When “Repress Yourself” was published in the New York Times magazine in February 2003, it had been 18 months since Sept. 11, and someone had finally dared to suggest we might want to stop thinking about it so much.
I don’t mean to be flip; Sept. 11, 2001 was the worst day of a lot of people’s lives. It hasn’t been the worst day of mine. This was a difficult truth to recognize in Manhattan at the time. In 2002, six months after the attacks, a guy I’d recently met invited me over to watch the Naudet brothers’ documentary 9/11 as a first date, and the city was still so heavily laden with echoes of the attacks that this did not seem like a weird choice.
But the images in the film seemed stale and recycled, and when it was over, instead of finding myself drained and ready for some cathartic sex, I felt like my heart ached only out of habit. This startled me. I began to suspect that the hyperanalytic, collective grief that defined the “new normal” had been worse for me than the attacks themselves.
The next day I subscribed to cable, so I could distract myself with the Cartoon Network. It was probably the sanest decision I ever made.