Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To Stay Silent

"You stifle me! You crush me! You preach emancipation, and yet you enslave me, in the most fundamental way. Am I not to have the freedom to express myself, in my own home? In the face of such insult? You call our girls 'little women'; well, I am your belittled woman, and I am tired of it. Tired of suppressing my true feelings, tired of schooling my heart to order, as if I were some errant pupil and you the schoolmaster. I will not be degraded in this way."

"It is you," I said, trying to keep my voice even, though my pulse beat in my head. "It is you who degrade yourself, when you forgo self-mastery." From March, by Geraldine Brooks
Brooks' novel takes place in parallel to Little Women; Brooks observed that Little Women focuses on the changes the war wraught on the females of the family, omitting the father's experience. She brings in flash-backs to March's upbringing, his time before marriage, his introduction to Marmee

Her version of Marmee as a passionate woman with a fiery temper, who, under her husband's encouragement and guidance, learns to slowly govern it. But after being verbally stabbed by the sharp-tongued Aunt March, he is forced to shove her speedily out of the room before the old woman meets an untimely end at her hands. 
After Marmee bellows and hollers at him that he is a chauvinist pig, he reminds her that he is not the one demeaning her; her lack of self-control is.

I think of the times people claim bad behavior to be stemming from "matters of principle" or "personal pride." Now, I am all for preserving one's own dignity; there are many out there who will attempt to take advantage of another's ego. 

I remember once in elementary school when a classmate got a 100 on her test, but was raising a stink because she was entitled to two more points. "It is the principle of the matter," she huffed. Actually, she just looked stupid. 

Adults don't look much better. 

When grown individuals refuse to attend simchas for the weakest of reasons, or permit families to remain divided for the most tenuous of excuses, it saddens me. Heck, I'm not always happy with the world at large. Just being single and a certain age opens one up to all sorts of worded abuse. While I may be seething within, I manage to summon the acting abilities bestowed upon me from my ulcer-ridden ancestry, and smile through gritted teeth.  

Never once do I think, "Well, all that will change once I am married. Then I'll be able to behave exactly how I want, whenever I want." No, marriage doesn't change that. I have to behave because I have to behave, not because I require the goodwill of the world

There are enough Aunt Marchs out there, who will say what they like when they like to you, whether you are single, married, or an aged grandmother. But what makes me different from the Aunt Marchs? How do I elevate myself above vitriol? 

In my choice to remain silent.      

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