What Is “Hadness”?


Hadness: happiness that we know is temporal and therefore registers more like sadness, the heart-pinching intuition that what you currently “have” will soon be something you “had.”

Hadness is not the same as pleasure, which is necessarily and by nature brief– a modicum of burning matter. Hadness is the hand you hold for one night, and the memory of the slightly scarred knuckle that far outlasts any trace of its owner in your life.

I tried to talk to one of my friends about hadness and she denied any knowledge of the emotion. Instead, she turned the question on me, at which point I admitted that I feel this way quite a lot. Her apparent blissful ignorance of the emotion initially put me off, but I know that I didn’t make it up because I’ve glimpsed elements of hadness in popular culture.

In the movie Elizabethtown, failed shoe-designer Drew Baylor explains, “I have recently become a secret connoisseur of last looks. You know the way people look at you when they believe it’s for the last time…? There’s one right now.” Drew’s collection of “last looks” hints that human beings can, or at least think they can, anticipate emotional pain. And doesn’t it also follow that this acute sense taints our happiness at certain times?

Or take a passage from the book Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, (which in the spirit of personal tradition I have read at least once a year since I was 14.) The main character, Lee, is discussing the demise of her relationship with another senior at her prep school.

Sittenfeld writes, “I thought of how many times I’d wondered if things were awry between us, if I was displeasing him or if he’d lost interest. All those times, I’d suppressed my impulse to ask…because—and I understood this now—you really don’t need to ask. When it was over, you knew.”

I guess you could sum up this point as such: the way a thing will end is written in its beginning.  That the kiss you suddenly know will be your last returns to one telling point—rendering the ray a circle.

That initial point, that evasion of infinity, is the gesture of one person reaching out to another beyond their orbit. And aren’t we always coming or going, playing the departed or the left?

I’d like to think if I’m careful enough I will not read the story of my impending loneliness in the veins of a lover’s closed eyelids—but I know that’s not true. Hadness can lurk even in the warmest of shadows.

I guess in those moments I’ll return to pop culture to assure myself that I’m wrong. I’ll remember that Drew’s newfound lover Claire mimics taking a picture of him with her hands the first time he walks away– and maybe that small gesture of memory’s futile hope was the mettle that brought them together again.

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