The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “objectification of women”

The Perfect Life

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Gra

I had a perfect life. That’s what everyone told me.  I was blessed.  Lucky.   Other women envied me, wishing even for a slice of my life. They envied my handsome successful husband,  my three beautiful children,   my large home in the best neighborhood. I was quite attractive and always dressed in the latest styles.  I never had to go to work. I was free to enjoy the kinds of activities women of leisure enjoy.

I should have been happy.   I had what everyone else wanted; what everyone else was sure would make them happy.  I felt there was something deeply wrong with me because even though I had all this, I was profoundly dissatisfied.

I was happy enough when my babies were small, until the youngest started school.  Suddenly, my days were unfilled.   I didn’t quite know what to do with my time.  My husband traveled frequently on business and was often gone for days, weeks at a time.  I didn’t particularly miss him, but it did leave me lonely for adult company.

I joined a club and met some other women who also needed to fill their days.  We gossiped, complained, and bragged over cards, over lunch, in the pool.  I needed a challenge so I took tennis lessons, and risibly fell victim to that utterly predicable and clichéd story line:  attractive but bored, unhappy housewife has affair with handsome, raffish instructor.

I craved emotional diversion.  I was desperate for my blood to run with passion again, to feel that yearning in the heart and loins.  I rejoiced to feel alive and desired. I hungered for it like a drug.  He began to appear frequently in my dreams and always in my fantasies.  I touched myself, imagining it was his hands on me. Everything reminded me of him. I lived for our weekly trysts.  He became the main focus of my thoughts and attention. I needed him like oxygen.

The weight of my need was more than he was willing to bear. I was too attached, too needy.  I became demanding and weepy.  I wanted things from him that were ridiculous to expect from such an ultimately meaningless relationship. I became undignified.  And so he broke it off.

I was devastated.

I could not go back to the club.  I could not bear to see him with other women.  I could not even bear to be out in public, so raw and so vulnerable.

In the beginning, I would have a drink or two in the morning – enough to help me tolerate the empty hours, but early enough in the day so that I would be relatively sober and put together by the time the children came home from school in the afternoon.

After a while, I’d drink just until the moment the first one walked in the door.  I thought they were too young to notice.  (I was wrong.)   Eventually, I didn’t even care enough to hide my drinking — not from the children who seemed not to need me, not from the housekeeper who was smart enough to do her work and mind her business, and not from my husband when he was around.  He didn’t seem to notice me much anymore anyway.  Other than civil dinners lacking all intimacy, we mostly stayed to ourselves,  him in his part of the house and me in mine.

The drinking transformed from something I did to numb my sorrow and loneliness to a genuine addiction.  Early on, when necessary, I was capable of functioning out in the world  —  go to the market, the shops,  bank, the hair salon.  I’d have just a quick one before setting out and I could tolerate it for a few hours. I didn’t think anyone knew my secret. (I was wrong.)

Over time, it became more important to me to be able to drink at will than to be able to hold myself together for the sake of others.  I was aware enough to recognize that in my usual condition. I was too sloppy to be in polite company.  When drunk, I was prone to doing embarrassing things. I did not want to bring that humiliation on my family.  So I stayed at home.  Besides, daylight and other humans had begun to bother me.

Once, while in the middle of figuring that out,  I picked up my youngest son and some of his friends at an after-school event.  I was quite drunk.  The teachers must have noticed my condition, but they dared not stop me from driving. Although it would have been the reasonable thing to do,  it was not their place.  On the way home, I swerved off the road on a sharp S-curve and came perilously close to a fatal accident.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but the children were terrified and I was deeply shaken.

To my credit, I learned from this incident never to drive in that condition.  And since I was almost always in that condition, it was easier to remain inside, curtains drawn.

As my appearance deteriorated, so did my health.  I grew soft and sloppy.  My face puffed and my muscles sagged.  I looked years older than my chronological age.  I had gone from the envy of all to the person everyone pitied, including myself.

Towards the end, when my condition was too awful for my family to continue to ignore, they tried to get me some help, but I was already beyond the point of salvation.  I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t want to change. I just wanted to remain numb until I died, which I expected would not take long.  I knew it would kill me.  I hoped it did so quickly.

My children cried because I loved the bottle more than I loved them.  My husband felt guilty for not having gotten me help earlier, when possibly I might have been saved.

But it was not the drink, itself,  that did me in. That was a symptom. What destroyed me was my guilt over not being happy despite all that God had given me. According to everyone else, I had everything a woman could desire to achieve maximum satisfaction.   If I was unhappy with all this, clearly there was something wrong with me; there was nothing that could make me happy. I was too damaged and undeserving of happiness. If I could have assuaged my guilt by giving those slices of my life to whoever could take benefit from them, I would have.  Such advantages were wasted on me.

I had made the grotesque mistake of believing what everyone else did: that money and possessions and status and appearances were the source of happiness.  I could have been happy in that my situation, just as anyone can be happy in any situation, if I had simply placed the greatest value on the smallest things.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

The Great Rift

 

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Aki

I lived in a small village at the edge of a large salt lake. We did not have much that we didn’t make or grow ourselves, or trade for other goods. We had existed in this place, on this dry, inhospitable land for as far back as our collective memory and stories went. We followed a careful social order which kept everything and everyone stable and status quo. We each knew our duties and responsibilities — to our family, to our neighbors, to our small tribe. There was a strict hierarchy, and we all knew our place. The chief was at the top. His was only law we knew and the only law we needed.

One day, some wazungu arrived on a small bus driven by a man known by our chief.  The driver spoke our language and also that of the mazungu. Some of the men in our village had seen white faces before, in the city, but never had they come to us.

They were completely strange creatures to most of us women…not just their skin color, not even the texture of their hair or their impractical clothing… but the way the conducted themselves. There was no chief. The women laughed and talked among themselves, mostly ignoring the men, who never thought to scold or beat them.  What kind of women were these? Where were their children?  Did they have no important work to occupy them?  Why did they behave so freely, so foolishly,  as if they had no care in the world?  Were they not aware of all the misfortunes that might befall a woman if she let down her guard even for a moment?

We stared at them, and they stared at us. The driver told our chief to tell us to simply ignore them as they came from far away and wanted to watch us go about our lives in our usual way.  For this, the driver paid the chief a few shillings.  As he kept the entire amount for himself, he was quite happy with this arrangement.

After that, they came approximately once a moon, sometimes more, sometimes less.  This went on for many years.  Sometimes the driver gifted us all with a large bag of rice or beans, and then perhaps we might have a feast.

These wazungu were pleasant and friendly enough even though we could not communicate with them in words. Mostly, they wanted to watch us women doing our work…fetching water,  cleaning grain and pounding it into flour, weaving thatch, gathering wood and making a cooking fire, nursing our babies.  They liked to see inside our huts, where we slept. They seemed to particularly like watching the children, playing and climbing and running.

They pointed their small boxes at us but it was a long time until most of us understood what the purpose of that was.  None of us had ever seen a photograph of ourselves. I doubt I would even have been able to identify myself in a photograph. Some of the friendlier wazungu seemed to ask permission before pointing their camera box at us, but since we had no idea what they were doing, we just shrugged and smiled and let them do it.  We found it inexplicably strange.

We became accustomed to the visits. Some groups were nicer, more friendly,  more polite than others,  but mostly they were a waste of our time. Usually, we could truly ignore them as we went about our business but sometimes, they got in our way and made things more difficult. And for our compliance, we got nothing for ourselves.

We villagers knew better than to ask them for anything as compensation. That arrangement was strictly between our chief and the driver. The visitors also understood this and never offered us anything.

And then one day, the village was turned upside-down.

The wazungu came and their visit was going as they usually did.

There was a woman, in the village, of very low status. Her husband had left her and their infant son, and run off to the city, (so we were told.) She had been a bad wife (for why else would he have left her?)  and now she was a burden to the rest of us.

This woman, I shall call her K, was always far more fascinated by the wazungu than the rest of us. We used to tease her that one day she was going to hide on the bus and go away with them, but of course, it was a joke because where would she go?  What would she do?  She might have been low status in the village, but at least she was cared for.  Would any mzungu care for her out there?  She, as we, knew the answer.

Then, one afternoon, just before the guests climbed back into the bus, one of the mzungu women pulled the colorful scarf from her own head and gave it to K.

This small, soft, useless square of cloth nearly started a war.

After the bus left,   K tied the scarf around her head, the way the mzungu wore it,  and strutted around the village, acting better than the rest of us, behaving higher than her status.  She wore it like a crown and carried herself like a queen.

This immediately caused anger, resentment,  and jealousy among the village women.  The girl had done nothing to deserve any such honor, and in fact, she’d only received this gift because she’d lingered too long around the bus people, and let them hold her child,  when she should have been working.  It seemed doubly unfair that she was rewarded for her bad behavior.

We grumbled and gossiped, but she pretended not to care. This went on for several days, until one afternoon the chief’s first wife walked across the village,  her eyes burning with anger and purpose.  She walked into K’s small hut , pulled her outside, struck her knocking her to the ground, pulled her hair, grabbed the scarf off her head, and triumphantly tied it around her own.  K lay crying and moaning in the dust.

Violence among women was unheard of in our tribe, and this was shocking. None of us had liked K’s attitude but we were appalled at the behavior of the chief’s wife.

The women were immediately divided in opinion. Some believed the chief’s wife did the right thing, that it was the only choice.  Some believed that as badly as K had behaved, nothing justified violence. And along this line, we fell into two camps.

The rift threatened to tear us all apart. Finally, the chief himself,  who tried as much as possible to remove himself from the petty problems of women, stepped in to settle things.

It was a delicate matter since his wife held high status, and it would be a humiliation for her to beaten publicly. This would only cause further problems.  He had the right to beat K, if only for her inappropriate behavior in the days prior. But he could not beat one without beating the other, and fortunately for all of us,  he was not the kind of man who enjoyed giving beatings.

He consulted with each woman alone, and heard some other opinions (whether he wanted to hear them or not.)  In the end, it was arranged thusly:  His wife returned the scarf to K, and in turn K made a show of giving the scarf to the chief to use as the village flag.

The wazungu never returned.

Throughout the rest of my life and even now, my mind returned to those few days.  I recognized how close we came to being destroyed by divisiveness and unrest and lack of forgiveness; how easily the fabric of our society might have become completely unraveled despite the fact that we depended upon each other for survival.

We were fortunate to have a wise leader who resolved the problem in way that satisfied everyone, and allowed us each to learn some important lessons.   The wrong decision might have destroyed us.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Blessed Are You, Among Women…

woman walking to well

photo: gyaandna.com

 

first published July 20, 2015

Lei

I never had to think for myself. Where I lived, a woman was not meant to think. She was meant to obey.  She was meant to follow first her father’s, then her husband’s commands. There was no good reason to teach her to read or write.  Men had to be careful not to let women have access to new and strange ideas.  A woman’s place was just below that of a good pack animal. She was judged by how much work she could do, by how much she could carry, and by her acquiescence to her master’s will.

The men held fiercely to their small power over women. Every possible minuscule advance in our status was weighed with great solemnity. They discussed and argued.   The loudest voices were the ones who warned, that if we were allowed to do this, soon we’d want to do that. And if we did that, there’s no telling when we’d demand to do such-and-such. Or, if we found out this, we might surmise that which might eventually lead us to discover so-and-so. And then, before you know it, we women would not be able to be controlled.

As a female, I learned at the breast that I was inferior to males, even the stupid ones, even the lame ones, even the young ones, even the evil and crazy ones.

I didn’t get angry about it. It never dawned on me that it should be any other way.  I would no sooner think that I could change the color of the sky or stop the snow in winter. These were just the immutable facts of life; laws of nature. Why waste energy on trying to change what cannot be changed?

Joy and relief were only to be found among women. In this sisterhood, we eased each others’ burdens and shared our hearts. We did not converse about changing our lot. We did not secretly plan to topple the status quo. We had no power and we knew it. And even if we could, by some miracle, shift the balance to our own favor, what then? We did not have the knowledge or skills to run things.   Perhaps we might eventually have learned what was necessary, but we might well have starved before then.

In our group of women, there was a funny one who could really make us laugh.  She imitated perfectly the fat man’s swagger, and his way of talking down to everyone as if he alone knew all the answers.  When she told stories of things she had seen in the village or in the fields or on the road to market,  she described them in her special way, noting funny things most of us would not have noticed. We giggled like little girls at her sharp-eyed observations.

But even she dare not show this talent to the men. She was far too clever to reveal her cleverness.  And if she dared not to rise up;  if she, in all her cleverness, saw no hope of changing the existing conditions, how could any of us even think about dreaming of change? It wasn’t hopeless. It just was.

We were not completely helpless. Sometimes the women banded together to achieve certain concessions from the men. But our demands were not for freedom or education. Such requests would only cause us to be beaten back down severely, to teach us our place.  We used our wiles.    Once, we wanted a new well closer to our end of the village so we didn’t have to carry water so far. We convinced the men of the economic logic in this. If we didn’t have to waste our time carrying water, we would then have more time and energy for other, more productive work. It was suggested – with words which were never spoken – that less time walking to and from the well meant less time for gossip.   Men hated women gossiping because they did not know what we were saying, and they understood something that we did not – that if we women ever decided to rise up together, the men would be helpless against us.   They could not vanquish us as an enemy. They could not kill us all. They could not live without our work; without our child-bearing and child-raising. I think they all lived in fear that one day, amid our gossip, we would suddenly realize  that although the men had the guns, the women held the power.

The idea of less time spent together appealed to their logic, and so we got our well.

Any man who thought by curtailing the time women spent together pulling water, they would curtail our gossip,  did not understand women at all (not that many of them did!). We simply made up the missed time while doing other communal chores.

This sense of community made light of our work. I cannot say the gossip did not sometimes get hurtful or petty or manipulative. In every group, everywhere, there are always those who will be small-minded and those who will rise above. Thus defines the dynamics of the group.

Our aspirations were never much higher than these types of mundane changes; changes which did not raise our status but merely rearranged the packs on our backs.

I cannot say I was unhappy. My life was my lot, and I accepted whatever came to me. I did not expect grace or kindness or respect in the world and so I did not feel deprived not to have it.

There is something to be said for accepting one’s lot in life the same way one eventually must accept one’s own face, the structure of one’s own body. Wishing for something different is a pointless. Better to put our energy into making the best of what we have.

To fight against that which cannot be changed is a sure recipe for an unhappy life.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

The Aging Heiress

originally posted 4/27/14

glamorous vintage woman

 

La  

I was vain, it is true. And my vanity caused many others to suffer. I was vain about things I had no right to claim as my own – my looks, my status (which was inherited, and then enhanced by marriage.)

In my 20’s, I was known as a great beauty. I was invited to all the right parties. Men desired me.

As I got older, I took care of myself as best I could, to maintain the illusion of youth as long as possible. After a certain number of years, however, age simply catches up. A woman loses her sexual power over men. If this is all she has, if she’s put all her eggs in this particular basket, she ends up with nothing.

I had four husbands and excellent lawyers, but even money doesn’t fill that void, though I worked hard to prove that statement incorrect.   Still, it was better to have money than to be poor.

At 79, I was still elegant; still invited to all the right parties. My last companion was 53. It was obvious to everyone except me that he was playing me. I wanted to believe that I still had enough wit, charm, and charisma to attract such a witty, charming, charismatic man.

When I died, he and my children (with whom I was never particularly close), got into a protracted legal fight over my estate. From where I was, I didn’t care who won. I could see how utterly pointless their battle was. The loser, in the end, was the real winner, although it took a while for that understanding to sink in.

***

note: Today I was out for a walk and ran into two women I haven’t really spoken to in over a year.   The first woman is a neighbor, and though we usually have a quick hello when we see each other on the street, today we ended up chatting for an hour. Mostly, she talked about her mother, who had passed the previous year.  There was nothing unusual in that.  It made perfect sense in the context of the conversation we were having, although it was the longest conversation we’ve had, probably in two or three years.

From there, I went to the supermarket.  Right in front of me in line, was someone who’d worked for me very briefly over a year ago.  We have not been in touch.  I asked her how she was doing, making light conversation.  She told me her mother had just passed away. While waiting to check out, she started telling me all about her mom, her personal history, her days as a political organizer.

I didn’t think anything odd about either of these encounters at the time. Later, however, I wondered if this wasn’t something more than mere coincidence.   They hadn’t simply mentioned their mother’s recent deaths. That would have been the normal kind of news one might share in such circumstances. But thinking about it,  it seemed unusual that they both spontaneously told me their mother’s story, in far more detail than what was warranted by our casual relationships, as if it were important for me to know. 

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Perfection is Not So Perfect

Originally published March  17, 2015

alabasater statue of woman

Lu

Most people believe that being fair of face is a blessing. For me it was no such thing.

I was such a beautiful child, even strangers could not resist stroking my hair or running a finger across my flawless cheek. They cooed and marveled over my perfection; called me a little angel. Even as I got older, all anyone spoke about in reference to me was my loveliness. No one ever inquired about my cleverness, my strengths, my feelings. It was as if I were a living alabaster sculpture without a soul, born solely for the appreciation of others.

I withdrew into myself as they observed me from the outside, and rarely revealed any of my own thoughts or feelings.  I fulfilled what I perceived to be my role in life – to be on display as a model of perfection.

In a life previous to that one, I had been quite plain. You might even say homely. I longed to be beautiful. I envied those who were able to wear fine clothes and look elegant.  I knew that some people pitied me and tsk-tsked at my sorry state.  I lamented my lack of suitors and opportunities. I remained single all my life.  I had a steady job which supported me in reasonable comfort.  I had  friends among people who accepted me as I was.

But, as much as I desired to be different,  I was far less lonely in that lifetime than I was in my most recent.

In my life as a beauty, I was utterly unhappy. If I could have articulated the thought, I might have said I wanted the world to simply take me as I was, flaws and all. But I was so accustomed to playing my part as a mere object, so used to concealing what was inside, so disinclined to grow or to think too deeply or independently, that I didn’t even know, myself, who I was. I never gave myself permission to explore beyond the edge of what was expected of me.

I was completely passive in all things. I let others make all plans and decisions for me, as if they were selling and buying and moving an inanimate object.

When I became sick in my 40s, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity.   I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.

I understand better now that what you think you want is not always better than what you have.

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 

Skin Deep

First published February 20, 2015

vintageglam

Ga

I was a great beauty. All my life, I was grateful for this. It opened many doors which never would have opened to me if I’d been born plain.

My mother had been a great beauty herself as a girl, and was still beautiful as I became a young woman. She’d been divorced from my father since I was small. For my entire childhood, she was obsessed about finding a second, wealthy husband. She studied, calculated, plotted. She was singular in this goal.

She was not above telling men that I was her baby sister; that she was raising me alone after our mother died. This, she believed, made her seem saintly and nurturing without the taint of “used merchandise.”   She dated a lot of men, but to her great heartbreak, promise seemed to vanish just as she was feeling most hopeful about permanence.

To the outside world, she remained gay and carefree, but alone at night, while doing her evening beauty regimen, she’d examine herself in the mirror and fret that her looks would run out before she found a suitable man. She had no means of supporting herself. Her only skill was to convince a man to take care of her. If she lost that advantage, she’d have nothing.

She taught me everything she knew. She showed me how to use a coy glance to bring a man to my side. She taught me how to tease a man with promises of his own imagination.  She taught me the trick of giving just enough to make him want more, but not so much as to ever satisfy him. She dressed me to accentuate my natural assets (which were considerable.) She showed me the secrets of maquillage, which, when used skillfully can make a woman appear to be more or less than what she actually is.

When I was sixteen, I fell in love with a sweet young man. We talked about running away together. Mother quickly broke us apart and forbade me to see him again. I was devastated.   A woman’s status, she explained, was completely dependent upon the status of the men in her life. She had great hopes for me. I would use my beauty to marry somebody powerful and wealthy. She would not let me throw myself away on a common boy who would never go very far.  There would be more suitors, she promised, of far higher caliber.

And so there were. Mother made sure of that. She pushed and preened and schooled me; she insinuated me into the right circles. She invented a story for me to tell about myself. I met rich, handsome men. Captains of industry and their sons. Famous entertainers. Influential politicians. Mother married me off to the best prospect. I was elated. I had won the prize! My life was exactly as it was meant to me.

But soon I was no longer happy. We had both conquered each other and no longer had need of each other. An unhappy wife makes an unhappy husband. And vice versa. We ended in divorce, but not before I had acquired property and position. I did not want to make the same mistake my mother had made.

I was a divorcee but I was moving in more rarefied circles. I leapfrogged from one man to the next, each more powerful and wealthy than the last. I accumulated status and money. All that was important to me was to rise as high as possible above my standing at birth. I swore I would not end up like my mother.

Over the years, Mother’s fret gave way to worry. The worry eventually blossomed into full panic. By the time she was in her late forties, she was finding it difficult to hold her desperation in check, even though she knew she must — nothing sends a lover fleeing faster than the fetor of desperation.

Eventually, she found a much older man to marry. To my mind, he was a soft and ugly beast, but he was well-off and kind to her,  and she was grateful for him.

I did not want to become a woman who waited for men to choose her. I vowed to always be the one to chose. Even as I got older, I carried myself with confidence. I was an aging beauty but a beauty nonetheless. When I wanted to, I could still be quite charming. But I was selfish; I was vain; I was spoiled (as beautiful woman often are.)   I was perfectly willing to use anyone who could be helpful without a single thought to the consequences for them.   I was very practiced at extracting what I wanted from others,  as quickly as possible, with as little emotional investment as possible.

I married three times. I had two children both of whom met tragic ends, ravaged by the plague of a selfish, vain, spoiled mother. I can’t say I mourned very deeply at the time. We’d never been particularly close.

Few, if any, of my ex-lovers or husbands had much good to say about me. Once my spell on them was broken, all my ugliness became apparent. I made no effort to hide it. I didn’t try to be polite or kind. It mattered not what they thought of me; they were of no use to me any longer.

One evening, when I was in my late 70s, I came home from a gala, went to sleep and never woke up. Some acquaintances might have shed a polite tear or two, but there was nobody to truly mourn me. I’d only grazed the surface of the lives of others.

My mother had convinced me that my beauty was a key that would open doors for me. I understand now that it was not a key at all. It was the padlock. It kept me a prisoner of shallow intentions.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

To Conquer the Beast

NEWcoalmine

Thra

There are all kinds of men who abuse women. I recognized them everywhere,in all their forms, because I saw in them a reflection of myself. Such men need someone needier and weaker to counter our own weakness and insecurity. Such men live with the fear that our deepest secret – that we are wholly inadequate–will be revealed.

The formula is simple. First, find a woman who holds herself in even lower esteem than you hold yourself; someone consumed by doubt The game begins with flattery and attention to make her feel special, to buoy her self-confidence. Continue this until she views you as the single source of her happiness and well-being. Once this has been accomplished, systematically separate her from her family, job, friends, until she becomes dependent on you, until she looks to you for confirmation on everything. Now, begin to undermine her confidence and her resolve until she is convinced she cannot exist without you. At this point, if you have played your hand property, no matter how badly you treat her, no matter how much you demand from her, she will feel unable to leave you.

I have seen many men whose lack of self-esteem is for good reason. They have little to be confident about save perhaps a useless skill or two. Their women are even more needy and pathetic than they are.

I despised such men. I put myself high above them.

For me, conquering such a woman neither proved nor satisfied anything.

I had unflagging conviction in my own intelligence, in my business acumen, in my power in the world. Others saw me as confident, sure of myself. But deep inside was a secret cavity gnawed hollow by the beast of self-doubt. Said beast was fed by the belief that no matter what I achieved, I would never be good enough. I will spare you the psychological gibberish about my discommending mother. Suffice it to say, a hole this size in a man such as myself can never be filled by easy conquest.

The only way to keep this monster inside of me from consuming my soul was to feed it the volition of a strong, independent woman; to press her into subservience. This took considerable charm, charisma, subtlety, patience, and a deep understanding of the female psyche. To conquer such a woman unequivocally demonstrated to the beast who was the master.

I subjugated a few such women during this lifetime. But in the end, they always managed to break free, abandoning me in ruins, leaving the monster laughing and more ravenous than before.

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Blessed Are You, Among Women…

woman walking to well

photo: gyaandna.com

 

New Post!

Lei

I never had to think for myself. Where I lived, a woman was not meant to think. She was meant to obey.  She was meant to follow first her father’s, then her husband’s commands. There was no good reason to teach her to read or write.  Men had to be careful not to let women have access to new and strange ideas.  A woman’s place was just below that of a good pack animal. She was judged by how much work she could do, by how much she could carry, and by her acquiescence to her master’s will.

The men held fiercely to their small power over women. Every possible minuscule advance in our status was weighed with great solemnity. They discussed and argued.   The loudest voices were the ones who warned, that if we were allowed to do this, soon we’d want to do that. And if we did that, there’s no telling when we’d demand to do such-and-such. Or, if we found out this, we might surmise that which might eventually lead us to discover so-and-so. And then, before you know it, we women would not be able to be controlled.

As a female, I learned at the breast that I was inferior to males, even the stupid ones, even the lame ones, even the young ones, even the evil and crazy ones.

I didn’t get angry about it. It never dawned on me that it should be any other way.  I would no sooner think that I could change the color of the sky or stop the snow in winter. These were just the immutable facts of life; laws of nature. Why waste energy on trying to change what cannot be changed?

Joy and relief were only to be found among women. In this sisterhood, we eased each others’ burdens and shared our hearts. We did not converse about changing our lot. We did not secretly plan to topple the status quo. We had no power and we knew it. And even if we could, by some miracle, shift the balance to our own favor, what then? We did not have the knowledge or skills to run things.   Perhaps we might eventually have learned what was necessary, but we might well have starved before then.

In our group of women, there was a funny one who could really make us laugh.  She imitated perfectly the fat man’s swagger, and his way of talking down to everyone as if he alone knew all the answers.  When she told stories of things she had seen in the village or in the fields or on the road to market,  she described them in her special way, noting funny things most of us would not have noticed. We giggled like little girls at her sharp-eyed observations.

But even she dare not show this talent to the men. She was far too clever to reveal her cleverness.  And if she dared not to rise up;  if she, in all her cleverness, saw no hope of changing the existing conditions, how could any of us even think about dreaming of change? It wasn’t hopeless. It just was.

We were not completely helpless. Sometimes the women banded together to achieve certain concessions from the men. But our demands were not for freedom or education. Such requests would only cause us to be beaten back down severely, to teach us our place.  We used our wiles.    Once, we wanted a new well closer to our end of the village so we didn’t have to carry water so far. We convinced the men of the economic logic in this. If we didn’t have to waste our time carrying water, we would then have more time and energy for other, more productive work. It was suggested – with words which were never spoken – that less time walking to and from the well meant less time for gossip.   Men hated women gossiping because they did not know what we were saying, and they understood something that we did not – that if we women ever decided to rise up together, the men would be helpless against us.   They could not vanquish us as an enemy. They could not kill us all. They could not live without our work; without our child-bearing and child-raising. I think they all lived in fear that one day, amid our gossip, we would suddenly realize  that although the men had the guns, the women held the power.

The idea of less time spent together appealed to their logic, and so we got our well.

Any man who thought by curtailing the time women spent together pulling water, they would curtail our gossip,  did not understand women at all (not that many of them did!). We simply made up the missed time while doing other communal chores.

This sense of community made light of our work. I cannot say the gossip did not sometimes get hurtful or petty or manipulative. In every group, everywhere, there are always those who will be small-minded and those who will rise above. Thus defines the dynamics of the group.

Our aspirations were never much higher than these types of mundane changes; changes which did not raise our status but merely rearranged the packs on our backs.

I cannot say I was unhappy. My life was my lot, and I accepted whatever came to me. I did not expect grace or kindness or respect in the world and so I did not feel deprived not to have it.

There is something to be said for accepting one’s lot in life the same way one eventually must accept one’s own face, the structure of one’s own body. Wishing for something different is a pointless. Better to put our energy into making the best of what we have.

To fight against that which cannot be changed is a sure recipe for an unhappy life.

The Aging Heiress

originally posted 4/27/14

glamorous vintage woman

La

I was vain, it is true. And my vanity caused many others to suffer. I was vain about things I had no right to claim as my own – my looks, my status (which was inherited, and then enhanced by marriage.)

In my 20’s, I was known as a great beauty. I was invited to all the right parties. Men desired me.

As I got older, I took care of myself as best I could, to maintain the illusion of youth as long as possible. After a certain number of years, however, age just catches up. A woman loses her sexual power over men. If this is all she has, if she’s put all her eggs in this particular basket, she ends up with nothing.

I had four husbands and excellent lawyers,  but even money doesn’t fill that void, although I worked hard to prove that statement incorrect.   Still, it was better to have money than not.

At 79, I was still elegant; still invited to all the right parties. My last companion was 53.   It was obvious to everyone except me that he was playing me. I wanted to believe that I still had enough wit, charm, and charisma to attract such a witty, charming, charismatic man.

When I died, he and my children (with whom I was never particularly close), got into a protracted legal suit over my estate. From where I was, I didn’t care who won. I could see how utterly pointless their battle was. The loser, in the end, was the real winner, although it took a while for that understanding to sink in.

 

***

note:

Today I was out for a walk and ran into two women I haven’t really spoken to in over a year.   The first woman is a neighbor, and though we usually have a quick hello when we see each other on the street,  today we ended up yakking for an hour. Mostly, she talked a lot about her mother, who had passed the previous year.  There was nothing unusual in that.  It made perfect sense in the context of the conversation we were having, although it was the longest conversation we’ve had, probably in two or three years.

From there, I went to the supermarket.  Right on front of me in line,  was someone who’d worked for me very briefly over a year ago.  We have not been in touch.    I asked her how she was doing, making light conversation.  She told me her mother had just passed away. While waiting to check out, she started telling me all about her mom,  her history, her days as an organizer.

I didn’t think anything odd about either of these encounters at the time. Later, however, I wondered if there wasn’t something a bit more than coincidence here.   They hadn’t simply informed that their mothers had recently passed. That’s  normal “news” you might share under such circumstances.  It was that they both spontaneously told me their mother’s story,  as if it were important for me to know.  In neither case was it at all in keeping with the very casual kind of relationship we had.

 

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-Adrienne

Perfection is Not So Perfect

alabasater statue of woman

Lu

Most people believe that being fair of face is a blessing. For me it was no such thing.

I was such a beautiful child, even strangers could not resist stroking my hair or running a finger across my flawless cheek. They cooed and marveled over my perfection; called me a little angel. Even as I got older, all anyone spoke about in reference to me was my loveliness. No one ever inquired about my cleverness, my strengths, my feelings. It was as if I were a living alabaster sculpture without a soul, born solely for the appreciation of others.

I withdrew into myself as they observed me from the outside, and rarely revealed any of my own thoughts or feelings.  I fulfilled what I perceived to be my role in life – to be on display as a model of perfection.

In a life previous to that one, I had been quite plain. You might even say homely. I longed to be beautiful. I envied those who were able to wear fine clothes and look elegant.  I knew that some people pitied me and tsk-tsked at my sorry state.  I lamented my lack of suitors and opportunities. I remained single all my life.  I had a steady job which supported me in reasonable comfort.  I had  friends among people who accepted me as I was.

But, as much as I desired to be different,  I was far less lonely in that lifetime than I was in my most recent.

In my life as a beauty, I was utterly unhappy. If I could have articulated the thought, I might have said I wanted the world to simply take me as I was, flaws and all. But I was so accustomed to playing my part as a mere object, so used to concealing what was inside, so disinclined to grow or to think too deeply or independently, that I didn’t even know, myself, who I was. I never gave myself permission to explore beyond the edge of what was expected of me.

I was completely passive in all things. I let others make all plans and decisions for me, as if they were selling and buying and moving an inanimate object.

When I became sick in my 40s, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity.   I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.

I understand better now that what you think you want is not always better than what you have.

 

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