Monday, February 17, 2014

AS GHOST, DOUBLE

I was up before John and Melinda this morning. John wasn't feeling well and Mel had had a grueling few days at the salon (Parlour) with a lot of electrical problems caused by the snow. Being in Brooklyn, made me pleased I am sitting out a lot of the mess here in relative reasonable-ness. Cars are iced in, snow is mounded high, sidewalks are very slippery. Having slept relatively well, I puttered around with Tupelo until the rest of the world was awake.

Brooklyn is expected to get hammered a bit again. Kids are getting in lots of sledding this year, and the boots are getting a real workout. My California peeps can't quite believe that I don't mind, but it is still interesting to me. And I have had enough coaching to not get stuck in bad or dangerous situations, except for maybe the bumper thumper a few weeks back. 

I'm holding off on the last two episodes of Season Two of House of Cards, which I think shows some restraint. I have things to do tomorrow before I head back to Brooklyn in the afternoon, after the snow stops and the sun comes out. There was certainly no sign of snow today as the skies were clear and cloudless blue, but very cold.

Well, not a lot to report clearly. Had a long Skype with C&J the other day and am still thinking about some of the things discussed, although I will own that I cried so much the floor was damp (or so it seemed to me). I will likely have to chat again as I am not entirely sure what I even said. 

As I was inventorying (Is that a verb?) prior to our chat, I stumbled upon the realization that one of the things that had contributed to my visit to bummerland was the whole Woody Allen debacle. And it is not my point here to opine or judge, other than to say I have loathed him since the egregious Manhattan. As those who are subject to my feminist mailing list know, I followed this story for awhile. And as I sat down to write to C&J about my current emotional/spiritual state, I recalled this article from the New Yorker that was particularly resonant for me: 

The complexity and frequent pain of family life can be difficult to understand even for members of a family, who were there. How much more opaque must it remain for people outside the household, who can’t see what goes inside? When we ask how we can ever know what happened, we are, to some extent, repeating an old-fashioned clichĂ©: “It’s not our business.” On this point, some crucial sentences by the feminist academic Phyllis Rose come to mind, from her 1983 book “Parallel Lives,” a history of five intense, often bizarre, sexually complex marriages. Rose explains, in the introduction, why a history of the private lives of five families in the nineteenth century is really a book about politics:
On the basis of family life, we form our expectations about power and powerlessness, about authority and obedience in other spheres, and in that sense the family is, as has so often been insisted, the building block of society….
We tend to talk about other people’s marriages and to disparage our own talk as gossip. But gossip may be the beginning of moral inquiry, the low end of the platonic ladder which leads to self-understanding. If marriage is a political experience, then discussion of it ought to be taken as seriously as talk about national elections.
The Farrow-Allen story, powered by fame, raises the question of which cases of alleged sexual assault the public thinks are matters of general concern, and which it thinks are not. This case may be highly idiosyncratic, legally dense, and emotionally traumatic—but any case involving accusations within a family, if the details were aired, would seem head-breakingly complicated and particular. The re-opening of the Allen-Farrow case in the court of public opinion has yielded an accidental by-product: it has brought to light questions, normally suppressed, about childhood memories and how they’re formed, unconventional family arrangements, how to regard testimony of abuse that comes many years after the fact, how often or infrequently false accusations happen, and the different standards for physical closeness in different families.
These things are difficult to talk about, which is why they are worth talking about. While taking seriously that we don’t know all the facts—that this public discussion must be traumatic for Dylan Farrow and could utterly, and possibly unfairly, ruin Allen’s reputation—our talking about it, with sensitivity and care and journalistic rigor, is not simply prurient. It reinforces Phyllis Rose’s insight that the mysteries of family life are where politics begin. We shouldn’t look away from those mysteries.


That Phyllis Rose book is quite good. I read it when it came out and my copy is still on my meager bookshelf in Brewster.

There was another article in amongst those I sent about how other family members respond or remember those situations. As the only girl in the family, I don't think my perspective was much taken into account. And I FELT silenced and confused. And some of the confusion leaves trace elements to this day. 

I'm pretty sure that childhood, too, is a political experience. I can say that my self-understanding has been a damn difficult campaign. The results are not yet in.

Slightly apropos:

NAMES

Once they were sticks and stones
I feared would break my bones.
Four Eyes. And worse.
Old Four Eyes fled
to safety in danger zones
Tom Swift and Kubla Khan traversed.

When my fourth decade came,
I learned my name was not my name.
I felt deserted, mocked
Why had the old ones lied?
No matter. They were dead.

And the name on the books was dead,
like the life my mother had fled,
like the life I might have known.

You don't exist — a least
not legally, the lawyer said.
As ghost, double, alter ego then?

— Robert Hayden, his copyright, 1978

Happy birthday, CB!

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