Life is loneliness

“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of “parties” with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter – they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship – but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”
― Sylvia PlathThe Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

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There is always an other

“The category of Other is as original as consciousness itself. The duality between Self and Other can be found in the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies; the division did not always fall into the category of the division of the sexes (…) No group ever defines itself as One without immediately setting up the Other opposite itself. It only takes three travelers brought together by chance in the same train compartment for the rest of the travellers to become vaguely hostile ‘others’. Village people view anyone not belonging to the village as suspicious ‘others’. For the native of a country, inhabitants of other countries are viewed as ‘foreigners’; Jews are the ‘others’ for anti-Semites, blacks for racist Americans, indigenous people for colonists, proletarians for the propertied classes.” 

― Simone de BeauvoirThe Second Sex

Monotony

Today like yesterday
Tomorrow like today;
The drip, drip, drip,
Of monotony
Is wearing my life away;
Today like yesterday,
Tomorrow like today.

-Langston Hughes

I’m a woman!

Every International Women’s day, Peggy Lees’s I’m a Woman plays in my head on a loop. Despite its outdated lyrics, which I must admit I do cringe at, I like the song. I sometimes conflate Peggy Lee’s version with Olivia’s lip sync from The Cosby Show.

I’m a wooooooman W-O-M-A-N

Happy International Women’s Day!

What to talk about today? In my first (and only) IWD post on this blog I wrote a long heartfelt rant and Ms. Angelou rounded it off nicely. This time I thought I might celebrate some female writers. Anything really, I just couldn’t let the day go by without sitting down to write.

Today my office organised a meeting/conference/whatsmacallit in honour of International Women’s Day. I had attended the session last year and enjoyed it, even though it quickly became a how do we juggle motherhood with our careers type of talk.

The most notable thing I took from today’s session was something one of the speakers said. I cannot remember it verbatim, but to paraphrase: “Just because you suffered does not mean others that come after you should suffer as well

Girl oh girl, isn’t this the truth. The first thing that came to my mind when she said that was this interview clip from Seeing Allred– a documentary about famed (infamous?) women rights lawyer Gloria Allred. I have scoured the internet fruitlessly for a clip of this interview. All I know is there was a white haired male host, and three guests one of whom was Gloria, the other Zsa Zsa Gabor, and the third a woman I cannot identify.

Gloria: I don’t think that our daughters should have to trade sexual favours in order to get a raise.
Unidentified female guest: Why not? We did.

My first thought on hearing this was Wow! Things really have changed. Nobody could say that on air now. But how much have things really changed? There has been progress alright, women all over are doing things our grandmothers couldn’t even dream about, and we are occupying spaces we never knew existed. Still it is not unusual to hear people say: “women of nowadays are nothing like our mothers” before descending into a romanticisation of the struggles the women before us had to endure.

We the women of nowadays are apparently lazier than our foremothers; we don’t like to cook or clean like our mothers did, some of us are even too lazy to push our babies out (C-section? Our mothers would never!). Our mothers were up at 5am and cooked seven course meals three times a day without complaining. We the women of nowadays are loud, brash and unfeminine; we dare to argue with men and assert our rights and independence. It’s no wonder we the women of nowadays cannot keep a man; we are too busy trying to be like men. Oh how the men long for women of old whose first name was suffering and middle name endurance. The women who rewarded infidelity with prayers and kisses. Everything that has gone wrong in the world is because of women’s rights.

It will never cease to amaze me how people who have watched their mothers suffer want this same suffering for their daughters or how people can justify foolishness by saying their mothers endured it. Did our mothers suffer just so we could carry on the legacy of suffering? The women before us fought so we could have easier lives, and we continue to fight so the women after us may benefit from it too. Saying women of nowadays cannot endure suffering as well as the women before is not an insult, it is something to be proud of. Our mothers crawled so we could run.

Unfortunately some women who crawled want to see other women crawl as well. Some women who have had to suffer are resentful of women of nowadays who seem to get everything handed to them. Why should this man be fired for harassing his female employees when I had to endure that for years? Why should this woman get to put her feet up and relax at home when I spent my life slaving over a hot stove and cleaning after everyone? Why should she be able to do as she pleases when in our day we were punished for that? All my life I had to fight, so why should these women get it easier? This crabs in a bucket mentality is so harmful. A shared experience should make one more sympathetic to the plight of others but instead in a lot of cases it just makes people meaner.

This reminds me of life in boarding school.  The senior kids were the alphas and everyone else had to bow to them. The suffering and humiliation we suffered from seniors made us more sympathetic to younger ones right? NOOOOO. We couldn’t wait to be seniors so we could inflict the same pain on those below us.

 

So when the unidentified female guest said “Why not? We did” I was shocked, more at the fact that someone would say that publicly but that a woman would even wish sexual harassment on another woman. I would not have been surprised if she said “oh please I woke up every morning before the crack of drawn to start cooking for the family so why can’t you?” but I guess like most people I just hold sexual harassment on a higher echelon.

That you experienced a hardship does not mean everyone else who comes after you should face the same. I understand it may be hard not to be resentful, and it may be difficult to be happy about a change you yourself never got to benefit from. Still we’ve all got to try.

Today like all other days, I am happy to be a woman. I am especially happy-grateful even-that I am a woman in the 21st century. I am proud of women all over the world who have done their part for the advancement of womankind and I hope to be able to help in my own little way.

It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

Books books books!

First off, Happy World Book Day!  Well it was on the 1st of March but I just found out about it so yeah happy world book day.

So far this year I have started reading six books- I have finished four, still reading one and have given up on another. Let’s go through them briefly shall we?

Murder on the Orient Express-Agatha Christie: I only heard about the book when the movie came out. The film posters looked interesting enough to make me want to see the film. Due to work and life I did not have time to go to the cinema so when I went to the supermarket and saw the book on sale I bought it. I then began an internal dilemma about film and books: Is it better to see the movie before reading the book or read the book before watching the film? I knew if I watched the film first then the suspense would be gone thereby ruining the experience of reading the book. On the other hand reading the book first could build up expectations that the film may not live up to. In the end the decision was made for me when a friend asked me to go watch the film in the theatre. I’m not sure what it was exactly-perhaps the acting or the plot- but I did not enjoy the film and by the time the suspense was resolved I was too tired to care. After seeing the film and not caring for it, I knew it would be a battle to read the book and it was. Eventually I said to myself “no more” and I put down the book.

Born a Crime-Trevor Noah: I bought this book last year when I saw a tweet professing that the book was amazing and made them love Trevor Noah. I must say the book met every expectation I had and then some. It was very easy and pleasant to read; the stories were interesting and recounted in a funny manner. The book also gives an insight into South African culture, particularly during apartheid. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Catcher in the Rye-JD Salinger: I bought this book because it is a classic and as with all classics I wanted to see what the hullabaloo was all about. Just before I started reading it a friend mentioned that there was a link between the book and serial killers. A perfunctory search revealed that the man who murdered John Lennon and the man who attempted to assassinate Ronald Regan both read the book which gave rise to the theory. The book is written from the point of view of its protagonist Holden Caulfield. Even as I read and enjoyed it I knew that a lot of people would hate it and deride its status as a classic. I get it, the book has no purpose; it just follows the ramblings of this teenage boy who thinks everything and everyone is “phony.” I am not too big on books that do not have a clear plot and resolution ( as we’ll see soon) but I really did enjoy reading this book and I especially appreciated the character. I guess what I like about the book was the book is the protagonist and his ramblings. We get into his psyche and are taken on this ride through his teenage angst, his likes, dislikes (there are a lot!), failings, and his own phoniness.  This is one of the few times that I actually missed the character when I was done with the book. The way the book is written also adds to its charm. The book kills me, it just does.

and finally…

Kafka on the shore-Haruki Murakami: Boy o boy where do I start? I first came across the author on goodreads. His name sounded so interesting I had to read something from him. Of course I could not decide which one of his books to get so I saved them all to my amazon wishlist. A few weeks back I saw a comment saying Kafka on the shore is one of the best books they have read so I decided that was a good place to start. I must say I enjoyed reading the book- I was in awe of the writing and the authors imagination. Sometimes I read a book and think “oh I could write a book too“; other times I read a book and think “I will never be able to write anything this good, my imagination does not have the range she could never“. Kafka on the shore was the latter. The book follows two people; a young boy who runs away from home and renames himself Kafka, and an elderly man Nakata who lost his mental acuity in a mysterious childhood incident.
Halfway through the book I realised we were entering Helen Oyeyemi territory of METAFICTION. Whilst I appreciated the writing, I cannot say that I am a fan of books in this genre. Not only is there no clear plot and eventual resolution, the supernatural is casually interspersed with reality and no one bats an eye. In Harry Potter, there is a lot of supernatural things but this is expected and acknowledged. In Kafka on the shore there is a lot that is not explained, so much that I needed to be resolved. The book is not as confusing as Ms. Oyeyemi’s books but I resent the fact that so many strings are left loose. I really am accustomed to traditional story structures where there is a climax and a resolution-I need my closure dammit! I wouldn’t mind so much if it was a regular book like Catcher in the Rye but when you add other-wordly stuff then I require an explanation thank you. Now that I have read Kafka on the Shore I am not too eager to read other books by Murakami but I still have one of his books to read so I’ll have to power through and hope for the best. Kafka on the Shore was a good book and though I did not get the closure I was looking for the stories in the book were beautiful to read.

Another book that I have started (last year) and probably will never finish is Among the Lemon Trees by Nadia Marks. I just cannot get into it. I am currently reading The Millstone by Margaret Drabble and so far it is alright but it falls into the “I can definitely write a book” category,

That’s it for now. Here’s to many more wonderful books!

 

 

Man is condemned to be free

What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.”

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning. Life has no meaning a priori; It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.

Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is therefore nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is.
― Jean-Paul Sartre