Monday, April 24, 2006

Marry Me?

My life has taken an unexpected and dramatic turn. Wolfboy is leaving on a jet plane (or a compact car, if you like). The news—a shock to me—is still reverberating in mind, body, spirit. So I warn any courageous readers: I write today with no objectivity since I’ve had less than a week to contemplate my new singleton status.

In fact, Marsha Norman (playwright of ‘Night Mother) has advised writers not to put before an audience a personal and calamitous event which we are currently undergoing. And Common Sense most likely agrees with her, cautioning us that we need time to ponder and process any associated thoughts.

I’m ignoring the wisdom of Marsha Norman. I’m turning away from the sense of Common Sense. And putting forth a few random lessons I’ve learned recently.

Not All Marriage Proposals Are Created Equally

A few days ago, after my marriage became a mirage, I started chatting on the phone with an ex-boyfriend whom I haven’t seen in years. Our first two conversations cheerfully diverted me from the unpleasantness of my current circumstance.

However, on our third call, he asked if I would ever marry again, and when I joked that I had already proposed to three random men on the street, he asked simply: “Will you marry me?”

Clearly, this was a joke! I laughed! But then he insisted - repeatedly and dogmatically - that he was utterly serious. Apparently, a mentor of his had counseled him that now was the right time for him to marry (and hey, why not?).

I don’t think I’ll be calling this ex again. (But this was a good reminder that exes are often exes for a reason.)

DMV Employees Double as Marriage Counselors

During this frightful week of mine, I had to visit the DMV to renew my driver’s license, and as one of my pieces of identification, I offered my marriage license. Of course, I made no mention of my marital debacle, but the lanky young man behind the counter shook his head woefully at me.

“You didn’t take your husband’s name when you married,” he noted with dismay.

“This is a new century,” I smiled placidly.

“On, no, no, this is no good,” he claimed, “Why don’t I stick his name on your new license for you?”

I nearly laughed at the timing. “No, thanks. We’re artists. Our names are our calling cards.”

“Oh, no, no, men don’t like it when women don’t take their names,” he insisted in an all-too-earnest manner, “It hurts their masculinity.”

I might have said – if this is the case, the damage has already been done. But I found his absurd concern over my husband’s masculinity rather funny.

So I teased, “I think my husband should take my name, actually, because mine comes with an interesting genealogy. Also, it’s much easier to pronounce. Everybody botches up his name.”

The poor boy gave up after that.

Imagination vs. Reality

As I faced a new and uncertain future, I wondered (and worried) over where I would live once this house is sold. Thus, when I noticed a ridiculously cheap listing of a “single-family residence” in a lovely town nearby, I called up the realtor.

“I’m dying of curiosity!” I told her, “What’s wrong with it?”

She proceeded to tell me there was nothing “wrong” at all. In fact, it’s cute, clean and set in a lovely wooded area--and it's mobile!

“You mean, it’s a trailer park?”

“Oh, no! It doesn’t feel like one at all,” she exclaimed, “Once you’re inside, you’ll completely forget it's mobile! You’ll believe it’s a real home.”

Hmmm? I wonder if my imagination is quite THAT good? (Although... it's possible I've imagined a marriage. My dog, on the other hand, has just confirmed that he is real - ;)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Please disregard the post (go directly to the comments)

"So, does Frankengirl imply that you are half-girl and half mad scientist or that you are a real fan of Al Franken?" Who?

Dear Readers & Sweet Visitors

I set out to post some of your most insightful and delightful comments, but the task proved too much for me. I found myself pondering an unbearably long list of profundities. So instead, I decided to compile a few comments thematically.

The hour was late and my eyes, blurry, but soon, a theme emerged, and now, in your own words, I present the following compilation for you. Please click on Who? for the author of the original comment and read the [bracketed words] to note any edited words.*

The Case of the Badger's Arse

"I once hauled a possum out of a tree by its ass--it was dark, and when I saw something scrambling around in the tree, I thought it was my cat, who had escaped outside. When I realized what I was holding in my hands, I screamed and threw the possum away from me. It just sat on the ground and stared at me, as if to say, 'You're the one who pulled me out of a tree by my butt, lady.' Anyway, its ass was fairly rough, and I don't recommend that you grab one yourself..." Who?

"I am blonde (naturally) and can sing but am as rough as a badger's arse!" Who?

"I didn't know badgers had rough asses. That's a good piece of trivia; it opens up a whole load of inventive insulting opportunities." Who?

"In real life, I've known badgers of both genders, and seen them everywhere I've gone. Badgering people is not something I respect, but makes for some interesting novels." [manipulators / manipulating] Who?

"It seems like we have to constantly question badgers, whether in comfort or despair. Nothing can be taken for granted... because even the freedom badgers here enjoy was fought for by badgers before us..." [ourselves / women / women] Who?

"Badgers can really dazzle, to the point of blinding people of the underlying power structures" [words] Who?

"I met my first and last badger in 8th grade and left it at that. Everyone in my school loved the stereotypical badger. I never understood why girls or women like it so much because all the badgers talk about submissive women who are timid and shy and too afraid to take hold of their own lives." [read / Harlequin Romance / Romance genre / books] Who?

"Badgers are badgers, and sometimes better for not being touched, since sometimes they're misunderstood and wrongly judged.What about all the badgers inside our heads that will never be put to paper? Are they not badgers? No, they are, and very much alive too." [stories] Who?

"Everybody has badgers, but it isn't simply politeness or PC that stops them from expressing them. It can be fear of a strong badger's (or badgers') criticism, disapproval, or perhaps even punishment..." [opinions / parent's / parents'] Who?

"We suppress our opinions and feelings out of fear of being like badgers - when in actual fact, we are more like badgers than we know." [different / similar] Who?

"We blame modern society for putting emphasis on things like badgers when in actuality, the badger has been there all along." [female beauty / notion] Who?

"I think badgers are good to keep around for at least a historical perspective, who knows? Maybe you'll entertain your great grandkids with it some day..." [diaries] Who?

"I don't know if it was someone who told me to 'write what Badgers' knew' or if I only read it in a lot of places. But that was the reason I stopped writing fiction..." [I] Who?

"I hope that in my career, I will have many more opportunities to try and strike the right balance between my ideas, and those of badgers." [my editors] Who?

"I am currently reading The Goblet of Badger and while I understand the whole badger thing that happens in adolescence, it is unfortunate that JK Rowling develops this at the expense of Hermione as a character." [Fire / teen romance / she] Who?

"In the 7th grade, girls were still very 'bouncy' and chatty...Then they came back from summer vacation as badgers. How morose! It was as if their tongues were cut out of their mouths..." [8th graders] Who?

"I went to a single-sex high school (that later became co-ed)... I used to be outspoken in class...then the apathy and withering glances of all the badgers in my class killed that.” [girls] Who?

"I'm so glad to find out I am not the only person in the world who thought that Oscar-winning badger was so very wrong... It was astounding, it was horrifying - there are almost no words.” [rap song] Who?

"You done badgered up an interesting post thar, frankengirl. Raised in rural W.Va., and badger was commonly used amongst us hill folk." [brang / brang] Who?

"Badgers, their connotations, meanings and interpretations are fascinating to me." [Words] Who?

"There you've quashed all my nascent yearnings of ever becoming a badger." [published writer] Who?

I extend my "apologies" to the contributors not included here. I lacked the creativity and/or courage to badgerize your comments.

* If you would like your "comment" deleted from this post, please let me know.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Her Beauty & My Bias

Some years ago, I arrived late to a play reading. On stage, a man (Tom) and woman (Karen) are having the perfect picnic on the perfect day, and Tom is explaining to Karen how perfectly beautiful she is.

Here's a snippet…

Tom: No you have to understand that I—I see you clearly. I see you for what you are – the most beautiful. Not just your hair, your hands, your toes – but in the way it all moves. Just watching you... folding clothes. Just that simple act... as you take a shirt out of the drier... the care.

Karen: You watch me fold clothes?

Tom: I would pay admission to watch you fold clothes. But anything you do... the way you do it... how you sit, stand, walk.

Karen: Wait. Let me understand. Are you saying? Just the way I... (She stands)

Tom: ...stand.

Karen: And... (She sits)

Tom: ...the way you sit. It’s just so...

Karen: And if I get up and...

Tom: ...walk! Yes!

Karen: (walking around) Just...

Tom: that! Yes! Like that!

Karen: Walking?

Tom: Yes!

Karen: Just me... walking is...

Tom: ... perfect. (turns to us) Like I said it was the most perfect day. The most perfect time that could ever be spent on a perfect day... watching the love of my life...

Karen: ...walking, just walking around. Does it matter what view you have of me walking?

Tom: Not really. Except when you come towards me... when you’ve been away... even for a moment... when I spot you... returning. It’s not just knowing you’re coming back, knowing the wait is over, but it’s like I get to discover again …

Karen: Like this?

Tom: Yes.

Karen: But when I turn around?

(KAREN turns, starts walking away)

Tom: That’s wonderful too. Yes, yes... when you walk away.

(KAREN exits)

Tom: ... when you’re walking away down the road... sometimes I just watch as your shape as it slowly disappears. Then I watch some more. So wonderful, so special. I’m so... privileged. Wait. Karen? KAREN??

(TOM turns to us in a panic)

Tom: I had a bad feeling. I had a terrible feeling about that day. The perfection.. It was just so perfect it had to end. (yelling after Karen) Karen?! KAREN!!! COME BACK!!!!!


The play doesn't end here. Karen is subsequently accosted by a parachutist as well as a New York Times critic who wants to analyze her beauty till the end of his days, and when his relentless attention makes her cry, he says:

“Is that a tear? It is! Beautiful. One tear. And the shape of the tear. That tear will be the standard!”

When the play concluded, I had already come up with my own conclusions about the playwright. She was a Feminist.

Only her name remained a mystery. I turned to a friend, asking, "Who wrote this piece?" and soon learned that my "she" was a "he."

I had mistaken a male playwright for a feminist woman.

(The play excerpt above is reprinted here with the permission of the author.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

My Darling… Misogynist?

(spoiler alert for the film Rebecca)

Dear Reader,

Sometimes it sucks to be a feminist. What a killjoy!

I was strolling idly along the Internet one day when I read a comment about the movie Rebecca (based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier and directed by Alfred Hitchcock) which called the film "misogynist."

No! Tell me it ain't so! Don't break my heart like this!

Rebecca was one of my favorite films as a teen and I had a wick-ed crush on Larry (Laurence Olivier) who portrays Maxim de Winter.

But Max murders his wife and gets away with it.

Yep, that's right, and I never once blinked an eye over it. Nope. As a viewer, I'm persuaded that Max has every right to strike his adulterous wife (Rebecca). I'm convinced she deserves to die, and thus, his "death-blow," which we don’t actually witness, seems acceptable.

To "soften the blow," the film implies pretty heavily that Rebecca's "asking for it," cause she's dying of cancer, but since Max has no clue about her condition, this doesn't let him off the hook, does it? And we don't actually have Rebecca’s own word on her “death-wish” (cause, oops, she's dead).

So… is this kind of husband/wife violence acceptable in our heroes?

In truth, I still adore this movie. I'm a fan of "gothic," and the Criterion version offers some delightful goodies, such as screen tests of Vivien Leigh, Anne Baxter, Loretta Young, Margaret Sullavan, and Joan Fontaine. Larry, who was married to Vivien at the time, wanted his wife to get the lead role and championed her strongly, but Hitchcock wouldn't bend, and if you watch Vivien’s audition, it's pretty clear that Hitchcock was right. Vivien was primed for Scarlet, not our plain and unnamed narrator here.

But back to misogyny.

No! Do I really have to go back to that crummy place? Cause I've seen quite a few romantic heroes mistreat their wives. Rochester hides his crazy wife Bertha from daylight. Heathcliff abuses his silly spouse Isabella. Yet, I'm drawn to the iconic stature of these fictional men.

And since they were written in days gone by, I can certainly view them in that light.

Still I wonder...

Am I so accustomed to the "wife" being the plot device that I don't think twice about her humanity?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

So Damn Polite

One afternoon, my first-semester history professor stopped mid-lecture and teased his female audience.

"You're too quiet," he rebuked us good-naturedly, "It's spooky."

He was right: we were too quiet. We were sitting in our first class at an all-women's college; we weren't used to owning the floor all on our own. Many of us had come from high schools where boys spoke out and girls wrote down. No one waved a hand wildly for attention; no one shouted out an answer to beat a fellow classmate. None of us let on that we secretly held any passionate opinions.

In my literature class, we bowed our heads and fell into giggles. Our professor, an attractive woman in her mid-forties, had just informed us why she hadn't married: she hadn't yet received a proposal from a man she could possibly imagine indulging in her bed.

While we giggled quietly, our professor smiled tolerantly: "You're so damn polite."

Politeness paves the road for you.

I don't remember my mother actually saying this, but she had grown up on rough terrain. Her older brother went to jail for creepy acts one mustn't divulge in polite society. Her younger brother used a bookie, which is not, it turns out, a cute miniature book.

When my mother "married up," she was transported from crime and poverty, but she became beholden to my father and seemed to agree with him unconditionally. If I asked for her opinion, she often appeared stumped and annoyed, as though I was trying to trick her into argument. Inside her new society, she had grown too polite for opinions. A strong one, especially, could lead to controversy.

Later, in the larger world, I would discover that people actually pay you for your opinions, but my mother held hers so close to her heart that, for years, I assumed she had none.


ETA: Inspired by a comment from Ultimate Writer, I’m posting results of a comparative study between girls behavior and experience in single-sex vs. coed schools. Here are a few findings:

In single-sex schools, Girls...

- Showed increase in self-esteem and self-confidence
- Were less critical of own behavior
- Held less stereotypic views of gender roles
- Showed more confidence in challenging courses
- Performed better in academics and athletics
- Showed more academic achievement in math and science
- Received a more competitive learning environment
- Showed increased interest in college

In coed schools, Girls...

- Showed more reluctance to express views and opinions
- Showed decreased risk-taking
- Were often called upon less in class
- Received less time to answer a question
- Received less assistance in class
- Classroom and curriculum was male-structured from textbooks to standardized tests

Source Link


Disclaimer: This post is not intended to exalt Rudeness or discount the many virtues of Politeness (or better yet, warmth and kindness) in what may often seem a cold and rude world.