Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who's Afraid of a Spinster?

Why isn’t Spinsterhood as sexy and appealing as Bachelorhood? In a play of mine, a female character argues, “I only want what you have, G---, to live freely without being pitied for my freedom!”

My bachelor brother with his protracted disinterest in long-term relationships has been admired by my family, even envied for his lifestyle.

He travels extensively by plane and by motorcycle, embarking on weekend escapades across oceans and highways. His life overflows with energetic activities which reap a compilation of colorful photographs: tangible evidence of a life lived fully.

My playwriting, on the other hand, despite productions and positive reviews, is still seen as the hobby of a hermit, and my “activity of imagination,” invisible to the common eye, remains baffling to my family. Not at all enviable.

Is exercising the muscles of our body more highly esteemed in our society than excising the muscles of our brain? Is traveling to other countries, more desirable than traveling across the maps of our minds, hearts and souls?

And is it partly this ostensible “worldliness” of Bachelors that gives them an allure that Spinsters lack?

Or does this double-standard extend much deeper in our social psyche? Are we still swayed by the stereotypes of the Living-It-Up Bachelor and the Lonely Spinster, and if so, does this create suspicion on both sides? The commitment-phobic vs. the relationship-hungry?

But if “being alone” doesn’t translate as “lonely” for Bachelors, why should it for Spinsters?

In reality, women frequently spend many years of their lives “alone.” Women often outlive their husbands (living a productive ten, twenty or thirty years more), and yet, our society doesn’t seem comfortable with women who consciously choose to live alone; who realize we can live without a man handy at all times. We must fall into “alone” tragically, it seems, not claim it for ourselves wholeheartedly.

When we do fall into it, however, we are often reborn, finding a strength we never knew we possessed; uncovering Liberty, not the Loneliness we seem to be encouraged to fear.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mirrors: A Weighty Issue

“The best thing about my divorce,” a good friend tells me, “is all the weight I lost.” Then she pauses a second, before adding, “But you can’t afford to lose.”

Hey, I’m not worried. I’ve a strong sweet-tooth. I can’t imagine a world without ice cream. I’ve spent significant quality time with Ben and Jerry. Just add a puff of whipped cream, and for a brief, blissful moment in this mortal realm, I believe I’m in paradise.

Sure, food hasn’t always been an easy friend.

When I was young, my mom (who was never content with my weight) added guilt to the taste of food.

“I think you’ve had enough,” she’d say, taking a cookie away from me, and for a while, as a child, eating became a clandestine act, creeping downstairs to the kitchen in the middle of the night.

But I’m an adult now. I live in my own house and buy my own groceries. I don’t have to make forbidden or furtive rendezvous with sweets in the darkest of hours.

And I’ve long stopped heeding unsolicited remarks about my weight. You see, the petite, just like the obese, are subject to commentary by strangers. Boys used to call me Strawberry Shortcake and swing me in their arms, like a doll. (Don’t worry, dear readers, I quickly learned to give a kick where it counts.) And dieting women would look me over and tell me how lucky I was.

But why should my body size be a topic for conversation (unless I initiate it)?

“You don’t need to drink diet coke,” a stocky man in the grocery store winks at me in the soda aisle.

Isn't it strange that strangers speak more about my body than I do?

Like many women, I have a love/hate relationship with mirrors. I often rush past them, hoping to avoid any unkind reflections, and lately, I’ve been so distracted I’ve had little respite for mirror-gazing. In fact, these past few weeks have been so erratic that I’ve found it hard to focus on writing, reading, and yes, even eating.

But I’m not worried. I’m fond of food. Maybe I’ve ignored it a bit lately, but food is very forgiving, and when my appetite returns, food will be there for me, ready and reliable. So I wasn’t worried. Not at all.

Then, the other day, my doctor weighed me in at 81. How could this happen? Why didn’t I notice I had lost nearly fifteen pounds and landed myself in a danger zone?

Maybe I should spend more time with my mirror. Maybe it’s time for my body* and I to become better friends.

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This post is dedicated to Charlie.

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* Edited based on an insightful comment by JLB.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

P. M. Mess

P. M. Mess has visited again. At the door, I told IT I wouldn’t receive IT anymore. I declared IT wasn’t welcome here. I offered no hospitable smile. I set out no bright-orange juice, no honey-colored toast. (The hour was early—just before breakfast.) And yet, into the parlor IT came, sitting without ceremony: slumping heavily, so heavily, upon my buttery-blue chair.

“What do you want with me?” I asked, but IT didn’t answer. IT’s a surly guest, at best, so I decided not to provoke IT further. Does one press Jack the Ripper at his intentions? I think not! Best not to know the gritty details.

I did proffer a few words of chit-chat - I can’t help myself! I’m too well-bred to allow for extended gaps of silence between such intimate strangers, but I don’t think IT listened at all. I think IT knew my prattle was only a pretense; the wrappings of civility to conceal the severe indignity of my situation.

In ITs presence, the morning light fled from the room, as if the sun couldn’t bear to shed one single ray upon my rude guest, which seemed immensely inspired by the dark. I reached for something — a light switch, I think — but IT rose from the chair, and beneath ITs shadow, I shrank in size, diminishing swiftly, as if I was a mere speck of dust in what should have been my own space; my safe harbor; my sweet sanctuary.

Yes, dear readers, I’m constantly changing the locks to my doors, but each and every month, IT unbolts me.