Slow motion is life’s best hack: a Personal Essay by Paris-based poet Haydée Touitou - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Slow motion is life’s best hack: a Personal Essay by Paris-based poet Haydée Touitou


Imagine living your life in slow motion—a life where detangling your hair takes close to an hour, where you stroll more than you walk, and the dishes you cook are delicious only if they’ve simmered for half a day. Welcome to a writer’s life.

The reason why I’m so slow? I am constantly phased out, prone to permanent contemplation. And it has served me well.

I am what they call a poet. I write, and most of what I write is considered to be poetry, for lack of a better word. My work life is organized around the necessity of being able to afford time with my notebook (Leuchtturm1917, Classic, Softcover, A6, plain, colors diverge) and my pen (Kaweco Classic Sport Collection, lilac, purple inc). When this condition is met, contradictory forces are immediately at stake. My body and brain become slower than usual while my writing hand turns into Taz from The Looney Tunes. It hurries making sure everything that has crossed my mind since the last time I picked up my pen and notebook can lie down on the page. Sometimes, I even wish I could write with my other hand, so that whatever is happening on the opposite side of my brain—the one not writing this—could remain. But I only have one writing hand that has been slowly deforming since I was a kid; Generally stained with purple ink, the middle finger of my writing hand has been growing a bump on the side.

There is such a thing as writing fast. What takes time are the moments spent fabricating what will be written, those moments stretch 24/7 while we are busy living life. I am slow because a portion of my brain is always busy thinking about something else. So not only am I naturally slow, but the occupation I chose to suit this trait, has made me even slower.

Like a snake biting its own tail. 

Since childhood, I have been given free time to daydream to the fullest for an hour, around twice a week, when I wash my hair. Detangling its curls takes a long, long, time. I’ve learned how to do it by myself, and since, it has given my mind the freedom to drift away. There’s not much more to do while detangling hair. Perhaps, listening to the radio, but even then, I’ve proved to be a relentless daydreamer. These hour-long detangling sessions were great practice for becoming the contemplative person I am today.

For example, whenever I need to get somewhere, I can’t go fast. I walk extremely slowly and am unable to pick up the pace when walking with other, faster people. My loved ones are kind enough to drastically slow down when walking by my side. I do try my best to hurry up as much as I can, but even then, my hurrying–up pace is probably the slowest you’ve ever walked. In the bike lane, other cyclists constantly ring their bells at me. Apparently, I don’t cycle fast enough for them. Thankfully there’s a friend who is a slow cyclist too, and I love cycling with her—she just showed me an app that suggests “quiet” routes when on a bike. And then, you might think it changes when driving a car, but no. I don’t even consider trying to go elsewhere than the right lane. It doesn’t matter how many times I have been told that if driving too fast is dangerous, moving too slow can be dangerous too. Still, I can’t bring myself to press the right foot further on the gas pedal. 

Rather than fighting my unhurried nature, I was happy to make this trait a way of life, aaa llliiifffeee iiinnn ssslllooowww mmmootttiiiooonnn. This has led me to discover a few of life’s best-kept secrets. For instance, how the dishes I make are better when they’ve simmered for a long time. I’m not talking about over-cooking anything. Just make your pasta sauce slightly in advance next time you make it from scratch. Let the tomatoes dance gently for a while with the garlic and whatever else it is you put in the pan (for me it’s fennel seeds and harissa). I promise it will be even more delicious. This is one of the many examples that make me sincerely believe that slow motion is life’s best hack. Besides stating the obvious things are done better when they’re done slower. Must be that moving slower makes you stretch deeper, eating slower makes you digest nicer, and being slower makes you appreciate anything better.

Yet, there is one area where I like to hurry things up. Recently, I decided to take up most of my childhood hobbies, including hula hooping. And when that plastic circle floats around my hips, my thighs, and my knees before going all the way back to my standing arms—speed is key. I am not the only poet who hula hoops. I know of another one. Her name is Victoria, and she is currently “busy writing lists” (which is the title of her book coming out this year). I am pretty sure there are more of us. 

Poets should love hula hooping because it requires the perfect amount of attention to movement to allow your brain to go wild. Or, maybe the hip movements irrigate the part of our brain that assembles words. Every morning I hula for a little bit, it leads to a better writing day. There is definitely something there. So if you are a poet who hula hoops, make yourself known; we’re starting a club.

Haydée Touitou is a poet and translator based in Paris. Defining her writing as dumb poetry, Haydée views literature as amusingly incoherent. Her work has been featured in multiple publications such as Apartamento and Worms Magazine

In March 2020 she published her first poetry book, We Have Been Meaning To, and recently published Breakfast Food for Dinner a collection of poems about food and feelings published by Hato Press. Make sure to get your copy here!

Images: Philipp Langenheim, Ricky Rhodes, Jenny Penas, Jordi Huisman,  Boerge Sierek