Monday, May 18, 2015

When I feel powerful it is because.....

As an undergrad, I was a research assistant on a project studying the then-new Carol Gilligan theory of gender differences in development.  Mainly what I did was code data and mainly what I remember are the answers to the survey question "When I feel powerful it is because _______."  I was 19 or 20 and found it both sad and funny that many of the middle-aged women answering the survey filled in things like:  "The house is clean;" "The children are in bed;" or "I have lost weight."  O! sad housewives!  O! what a limited worldview!

Last night, nearly 30 years later, I was feeling powerful.  Yes, I was.  I was clean, the sheets were clean.  The boys were in bed asleep.  And the floor was clean enough that I didn't end up with impromptu crumb slippers.  As a younger person I assumed those other women felt powerful because they'd conquered some challenge that had been foisted upon them.  Maybe they experienced power because they no longer feared judgement--the house was clean!

Now I know the feeling from the other side.  My domain is under my control.  I have decorated, cleaned, organized, clothed, and fed.  Yes, this is in service of others and yes, Carol Gilligan, it reveals my prioritizing of relationships.  I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Self Portrait, 3rd Person

Self Portrait, 3rd Person

The haunted child has a pigeon
on each shoulder.  The birds
are not haunted.  They do not know
fear.  The child knows
a thing or two:  times tables, state
capitals, the words that get her home
when she is lost.

The beautiful child carries a shawl
but it means nothing.  Her beauty
means nothing.  She rushes through a forest,
bare feet cushioned by pine needles
and arrives at the back door
of a little cottage.

The curious child, mouthy and distant,
wears white cotton, and fidgets like a woman
in pain.  She can see the very thing
you believe to be hidden.  She doesn’t want to.  
It’s just that, as soon as she achieves
silence, the vision arrives.  

The sad woman can’t help the aging.  She can
still bend over, she can still smile and remove her bra
as if to music.  When she smiles knowingly,
it means she knows.  When she flutters her hands,
it means she used to be a bird.

The pigeons on her shoulders, let’s say
they represent imagination.  Let’s admit
that they fail.  Let’s confess
that we don’t even know what success
of the imagination would look like.

And the woman, we must agree
that her tears aren’t real. But they could be,
if we weren’t watching.  She conceals her eyes,
but not from shame.  Out of dignity, aggressive
self-possession.  You should thank her.
But don’t wonder what it means.  She won’t
tell us.  Don’t ask.  Shhh.  Don’t say a word.