The Role of the Flâneuse

Molly Small
February 5, 2017

“To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”

― Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

With the precious privilege that is time, the flaneur is independent from duties in his city. He observes what may be lost to his fellow street dwellers in their obligations to work and their distractions of play. Nothing and no one is deserving of his strides yet he walks with purpose. Beneath graffiti and abused sidewalks, he understands that the city is caked with layers of trouble and history and magic.  The solar powered flaneur seeks refuge as a voiceless vessel in a crowd of chaos.

I am carried by the current of bustling bodies, though sometimes I think I may resemble a candy wrapper blowing through the wind amongst a school of dandelion seeds.

Constant socialization exhausts even the most camouflaged introverts. I self-medicate in the invisibility cloak of silence for a moment. For the duration of my short explorations I do not need to shower peers with inorganic solicitations for my friendship. No pressure forces my disinterest to be masked in the dreadfully boring requisite courses offered by the institute of conventional education. Strangers do not probe to hear the rhoticity in the formation of my “r” sounds or my use of t-glottalization; subsequently, I am not obliged and embarrassed to entertain the redundant opinions about the new president of my home country.

A modern flâneuse, I wander into the thick air of a pub basement for open-mic night to watch some of the most vulnerable moments of people I’ve never seen and will never see again. I escape to the national botanic gardens to watch dates, family outings, primary school field trips. I try not to wince when I inhale the secondhand smoke from seemingly the entire population of Dublin. A personal cry of victory, I celebrate when two French tourists ask me for directions.  I memorize the skin, the organs, the veins of this city. I’m electrified by the thrill that no one on the planet knows my whereabouts and by the anonymity that the strangers around me don’t know that I am missing.

Because tourism is no genuine method of learning.

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Molly Small

<p>I&rsquo;m currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Information Science. I also plan to graduate with a Legal Studies minor and a Latin American studies certificate which is evidence that my curiosity is always being pulled in chaotically amazing directions. I would like to consider myself a cooking, hiking, and gardening aficionado. I believe in empathy, vegetarianism, and girl power.</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
University of Pittsburgh
Information Systems
Explore Blogs