Reader, as a young woman, barely more than a girl, I worshiped at the feet the that tripartite English goddess, Austen Bronte Eliot. The three within one, and then three within one again, which have been the center of a cult maintained by legions of young women, and the occasional guy.
I said, “Mother[s], please show me the way.” And they did. In very long expository paragraphs.
But, just as we would learn in the more hallucinatory quarters of feminist revisionist pre-herstory, the microcosm projected onto the macrocosm and, unsurprisingly, found once again in the microcosm, the feminine principle was eclipsed by the masculine. The nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, and we were enjoined to “show not tell.” So, in the style that has been oh so au courant for about a century, we have abandoned lengthy exposition, the art of writing being found these days in not writing. So for years, decades really, I have abandoned telling, left the path trod by my fore-mothers, forgotten my herstory. But now, I am ready to abandon any pretense to Art. I am ready to tell you exactly why I mean. And if you don’t understand, you can ask in the comments and I’ll try to clarify.
So, In our last installment of my life, I was walking down the street getting harassed by teenage boys. I mentioned this episode because it was the first catcalling of that kind that I can recall. Was it certainly the first? I’m not sure. But it had the right feel to be representative. Things like that don’t happen until you his puberty, or at least they didn’t to me. We lived in a safe area and I had been walking around those streets since I was old enough to look both ways before crossing. Suddenly, an area with which you were highly familiar became slightly threatening. Not threatening enough to break out into a run, but just enough to make you think twice about walking down that block alone in the evening. Weirdly, a place that felt safe when I was seven or eight felt, not unsafe exactly, but dicey when I was twelve going on thirteen. Contradicting previous experience in which your realm of action grows as you mature, your realm of action is suddenly constricted, slightly. The slightness is what’s hard to communicate to people who haven’t experienced it. It doesn’t stop you from doing things you really want, but it makes you hesitate. In the quick benefit/risk calculation/guesstimation we all make in our minds without too much attention dozens of times a day, it’s a little thumb falling on the side of risk.
Before I leave high school, there will be a few more episodes of this ilk, in varying degrees of severity. I feel fairly confident that I will be able communicate what it’s like through telling, not showing. However, there is another aspect of my life at that period that I don’t know how to show without boring you all to tears. On a day-to-day, hour to hour basis, most boys were really nice to me, in such banal ordinary ways I don’t quite know how to show you and give it the proper weight. So I’m telling you. It’s really, really important that you understand that episodes like that happened against a backdrop of pleasant interactions with boys my age, the older and younger brothers of friends, adult male teachers, relatives and neighbors. Eventually, I would find that I was one of those girls who got along better, on average, with boys than with other women.
So, please keep in mind that if I tell you about some guy trying to feel me up in the hallway at school, in the hours prior to that moment and the hours following, I’d been chatting and joking with dozens of other boys and men in situations that were platonic sometimes, romantic at other times, and not infrequently ambiguous.
And this is the kind of crap I write when I have beer for breakfast.