Thursday, 2 July 2015

Disobedient Eves

There was once a disobedient woman, who in the words of Thomas Hardy was 'neither a maid, wife or widow', but unlike Hardy's heroine this was because she was no longer a maid and had never wanted to be wifely. There was no husband who could elope to warmer climes, although I dare say if she'd had one she would have preferred it. Enforced time apart from each other, a six-month separation. I'll see you in the summer. Ah, Summer! When we won't be cooped up with one another, is what she would have thought and not said. She would have engineered it; encouraged her live-in partner to leave with that fateful line: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, which was much kinder than saying I need space!
She imagined that as a wife or a cohabiting partner this was how she would act: disobey any vows undertaken, even if the other party believed these were still being held. Regularly say farewell to her spouse with the slight bending of the truth, “Of course I love you, but you're wanted elsewhere.” Omitting the fact that she loved him more when they weren't sharing the same house, the same bed, the same long winter nights together, or that she'd feel relieved when he'd gone. That she'd hug the empty days to herself and feel a warm glow like that of the rising sun. A glow that spread from within and lit her without. Her eyes would sparkle, her face would take on a dewy complexion, and her lips would appear redden like that of a tempting ripe apple.
Assume the appearance of an Eve, and yet not give herself completely: wholly over to the ties of partnership or matrimony. Still very much thinking and feeling as an individual. Mate absenteeism would be a blessing, not a curse, and she'd break social convention to attain it. Define her terms.
An absentee mate an necessity not a bonus for she prefers to create womanly mystique. An air of mystery, which she considers the saviour of relationships; the chief law being that each retains their own privacy and interests, and spends as little domestic time together as possible. Having too much intimate knowledge of another kills passion; smaller doses accentuates it, and more so if you were born with a restless spirit. You're not less committed, but distance keeps feelings alive. In some cases strengthening them so they don't become commonplace like a native flower that you walk passed every day and don't look at.
Some people would judge, cast doubt on this form of love and genial companionship, but why is it wrong, seen as odd or frowned upon? It may not be everyone's idea of the 'perfect' relationship, but for others that's exactly what it is. Some women prefer not to be permanently joined at the hip to an Adam as they value their need to live independently more. Failure to honour this need, for it is a essential need and not a selfish luxury, would only lead to bust-ups, divorce courts and estrangements. Rebelling against their true nature: the trait that compels them to fly and to resent captivity generates self-inflicted complications. Some it drives to madness, but these ones are either caught or convinced they must try. Try, try, try to conform. To that external picture of wife and mother. Pretend they feel maternal instincts when in truth they have none, or at least not in the way it's decreed they should by the majority.
But there are some rare Adams who confess to taking the same line – to disobey what society says we most desire: a conventional union, ideally with children, and well before you're fifty years of age.
Ah, those poor souls!” the married ones say, “He has no wife/She has no husband. What a dismal, tiny life they must lead!”
Yet disobedient Eves still bare the brunt of this scorn - it's unnatural, it's unwomanly - while Adams can fraternise all they want. Who cares as long as they're sowing seeds with different tempting willing Eves and not just one?

Quote Credit: Two on a Tower, Thomas Hardy
Picture Credit: Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus, 1891,  John William Waterhouse


Thursday, 25 June 2015


In my bathroom, a bare chested girl combs her long red hair every evening, her scaly tail pinned beneath her forming a comfortable cushion. Seeming both attentive to and distracted from her task, her gaze passes through and beyond me, and yet each day we share a similar moment. Reach across a gap: she looks into my bathroom and I study her in her secret cove.
As she makes a play of combing her hair, I take my daily shower and wonder what it must be like to be seated in a dusky light with the tide washing a pebbled shore beside you. Is she content or benumbed? Has life hypnotised or dulled her? Does being a mermaid have its burdens? And its compensations? I imagine it might be hard to have the head and torso of a woman, the heart of a siren, and the unwieldy tail of a fish. Too many pulls in different directions. Is that too part of being a woman or is that what being human is? Torn, dispersed by brisk winds to any possible path like a bit of paper. Split like an atom under duress.
I make many such assumptions as I rub away the grime of the day under jets of steaming water, as I let numerous rivers trickle to my scrubbed bare feet. The condensation undoing knots, eroding rocks in tight neck and shoulder muscles and revitalising my tired brain. A cascade washes away so much: a foul mood, lassitude and drudgery. As with a cup of English tea everything looks better after a shower.
Lately though the sea nymph has been bothering me in a more forbidden way. I've sensed a subtle magnetic shift as if she's trying to repel me from or entice me to the picture. The effect has chiefly been the latter, despite my attempts on rare occasions to look away. Avert my gaze to my unmasked reflection in the mirror, try to look through the windows to my troubled soul. To find the seeker who's always searching.
But behind my back, over my left shoulder sea Eve taunts me, compels me to spill my secrets with her parted lips; urges me to confide my surface gripes, my inner torments.
And despite my objections to being thus used, I do.
I ramble. Hesitate. Make contradictions. Create excuses and obstacles. Talk myself in and out of new ideas and practical steps. Revisit old ones.
She's an impassive listener and yet she manages to open me as you would an oyster: always hopeful she'll find a pearl of information, and when she does she'll place it in her ever-present collecting dish.
My bathroom has become a confessional: from within the cubicle there's an outpouring of thoughts and doubts, a justification of words and actions which the acoustics throw back at me. I hear my own words for a second time as an echo; a voice that overlaps my continuing vocalised thoughts.
I divulge as I scrub, she untangles her hair with a semi-interested expression.
After, there's no pardoning; no instruction to recite three Hail Marys. No forgiveness for my permanent confused state. The admission comes to an abrupt end as soon as the water's turned off and clouds of steam make their quick escape.
As I towel myself dry, there's a lighter feeling, although often no solution has been reached. Any action that might have been decided upon will be lost by morning, so by evening the unburdening begins over. To a sea nymph. To a picture of a mythical creature that hangs on my bathroom wall.
Why her...? And what does she do with the pearls I give her?
Are they safe? Are they sometimes polished and scrutinised, stored as a treasure; or will they, at some point, be used against me? Will I enter the confessional one day and have no need to speak for my own voice will be replayed to me? To remind me of those idiotic thoughts I verbalised, reported I believed, or even foolishly acted upon.
It's a nightly ritual that, I believe, will go on as long as she wants to wear strings of pearls around her white throat.

Picture Credit: A Mermaid, 1900, John William Waterhouse

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Some people choose to cheat death, whereas I cheated life. I struggle to remember these days a time when it wasn't this way. Before my refusals to play got bolder. Before I dug in my heels; screamed NO at the top of my lungs and replaced the mouse-like squeak. I would not do what others wanted me to do. I would not be someone's puppet.
Except that's exactly what I became. A girl Pinocchio puppet. With strings that my curator uses to bring me to life, but in my free mind I do what I want, when I want. I separate my mind from the act. I use a voice of my own and not the one I'm given. I walk with long graceful strides and not clumsy disjointed steps. I'm able to flutter my eyes or lower them coquettishly instead of my fixed opened, too trusting blue-eyed gaze. I'm no fool if that's what you think. I move with fluidity like a trained dancer and not with the woodenness people have come to expect from a marionette. In my head that is, for of course, I gave up these human rights many years ago. When I was twenty-eight.
Had I known I may not have behaved as I did. I may have complied and given in to others whims. I may have continually forced myself to overcome my reluctance to join in, somehow made the best of these nerve-wracking situations I often found myself in. Found a way to placate my social anxiety and formed an impenetrable public mask. Conformed to all the norms: the aspirations, the peer pressure. Or maybe not...
I might have weighed up the two different outcomes and decided being wooden was better. I don't remember... I can't imagine being anything other than I am, even now.
Why was twenty-eight the magic number? Because I'd tried many times over and each time I felt I'd failed. Failed to convince myself. Lied. Steamed in with another bid to persuade others I wasn't square; deny, deny, deny. A person trying too hard to be a chameleon: to suit and please others. Gain their approval, their friendship, their loyalty. Sometimes it was difficult to tell which personality was me or if my performance had been more awkward rather than creditable. Alone, I thought I saw through to the core, but doubted. In such times, the subject's mind is never reliable.
Living like this was becoming a trial, so in one fell swoop I went to the polar opposite: inflexible with timetabled habits and an unbending attitude. At first, this shift was invigorating and I blossomed like a flower opening up to the sun, but as I got entrenched in routine my body hardened. My spine was as stiff and straight as a curtain rail, my skin grew sandpaper dry and my eyes forgot how to blink; I couldn't squeeze out one measly tear and there was no saliva to wet my whistle. As the transition took hold, I sat myself down, in a propped up position as a growing child might neglect a once favourite doll.
Death seemed inevitable and hopefully short in coming, but no. The locked-in torture had just begun. And it still continues for the damage I've done can't be undone how matter how hard I wish. The Pinocchio syndrome in reverse, believe me, is far worse to live with as there's no end in sight. No exit from this existence. I can be forever mended: glued, rouged and dressed up. Left to adorn a shelf or corner or made to perform. Be catalogued to a cupboard with other similar specimens as a tangible record to history.
When the transformation to wood took full effect I couldn't tell you as by then the days and weeks had melded into one, nor how it was that I got snapped up by an antique toy collector who'd wrongly assumed I was a shabby, ill-used, larger than average marionette. A one-off, a poor copy, a sorry imitation of a popular toy, possibly hand-crafted for a child and passed down through subsequent generations. A fossil, which is to say wood doesn't wear me well.
Oh Pinocchio, tell me why I ever thought that turning into wood could have a happy ending?