July 2009

I never claimed to be perfect.  In fact, I am a royal screw up.

I am completely embarrassed to admit this, but due to a celebratory libation and my ignorance of the true depravity levels of Sacha Baron Cohen (who I once thought was merely mischievous and rather brilliant in his ability to completely submerge into his characters during interviews), I went to go see Brüno with a friend of mine who, like me, enjoys comedy that teases occasionally at the edge of good taste and pokes fun at Eurotrash culture.  Well, as it turns out, Eurotrash was everywhere in the film, but there was no teasing of good taste.  Good taste got fed through a food processor to a pair of terminally dyspeptic gerbils. It was then regurgitated on the front stoop of Decency, only to get trampled on by the heedless and mucked into the dense carpet of our minds.

It was like a horror film. I wanted to stand up in the theatre and hop up and down in a fit of hand-flapping hysterics while shouting, Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!

Once my initial feelings of shock and horror established themselves and began to numb my sensibilities, I took my head out from where I’d tucked it into my jacket and used my well-honed, never-been-sheltered-in-a-Christian-school-survival skills to get through the rest.  What skills might those be, you may ask?  Analysis, dear Watson. I looked at the entire farcical/satirical play as symbolically and abstractly as I could in order to pinpoint what the last, surviving divine spark of human soul inside Mr. Cohen had to say.

Sacha Baron Cohen, pictured here in tiny shorts, but appearing on film in a lot less.


So that you don’t have to see it (and please don’t. I rue the day I actually paid for that ticket), I will elucidate the only three redeeming arguments I could glean from Cohen’s rightfully controversial mock-you-docu-drama:

1.    Homosexuality isn’t pretty.  As the visionary behind this film, Cohen unapologetically tosses the most uncomfortable aspects of homosexual expression and culture to his audience—parading the worst of stereotypes and the most outlandish of fetishery—and does this to intentionally shock us into responding viscerally to gay sexuality. Did Cohen overdo it?  Heck, yes.  Most of my gay friends would be appalled at some of Brüno’s sexcapades in the movie. However, if pressed, they might admit that there are certain aspects of the gay lifestyle highlighted in this film that, sad or seemingly unnatural though they seem, are regrettably not far off the mark.  I’d like to hear some feedback on this one, though. (And please feel free to leave any insight you might have in the comments for this post. I want to hear from you.)

2.     Heterosexuals are, for the most part, sexually deviant hypocrites in their own right, and therefore have no room to talk about homosexuals. Cohen makes this  point abundantly clear; most of the heterosexuals in the film are either discussing some fun fornication or throwing exhibitionistic swinger parties that involve degrading S&M.  Those few heterosexuals who are not presented in this light serve as representatives for the “moral” heterosexuals who are mainly members of the married monogamists of the Christian Right.  These characters bring to light a big problem in the Christian Church today, which is simply that ….

2.5.       Christians don’t know how to approach homosexuals in a thoughtful and intellectually responsible way. 

The pastor who attempts to guide Brüno through his exodus from homosexuality is a nice, Ned-Flandersish, rather dumpy guy who clasps his hands a lot and recites ridiculous platitudes in response to Brüno’s questions and comments.  At one point, Brüno grows so frustrated with the pastor-parrot in front of him that he decides to try to provoke the pastor by complimenting him on his talented-looking lips, lips just “made for—” (well, you can guess).  The pastor nervously purses his effeminate pucker and says in a cornered-puppy tone, “These lips were made for praising Jesus.”  True statement or not, it sounded pathetic, and it came across as comedic rather than convincing or convicting.   As a result, we feel bad for how ridiculously unprepared the pastor is for handling Brüno’s wit.  But we do notice that the pastor is the only straight man who doesn’t wind up losing his temper with Brüno or worse, attempting to attack him.  The pastor also willingly meets with Brüno more than once, which is more than can be said for practically every other person with whom Brüno comes in contact.

Not a total loss, I guess, but we still come away feeling that pastor-boy and his sheltered, holy, Bible college-cloistered buddies are a pack of village idiots when in the presence of The Village People out in the real world.  When Brüno later expresses some animosity towards Jesus, we can understand where he might gather fuel for his anger: from his experiences with Christians who do not have the courage to really face the real world, in all its flaws, and with its flawed people.   Brüno’s vituperance likely stems from experiences with Christians who, rather than being “in the world, but not of it” (cf. John 17: 15-18),  exist completely outside of the world in some weird outer space populated by exhausted, asexually attired women who wear socks to bed and their soft-shouldered husbands, who never face up to the real hard questions and seem happy to be self-sufficiently self righteous.  Brüno and I apparently have one thing in common: we don’t like the menace of mindless Christianity, and we think the cult-like world of happy-puppy Christianity is a nice, safe rubber room that drives dogmatically over-anxious people to become increasingly paranoid about the outside world and the human state of fleshliness in general (look up Gnosticism, an equally unbiblical and annoying movement that mirrors this attitude. More on this in a later post.).

3. People will do anything to get famous in today’s culture. Anything, including allowing their babies to pose in pictures portraying them as Roman soldiers crucifying another baby.  Anything, including holding their fingers to the pulse of pop-culture concerns so that they can gain notoriety by publicly adopt causes that are currently en vogue while not actually living in such a way as to support said cause (Illustration of this one:  In an interview with Brüno, Paula Abdul discusses her love for people as her motivation for supporting charity work. She chats about this subject passionately, all while sitting on “Mexican” furniture made out of actual live Mexicans who visibly strain under her weight.)  Cohen portrays all this fame-chasing and attention-seeking behavior as pathetic throughout 80% of the film, with the remaining fifth championing Brüno’s own rise to fame, simply because he is our protagonist.  When Brüno finally gains the spotlight for his daredevil gay activism, I actually think Cohen expects us to feel some pride for his victory.  Instead, as Brüno croons along to a Kumbaya-like song in a recording session with Bono and Elton John and many other notable celebs, we feel the full force of his ridiculousness.  As a sauntering, self-satirizing farce, Brüno embodies our entire oversexed, over-consumerist, and over-celebritized culture.


No one was laughing during the end credits.  Most made comments that they were surprised they sat through the whole thing.  Most walked out in introspective silence.  A few teenage dufuses attempted to trace some of Brüno’s sketches in their own parodies.  My friend and I felt lightheaded but suddenly very, very sober.  We talked about some of Cohen’s motifs in the car over the grey-noise of my musically-instructive Drive and Learn Italian CD.

Then we went home and learned how to dance the choreography to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. . . because dancing to a dead celebrity’s songs about the undead just seemed to fit our ironic, sarcastic, shame-besmirched mood.

Then we went to bed, and I turned my face into my pillow and prayed to God for help.  A lot of it.  Not just for me.

Then it stormed, and my mother and I got up to move the patio furniture farther under the porch, and my cat woke me up three times yowling in triumph over catching a rubber band.  God apparently wanted me to stay up and listen to the madness of the natural world.

It was an obvious reminder of my place in it.


Short post for today:

I just got a carrot dangled in front of my nose this afternoon. A nice, juicy, get-a-job-at-a-publishing-company carrot.  I now have some hoops to jump through before any employment is agreed upon, so if I fail, I feel like it will be potentially devastating.  I might doubt myself and my skills even more than I already do!

Why are the nicest opportunities the ones that are hardest to bear when the dreams they inspire fail to come to fruition?

Pray, dear readers, for God’s will in this, and not mine. I am incredibly strong willed, so God will have to put a leash on me if this isn’t what he wants.   In fact, pray for some leashing and some leading

Yeah, just pray that God totes me along like a peevish chihuahua–on a choke-chain, if necessary.  He might even have to kick me a little bit, or slap me around some. If I’m really bad, he may need to resort to a spray bottle or a shock collar.

Oh, wow. Not to be blasphemous, but I think I just described my ideal spiritual role in this scenario as . . . acting as God’s bitch.

I think I just heard someone snicker.  My cat?

Nope, it was my guardian angel.  He’s coughing and flapping his wings to cover it up, but I’m not fooled.  He’s going to laugh about this with the other angels while I’m asleep. And then they’ll debate whether I actually sinned by using a play-on-a-curse-word in a faith-based blog post.  I’ll set up my ESP recording equipment tonight and let you all know what the verdict is on this one in the morning.

So, my last post was superfluously emo in the extreme.  I promised myself that I’d write something today that’s less—er—lachrymal.   Not sure if that’s a stand-alone adjective. It is now. 

So here’s the current story:  I spent a good part of my weekend helping a friend whose beautiful, young, recently-immigrated foreign wife had a freak out over the cultural, communicative, financial, and previous-marriage baggage attendant on such a complicated match.  (Once again, I’m glad I took that Chinese class.  At least the girl feels comfortable talking to me).  Life felt strange for a bit. 

I felt in over my head when I called the girl’s husband, who felt in over his head and completely overwhelmed and aggrieved, to see how he was feeling.  I wound up trying to give emotional support to a man twice my age.  Strange.  Today, stranger; I set off to visit his desperate wife in her new living situation. To be of any help to her, I knew I’d have to use the fullest force of my imagination to try to figure out what I’d be feeling and needing if I were in her tiny shoes. 

The trouble is, I’ve got no real footing here.  I’ve never been married.  I’ve never been in a foreign country for longer than three weeks where no one spoke my language. I’ve never had to abide by the rules of immigration. I’m young and only understand the experience of loss.  But I figure, in this situation—where both husband and wife have lost something dear (country, companionship, culture, hopes)—it’s a good place to start.  Yes, life is strange, but I’m sick of letting it throw me. So I’m just going  to my best and let God salvage the rest.  I just hope I don’t completely screw up.  And to be honest, I screw up often. Often, epically.

But wonder of wonders, I’ve somehow managed to find a pack of people who prefer to focus on how hard I try versus how badly I fail.  I just got a slew of encouraging, touching emails and Facebook messages from people I barely know, as well as first-hand pledges of support from friends I know too well.  I wanted to spread the love, and to tell you supportive folks out there that I feel brave enough to tackle the strange things in life because of your cheerleading, for lack of a better word (and I looked in a thesaurus.  “Support” sounded too architectural. I’d prefer to picture the lot of you with pom-poms; don’t be offended.). 

So here’s my huge thank you, and my love.  I thought I’d share a few excerpts from these little love notes notes, simply because I thought there was a lot of wisdom and kindness in them.  If you don’t see your words here, don’t be offended; your words are simply hanging out in my subconscious, which is a more powerful place, anyway (Freud and Jung’s little iceberg metaphor says so).

Here’s a blurb about my grief post—and it provides a very logical view on why grieving takes time, and why we (or I) shouldn’t get frustrated with ourselves when it seems to go on and on:

“. . . look at it from a mathematical angle.  He [meaning, Ruth’s father] was there for over 95% of your life and has only been gone 5% or less.  Give yourself time, hon.  You are trying to move forward with your life that is the important part.  You could just as easily have thrown your hands up and quit, but you didn’t, so if you feel frustrated with the pain and just wishing it would pass, I’m with you on that part.  However, if your frustration is with [Ruth], giv’er her a break. She’s been through a lot . . .”

And this bit of encouragement came soon after I posted my rant about job searching (“Fiction for…”):

“It took me 11 months to find my first ‘real’ job, but I really think that everything in my professional life has happened at the right time. Both times I’ve started new jobs, things looked more and more unbearable, and then positions fell into my lap. . . . I think a lot of it is about attitude. You’re intelligent, skilled, and charming, and just because people are freaking out about the economy doesn’t mean that you can’t get a job.  [Ruth] is pretty awesome, and God is pretty big.”

For my many “intelligent, skilled, and charming” friends and readers,  this bit of encouragement certainly applies.  Take heart  and confidence.  I know I did.

God is big, and you folks are simply wonderful. Thank you.


 That would have been the end of this post, except for the fact that in my random, munchy mood, I entitled this entry with one more topic. I guess that means I have to include it.  So here it is.





I am completely obsessed with hummus.  I’ll eat it anytime, anywhere. On pita bread.  On celery. On carrots. On Triscuits. On a salad. On couscous.  On tomato slices. On a turkey sandwich. On Ben Barnes or Robert Pattinson.  (Umm. Forget those last two.)   You get the idea. I can’t survive a snack attack without the stuff.  Yummers.

I don’t know if it’s some weird hormonal thing that drives me to pay $3.99 for eight ounces of my fifty-calorie-per-serving fix.  Maybe I’m pregnant (Is God still in the immaculate conception business?).  Maybe I need to get pregnant, like my ticking time bomb of an internal clock has been telling me every day since I turned sixteen. I. don’t. know.  I hope you all think this is funny because, frankly, I think it’s just weird.

 See what I mean about my life, my blog, and hence, myself, getting stranger?

The longer I’m in grief, the more frustrated I tend to become with not only myself (for being stuck in it), but with those who just don’t understand it.  Being young, most of my friends haven’t really experienced a major, devastating loss. I’m referring specifically to the death of someone really close to them whose demise seems early or untimely. Some of my friends have argued that they have experienced this; they’ve lost grandparents.

I try to be respectfully sympathetic while they rattle off how much they’ll miss Mamaw’s brownies.

Don’t get me wrong. Involved grandparents can be terribly dear to us, and so it does hurt when they leave us.  However, we can’t shake the strange contentment that eventually arrives with the rational inkling that tells us something at once horrible and wonderful: that maybe, since our grandparents have lived so long, it’s their natural time to go.

I think it’s easier to accept the passing of those who have already embraced a past-oriented mental state of nostalgia, who have raised their own children and seen a new generation arise; it’s the passing of the torch.  If we really think about it, most grandparents seem to belong to the past even before they pass away.

The deaths of one’s close friends, siblings, or one’s parents are a different story, however.  This holds especially true when you actually live with these people at the moment when death enters your home to pillage and spoil.  It stalks around your childhood and recent photographs, upsetting frames showing young, glowing, healthy people who obviously—up until lately—had a lot of vigor and a lot of living yet to do.  It snatches our hopes for the future and the growth we measure in the present.  Death, like a gardener in a blind rage, tears out the fresh blooms and misses the brittle husks while he tramples your careful landscaping.

Death seems wasteful.  Senseless.  Cruel.

If the way in which your loved one died was especially drawn out or painful, and if you witnessed this demise, you wind up feeling like the helpless victim of armed robbery or rape. Only there are no fingerprints, no traceable DNA evidence, no handcuffs to snare the perpetrator, and no lineup of suspects,  so there’s no possible way to assign blame and receive justice.  You’re just left feeling shell shocked and abused by the world. Even God himself seems like a terrible dealer of justice, so you don’t really want to listen to anything he might have to say about your soul. (I’ll write more on that later.)

Some will say that the days leading up to, and immediately following, a loved one’s death are the worst. I won’t deny that these were terrible times for me, or that they weren’t full of all the sacred anguish and sorrow that comes when a cherished life leaves a household, leaving a burning hole.

But, as my well-read friend, Phillip, has observed, “When all the big fires are put out, the little aches continue.”

Imagine, then, what it’s like to face the world during the “aching” period, in the days and nights, weeks and months—even years—following the death of a close loved one.

You have bitter thoughts on sunny days.  You have nightmares that stay up with you in the darkness.  Your brain tricks you into thinking you still hear your loved one turning his key in the lock or coming up the driveway in the blue hours of the evening.  In quiet moments, you might still hear him breathing.  If his place of death was in your home—as it was with my father—then you might stir up the ghosts of the smells of morphine, bile, hospital astringents, and that indefinable stench known as death while you’re doing something as innocuous as vacuuming the carpet or dusting the furniture.  You become conscious that all the residual sounds, scents, and traumas of his passing reverberate from the molecules of the books on his nightstand and in the non-stick skillet you used to make those simple, final meals before he started to refuse food altogether.

This is your life.  It feels like an endless stretch of dying time in a small death-filled bubble that floats around your body in an encasing force field of awareness.  You, the bubble-child of pains, wander about in the world and feel like it’s a stranger to you, and that the people moving happily in it look like puppets, with the same awkward, painted-on smiles and mannequin poses as the falsest effigies of souls.  (Wow, I read that line and thought, Emo much?)

Emotionally, you vascillate among numbness, helplessness, and rage. Nothing seems worth starting when world has kicked you out of its living circle. You begin to feel a bit unhinged and can’t trust your own mind anymore.  No one you talk to seems like they understand you.  You lose confidence that you will be accepted and understood.  You wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop and for things to get worse than you can imagine.  Life doesn’t seem likely to get happy again, or to hold anything exciting or meaningful anymore.

That’s why C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed that

“grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling.”

Provisional—meaning to have enough just to subsist for the time being.  You have little left in terms of reserves of strength.  You simply exist and—helplessly, miraculously—survive.

Worst of all, it seems to take forever to get out of this land of shadow, which exists not only in your mind, but directly underneath your feet.

I’m walking out of it, though.  I walk every damn day until it hurts . . . because that’s how I cover the most ground.

Thanks, dear reader, for following my footprints.

I hope this helps you when you encounter your own trials and meet others in the midst of theirs.


Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed. 1961.  Quote recorded in my journal. I don’t have the page number.

Schwein, Phillip.  From a late night phone conversation like, two weeks ago.  I didn’t write down the date because I’m not anal. I just wrote down the remark because it was practically poetry.  Thanks, Phil.

"Death and the Maiden," artist unlisted. I'm guessing Gustave Dore, ca. 1870.

"Death and the Maiden," artist unlisted. I'm making an educated guess that this is a Gustave Doré, ca. 1870.

More ditties on grief, in poetry form (mine, from during this past semester at school):

On Getting My Degree This Spring

I’m proud that I didn’t

pull a Sylvia Plath

and wind up in a bell jar halfway

through my days at college,

a college which, ironically enough

in days of old, bought (or sold?)

land from (or to?) a mental institution;

so, it’s fitting that I wonder whether

the Skinnerian model

of behaviorism taught there

—do this, receive that—

will pay off in the real world

that I will soon walk into,

staring into the sun, blind,

with an uncomfortable heat building

behind my eyes


thinking, will I . . .

find my way?  survive?

rise a phoenix

from the crematory

of the year you died?

The Viewing

I keep returning to this image: leaning my head back against the cupboard door

under the kitchen sink after calling the hospice, seeing myself from a distance

like an out-of-body experience while his body lay in the other room.

I am aware now, though I wasn’t then, that he still reclined in his hospital bed

on the other side of the sink, through the service window, in the den,

and I, on the other side, feeling like death, was mirroring him.

Electronic Elegy

Not quite three months after you,

the laptop that you bought me

(just days before your diagnosis)


With it, the semester’s files that I

forgot to copy on a backup disk

(because I was tending you, so ill)

and several rare family pictures.

It just burned out, poor thing;

the motherboard got tired of interfacing

(between memory and active processing).

And I could not blame it.

(That last one with the computer-talk was for you, Sheraz.)

Boaz, Mr. Rochester, Colonel Brandon, Mr. Darcy—and heck, even Edward Cullen.  What is it about men with laden purses that make women swoon?*  Is it the promise of being well-taken care of–and an inclination to look for that promise, even in the Post Housewife Era?

Mr. Darcy, as portrayed by Colin Firth

Mr. Darcy, as portrayed by Colin Firth

Feminists certainly balk at this seemingly instinctual attraction.  It’s the most esurient and lazy form of greed, some say. Others  will contend that it’s simply foolish to rely on a man to support you.  They might  even call you a dependent, or worse, a “parasite” (Simone de Beauvoir’s word, not mine).1

I say, pshaw, Simone.  I might even throw in a valley-girl-esque whatEVER to the musings of Gloria Steinem.  

I get the gall to do this because men have a controversial  instinctual desire, too. It’s the instinct to snatch up pretty girls.  After all, if you really  think about it, that’s not fair of them, either, is it? But men do look for beauty, and frequently, with a kind of primitive urgency, just like women can sniff out a platinum credit card tucked snugly in an Italian leather wallet.

It’s just how the world is, and it’s how we’re wired.

 The Chinese have an ancient adage about matchmaking that goes like this: “Nán cái nü mào ma”—roughly translated, “The talented (upwardly mobile) man should have the pretty woman.”

That seductive bedroom-eyed sagette, Marilyn Monroe, defends the reason for this matchup  in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when she is confronted by a wealthy father who accuses her of gold-digging. I think her rebuttal is kind of clever:

“Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but, my goodness, doesn’t it help?  And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you rather she didn’t marry a poor man? No, you’d want her to have the most wonderful things in the world . . . . Well, why is it wrong for me to want those things?”2

I have to wonder if either desire is totally wrong, really.  They certainly seem natural enough. The male quest for the ideal, nubile female is on every football game advertising block.  A woman’s desire for a husband with a bit of cash has been recorded widely in literature, from Cosmo to Austen, and even celebrated in more ancient works, like –God forbid!–the Old Testament.

 Let’s take a look at my current primer (and the inspiration for this blog), the Book of Ruth. 

If you don’t know the story already, here are the Cliff’s Notes:  Ruth, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law Naomi are all widowed at the same time in a great tragic snare of fate that kills off all their husbands. Ruth alone stays and cares for the aged Naomi, while her sister-in-law returns to her own family.  Ruth and Naomi travel alone, penniless, into Bethlehem from Moab.  In the process, Ruth has to become the provider of the duo. She works hard, like a man, and independently, like a feminist, in the male-dominated threshing fields so she can bring home the bacon (er, wheat).   It’s backbreaking and exhausting work, but it enables Ruth and Naomi to survive, so Ruth does it gladly.  But old Naomi then makes the suggestion that maybe Ruth should try to get married to Boaz, a distant relative of her husband—and a wealthy landowner.    Naomi’s reason for this is explicit: 

Ruth 3:1- Then Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to [Ruth], “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?”

Naomi then convinces Ruth to put on a sexy dress and sneak her way into Boaz’s bed after a party—effectively forcing a marriage and claiming Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer (because he’s somehow a relative of her dead husband, and by Levirate law should have dibs on his widow).  Ruth somehow gets away with this without any loss of face.  I have yet to try it.

This is where this entry gets personal, and more importantly, back on topic.  For you see, my recently-widowed mother has been prodding me to monitor my eHarmony account much more closely than I have been. I got a bit testy with her for butting in and meddling and asking too many questions about my matches, and I practically snapped at her when she shoved my laptop into my hands.

Wiping surprised tears from her eyes at my uncharacteristic outburst, my mother admitted, “I just want you to be happy.  To be settled—to be taken care of.”

My mother is Naomi version 2.0.  Possibly Naomi XP.  Not sure.

I softened then, and I told her that her wishes reminded me of those of my friend Maggie, who, in the weeks counting down to my father’s passing, said something to me like, “You need someone to take care of you.  I wish a Mr. Darcy would come riding into your life.” 

At the time, I was so exhausted from caring for the sick and depressed while wearing a cheerful expression that I’d felt like I’d had a mask soldered to my face. I’d begun to think that nothing was real except for my new mask, and that my mind behind it couldn’t be trusted, and neither could any other minds behind the other masks walking around .  So I’d laughed and mused aloud that, for all my love for him, dearest Mr. Darcy was still fictitious—and so were any men like him.

But the fantasy of the romantic male redeemer (RMR) dug under my skin like a dogwood splinter. I itched. I flexed my muscles and slapped my face. I calmed myself and chided myself and put my nose back to the grindstone of work and class.  I told myself to stop being silly and selfish and to quit wishing away my problems.

Rich vamp Edward Cullen laughs at cancer.  And humanity in general.

Rich vamp Edward Cullen laughs at cancer. And humanity in general.

But at night, I read that damned addictive crack-literature known as the Twilight Saga, and a part of me dreamed of handsome, stock-market-predicting vampires who scoffed at monetary concerns and other petty, human things . . . like the cancer that was killing my father.

I got past it, though, when my escapist mood and the pages of Stephenie Meyer’s epic had run their course.  Now I’m back to footing the approved feminist path of careerism. I’m browsing job search sites and filling out applications like a good modern-day girl.  Truly, I am.  I haven’t had a date in weeks, either.  Pretty soon I’ll give up makeup and wear a lot of pants and low-heeled loafers so that I don’t cave in to The Beauty Myth (well, maybe not–I think I’ll die before I hand over my eyeliner). 

Aren’t you proud of me for being a good girl?

Don’t be.  I’ll fess up to this right now, just to clear the air:  Just now, when I was in my closet, I gave my Marilyn Monroe costume a wistful glance.



  1. de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. 1949.  Trans. H.M. Parshley.  Penguin, 1972.
  2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dir. Howard Hawks. Perfs. Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell.  Twentieth Century Fox , 1953.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9glKchxU3I:  Start watching from 4:50 through 6:00 for the quote in context)
  3.  Meyer, Stephenie.  Twilight. New Moon. Eclipse. Breaking Dawn.  New York:  Little, Brown and Co.,  2004-2008.  (I’m too lazy to MLA every one of the novels, so just deal). 

Other random resources/allusions:

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth.  New York: Morrow, 1991.  (Also known as the textual argument that spawned the many jokes about ugly women using feminism to get the same power in society that pretty women have had for years.)

My Chinese class notes from winter term, 2008-9, Hanover College. Prof. A. Shen.  (See, Mom?  I told you I’d learn something useful in that class.)

Picture credits belong to the BBC/A&E (for the Firthness) and Summit Entertainment (for the Twilight screencap).


* Nota Bene:  Not all RMRs are loaded, per se. Some are just really hard working and like to keep their ladies happy, which is sexy, too.

I embarked on my job search with a light heart right after my graduation from college at the end of May. Surely, I thought, after I’d won several hefty cash-prize-wrapped writing awards, gained great praise from all of my professors, worked in our PR office to write articles marketing the college to perspective students, and spent hours entertaining alumni, someone might want to hire me in the real world. Right?

. . . Right?

Well, if someone wanted me, he or she didn’t bother to speak up.  After I spent several weeks filling out more applications than I care to mention, my inbox and cell phone message receptacles remained empty.  They stayed so, disappointingly, well into my second month of my job search for an entry-level position in publishing or journalism.

In my distress, I turned to my friend, Charlotte (Brontë), for advice.  Specifically, I turned to a gift she’d given me, the novel Jane Eyre.

Ah, Jane. I feel ya, girl.

Like me, Jane only has her education, her high aptitude and quick mind, and some experience as student teacher to land her first comfortable situation working as a governess/au pair (which I did during college).   Her first venture into the real world as a penniless woman occurs some two-thirds of the way through the novel, right after Jane discovers that Rochester is a syphilitic-wife-stashing scoundrel and runs away with nothing more than the paltry contents of her reticule in hand.  She winds up in the care of a clergyman, one Mr. Rivers, who reluctantly offers her the equivalency of a McDonald’s job to help her earn her bed and board.

Jane accepts this position “‘with all [her] heart’”—happy to have any honest work to do.  Rivers seems surprised at her alacrity.

“‘But you comprehend me?’” he verifies. “‘It is a village school [you will be teaching]; your scholars will be only poor girls—cottager’s children—at the best, farmers’ daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering, will be all you will have to teach.  What will you do with your accomplishments?  What with the largest portion of your mind—sentiments—tastes?’”

Without a hint of regret, Jane replies, ‘“Save them till they are wanted. They will keep.’”1

There is wisdom in this choice, I think.  I’m taking heart from this because, on June 30th,  I had a breakthrough of sorts.

I’d ordered a salad in a restaurant and asked for extra ranch dressing, regardless of the calories.   I made the waitress chuckle when I announced I was being “bad.”  That self-same waitress also overheard my despair over the job market as I chatted with my mother, so she offered to vouch for me as a waitress at the restaurant.  Her name was Donna, and she decidedly liked me.

“If that (meaning the superfluity of salad dressing) is the only ‘bad’ thing you do, honey,  I like you already,” Donna proclaimed, throwing in many other fondly delivered observations that I was “a lot like [her] daughter.”

And I thought about it, about both the job offer and what she’d said about me.  The worst thing I’ve done so far? Probably the night of my twenty-first birthday, with a grand total of four drinks spread over five and a half hours.  Never to be repeated again.

But then I thought back to the Jane-Eyrian question:  Does one simply leave to rot one’s expensive college education for a menial job with a paycheck during a bad economy?

I decided that my answer to that question was, “yes.”

After all, my brain, so long as I stay away from illegal drugs, will still be there for me—in all its shining semi-brilliance—whenever I need it to perform high-level tasks in my ideal career setting.  Whenever that happens.

I was in a peaceful state of resolve when I handed the job application into Donna and her manager, Julie.  Apparently, the server situation at the restaurant isn’t too dire, since they haven’t called me back, but I think I learned a lesson simply by embracing the opening.

I learned that, just because I was a great student in school, it doesn’t mean I necessarily deserve a great job.  It also doesn’t mean I can’t greatly perform the daily tasks of an unglamorous job out in the real-world market.

I think this realization is called “humility. ” Acting on it might be called “character.”  The wise old waitress named Donna recognized that I was ready to try a taste of both.

Another thought for today, provided by Boundless Webzine’s John Thomas’ timely article, “Pursue Career or Care for Dad” (a timely piece for me, anyway, since I’m caring for my mom and buried my dad this winter), offers this:

 “I’m only making the point that nothing is more miserable than having an exciting job that is out of the will of God, and nothing is more satisfying than following God somewhere on a path we might not have chosen, and discovering He had purpose in it. If we follow God we never, never need to worry about being fulfilled in what we’re doing.”

The rest of Thomas’ article is here: http://www.boundless.org/2005/answers/a0002067.cfm

Other reference:

1. Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847.  New York: Norton Critical Edition, 2001.  p.303.

My middle name is Ruth.  I feel now like it might have been a prophetic appellation.   As a young woman in a quarter-life crisis who’s carving out a new life in a new home with her recently-widowed mother at her side (no, her name isn’t Naomi, but the situation’s almost the same), I’ve turned to my great passion–writing–to figure out the art of  gaining while losing.

Welcome to my blog.  Here  you’ll find sympathy and empathy if you’ve recently lost a loved one, if you are currently seeking a job, and if you’re looking to find a mate.    Posts on these subjects and more are soon to come.