Saturday, June 18, 2005

UNHAPPY WOMEN

Category: Sanity vs. Madness (See 'This is a blog about...")

Edmund White has a piece entitled "My Women" in this week's New Yorker which I found particulary unsettling. The following paragraphs, in particular, hit a nerve:

From my mother I learned just how violent and unquenchable a woman’s loneliness can be. She had been sheltered excessively by her husband and then, midway through her life, they divorced, and she was forced to earn her own living. It was as if after hobbling around with bound feet she were suddenly unbandaged and told to become a marathon runner. She made her way professionally, and she took pleasure in that success, but she spent her evenings suffering beside a silent phone, drinking highballs and listening to the same sad record. Watching her, I came to think of men as monsters with absolute power, the darlings of the Western world, and of women as their unfortunate victims.

Unhappy women! How many of them I’ve known. Sniffling or drinking with big reproachful eyes, silent or complaining, violent or depressed—a whole tribe of unhappy women have always surrounded me
.

Why was I, who consider myself a happy woman, so disturbed by White's vision of female misery? Because, if I'm honest, I have to say, I've seen the "unquenchably lonely" creature he describes in the mirror a few times. I've drunk her "highballs;" I've listened to her sad records; I've stared through her reproachful eyes at some poor man who wanted nothing but to escape my needs. Not often or even recently, but I've been her--and she terrifies me as much as she scares the men who are the recipient of those reproaches.

Violent. Depressed. Unquenchably lonely. She is the poet who penned Ariel and then put her head in the oven, and also the one Anne Sexton tried to ward off with her poems, but who won in the end. She is the one who lost the ability to look outward, because the fire within was so consuming.

Unhappy woman. Lonely woman. Woman with her highballs and her sad records and her silent phone and worst of all, those reproachful eyes. I would like to disown you, to say I'm not like you and never will be. But I can't--not entirely.



Meanwhile, in the Reading and Writing department, I've recently posted about The Perfect Job for a Writer on my other blog. Obviously, I'm still searching for it. Any suggestions?

3 comments:

rdl said...

Unfortunately I can relate.

genevieve said...

Hells bells, when it's put like that in all its terrible glory it is frightening. But then men on their own can be upsetting too (I just saw The Assassination of Richard Nixon last night).
I have a lot of sympathy for both sides - however I do have a preference for women and men who take responsibility for their feelings and articulate them appropriately ( well of course we all prefer that, yeah.)

I've seen it in both genders, let's say that much, and it doesn't matter who is passive-aggressive really, it really is a huge expenditure of effort that could be better directed. ( I'm thinking alcoholic uncle and destructive mother here, among others, self included at times).

The other problem is that it breeds a fear of feeling in others ( as White notes) that is difficult to eradicate and actually quite irrational. Nothing is so dreadful that you can't talk about it... heard that anywhere? Because it is true.

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