, taken around the time of his 2001 Friends guest appearance. It is the thumbnail for a Youtube video titled ‘Pierre Bourdieu – An introduction’. The reason for its inclusion is not stated, however, it is my contention that the image works as a habitus for us to define the sheer sexual magnetism and star quality of Pierre in a way otherwise hard to articulate. Cast your mind back to the heady days of 2001. Angelina Jolie has not yet entered the Pitt-Aniston narrative. Brad has not yet grown a beard, and at this point the very idea of him growing a beard is something perverse, repulsive. In 2001, Brad Pitt would not have talked about going into the desert and listening to Frank Ocean, not least because Frank Ocean was a child at the time. At this point, Brad Pitt is a symbol more than a person, shining and clean and beautiful, a golden-fleece of a man. He is in-demand, he is wanted, he is needed.
Despite my belief that Bourdieu has a thousandfold more sexual charisma than Pitt, it’s only by comparing him to a giant of pop culture that I can begin to imagine what a tryst with him would be like. Exciting? For sure. Intoxicating? Undoubtedly. But also a whirlwind, fraught with the perils that come with loving an A-List Philosopher. As his cultural capital accumulates, so would yours – and yet you would be always be in the shadow. The best you could hope for would be a portmanteau of your names (I’m partial to Willeau). Perhaps there would be no paparazzi to hound you, but instead you would contend with the baying of thousands of left-wing undergrads, all crying out at once. All things fade, everyone’s abs must one day crumble into a dad-bod.
Edward Said – Extremely hot and looks like he would demand an entire suite at an expensive hotel, which is all I’ve ever dreamed of. Yes.
Julia Kristeva – When you went around to Julia’s – that’s what you’d call her, now, with the soft French pronunciation of ‘J’, a slight uplift at the end of the ‘a’ – you would love the bourgeoisie French academic trappings of her house. She’d have rooms entirely lined with books, glossy hardwood floors, vintage reds stacked neatly in the cellar. You’d say I’ve never had any Bulgarian food and she’d make you Shopska salad; slow-cooked moussaka, ruby-dark in the Le Creuset; flaky Banitsa. For dessert she’d stew pears in red wine, finished with a smear of smetana on top. She’d refuse your help with dinner, but you’d assuage your guilt by setting the table. As you’d gather the knifes and forks from the top drawer, you’d notice something else, set back in the recess, glinting evilly in the half-light. It would smell metallic, like blood. You’d already know what it was, know it was too late to simply close the drawer. You’d tell yourself that you still could, could still slide it shut and walk into the room and eat the moussaka and drink a few glasses of wine and never say anything, not to anybody. But you’d already have closed your fingers around the gun, already have pulled it towards you. And engraved in gold leaf on the barrel, the words ‘Symbolic/Semiotic’.
Freud – Absolutely not.