I have been reading the work of Dorothy B. Hughes lately, a talented crime noir writer who published from 1930-1950. I found her by renting an old movie with Humphrey Bogart called, In a Lonely Place.
Even though the Bogart movie was titled In a Lonely Place, it bears little resemblance to the book written by Hughes. In her book, the main character is an unemployed serial killer, in the movie he is a glamourous, successful screenwriter who never kills anyone, he just ‘roughs women up a little.’ It must have been hard for Hughes to see her novel ‘re-written’ by male scriptwriters who had to make Humphrey Bogart look sexy, lovable and powerful.
For a long time now, I have been thinking about how ‘manufactured reality’ shapes and distorts my personal experience. I try to stay away from ‘media’ because I don’t want to be contaminated by the way it manipulates me but it is impossible to ignore. If I am a writer, I need an audience. Who is going to understand what I’m saying if I do not, in some way, align with the cultural atmosphere I live in?
I have said many times on this blog, “Look at the way I see this.” But my view is obscured by a dense fog of all that is ‘not me.’ Yesterday I wrote, “I have reached a wall that I cannot go beyond. I feel trapped in a mindspace that is ancient, unyielding, dense, repetitive. I don’t know what there is ‘to know’ anymore.
A few years ago I watched a German movie called The Wall. It is about a woman who mysteriously finds herself alone on a farm, separated from the rest of the world by an invisible wall. She can see what is happening on the other side but she cannot participate.
There are always walls everywhere – physical walls, psychological walls, cultural walls. In her book, The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila writes about her spiritual liberation as a process of opening doors and walking into different rooms. I have come to sense this same kind of process in myself, although for me it is more like transparent sheaths falling away.
Feminism is often described as a wave, (first wave, second wave, third wave feminism). A wave is something that moves to and fro with a swaying or undulating motion while remaining fixed to one point. What was originally called ‘women’s liberation’ morphed into ‘second-wave feminism’ and second wave feminism has morphed into a derogatory phrase that young women spit out of their mouths as if it’s poison.
The fundamental flaw in feminism is that the fixed point it moves around is men. This is implicit in its definition, ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.’
What happens when a woman goes beyond wanting to be equal to men – or, when she stops seeing men as the gold standard to which she must aspire to? How does a woman’s quest for liberation go beyond ‘being the other.’
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. As I was getting into my car after buying groceries, a girl who looked to be around seven years old said to me, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I smiled and said nothing. I wanted to tell her mother that she should not lead her daughter into believing that all adult women are mothers, or that a woman even has to be a mother.
But I didn’t. I didn’t bother with this because ‘motherhood’ is one of the walls that separates me from others.
The man who lives next to me is in his late-40’s. For the past six months, he has been screwing a young college student. I recently heard him bragging to one of his friends (the walls here are paper thin) that the woman’s college friends think he is her ‘sugar daddy.’ He ended the conversation by saying, “It’s a new cunt-try for old men.” To make sure his friend understood, he spelled it out, c-u-n-t, followed by a big guffaw.
To assume that I want to be ‘socially equal’ to this creep is an insult. And this creates another wall.
In 1976, Marge Piercy published a book called, Woman On the Edge of Time. It’s about a low-income, battered woman who ends up in a mental asylum. Her only link to sanity is a secret relationship with a woman who lives in another world. (Instead of reading, or watching, the Handmaid’s Tale, read this book instead).
I keep searching for a link, a road, a passageway, a door – that will take me through the wall into another world. When I was young, I thought ‘time’ would change things, but now I see that time is just another word for decay. What is new, gets old – and then the old gets a facelift and starts over. When you get to a certain age you realize nothing is ever new. Is hitting this wall a sign of wisdom, or a reminder that I am just a floating bit of organic material that is being recycled like everything else?
Dorothy B. Hughes used the word ‘loneness’ in her novels, which is interesting because the dictionary does not recognize loneness as a word. Alice Koller created the verb, ‘to lone.’ The only socially sanctioned definition of ‘lone’ is an adjective that is a shortened version of alone.
Very few people realize that ‘to lone’ bears no relationship to ‘being alone.’ To lone means oneness; solitary/single. It is not a state where one exists in relation to ‘the other.’ If I have to enter, or create, a world beyond the wall, I will have finally accomplished something.