Friday, October 4, 2013

all the single ladies

In what is sure to be a random collection of thoughts and ideas, many of which will bear no relation to each other, I've decided to spend a few minutes writing about a movie I genuinely adore.  As you may or may not know, I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan.  It all started with Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth's version, of course) and went downhill from there.  I've read the books, seen my favorite movies and mini-series countless times, and, in my true-to-self fashion, have a opinion about them all.  Pride and Prejudice remains my favorite of the Austen classics, however the other night I re-visited Persuasion.  I actually haven't watched this movie since I was a young teenager, and my recollections of that experience aren't particularly memorable.  I thought the story was boring, slow, and our protagonist, Anne Elliot, came across as understated and sub-par when compared to Austen's other heroines such as Lizzie Bennett or Emma Woodhouse.  (add actors Colin Firth and Jeremy Northam to the mix, and you have a match made in heaven. Yes, I may be swooning about now...)

Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth & Amanda Root as Anne Elliot

Fast forward fifteen years, and my reaction was, " different. In fact, it's quite the opposite."  (yes, I'm now inserting P&P quotes...) I would liken the experience to seeing an old friend after a lengthy absence.  We didn't exactly pick up where we left off, but there was a familiarity that made it easy to jump back in and accept each other as we are now.  What made it different?  Age, life experience, and maybe a little more maturity. I now know what it's like to be older and still unmarried.  I've lost a loved one.  And even though Anne isn't the eldest of the three daughters, she certainly carries that responsibility, and I get that too.  Then there's the romantic aspect, the idea of waiting for true love, and hoping against hope that one day you too will fall head over heels.

In all honesty, I was surprised how closely I identified with Austen's understated, yet oh so magnificent heroine (played in 1995 by the incomparable Amanda Root).  So much of Austen's subtext and gentle undercurrents jumped out at me in a new way.  Take this seemingly random, meaningless exchange between Anne and her sister, Mary, for example.  Here, Anne comes to visit her nervous, fretful (married) younger sister after their father's financial irresponsibility forced them to rent out their family home and move to another part of the county. Because Anne is perceived as boring and quiet it is assumed she would not want to insert herself in new social scene, and therefore is the logical person to stay behind and see their new tenants are comfortably settled and then visit Mary.

Mary Musgrove: Anne, why could you not have come sooner?
Anne Elliot: My dear Mary, I really have had so much to do.
Mary Musgrove: Do? What can you possibly have had to do?
Anne Elliot: A great many things I assure you.
Mary Musgrove: Well. Dear me.

Maybe you're reading this and thinking, huh?  What does that have to do with you?  Simply put, because sometimes I feel like Anne.  Now, I know I don't live in the 1800s or have horrid sisters, but I do know what it's like to have people assume I have nothing important to do because I'm not fulfilling a 'traditional' role of wife or mother.  Sometimes it feels like us single girls (and guys too) are lost in the shuffle, and all too often, people assume the attitude of Mary Musgrove.  For the life of her she can't understand why her unmarried sister could not have visited sooner.  After all, Mary is 'ailing' and needs her sister to tend to the daily chores and childcare so she can get out of the house. Think, "Fetch me my smelling salts whilst I faint," and you get the idea. Somehow in the course of this familial visit, Anne becomes a nursemaid, psychiatrist, surrogate mother, confident to every person within walking distance, and I wouldn't be surprised if some housework was thrown into the mix. And why shouldn't she since she has nothing else to do.  As those of singles know, this idea couldn't be further from the truth.  Even if we aren't taking care of a family or cooking meals for the hubby, we are often engaged in some sort of caretaker role whether that be for ourselves or others and still have to cook, clean, do laundry, and run errands like everyone else.

I'm not sure why this hit me so strongly, except that this came up in a recent conversation with a friend and the what-do-I-do-with-my-life question has been on the brain.  It seems everywhere I look someone is posting an article about being a working mother or the art of homemaking or why they chose not to have children, etc, etc, etc.  The comments I read about being single are usually negative and blow off this season as a whirlwind of frivolous clubbing and one night stands. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a working mom or staying at home with the children, but it just seems to me that our society is paying so much attention to this side of life and neglecting the area of responsible singleness that many in our generation face.  Economic hardship has, in a manner of speaking, forced us to stay at home longer or pushed the so-called American dream farther and farther out of reach.  People assume that because we still live at home or don't have children or are unmarried, that means our lives are free of responsibility, because, like Anne Elliot, we must have nothing to do.  (I warned you this would be random!)  

I know I'm not a particularly witty or engaging writer, and I don't think I'm saying this very well.  However, when I decided I wanted to blog on a more regular basis, I promised myself I wouldn't hold back because my writing wasn't perfect or my ideas were irrelevant. Maybe they'll mean something and maybe they won't.
Either way, I like the idea of sending these thoughts into the cosmic void, and while I could revise this for the next several weeks, I'm not going to.  I'll post this, written as I am today, no matter how random or disjointed these paragraphs may be.

So, before I climb off my soapbox and take my head out of the clouds, let me simply say that as much as I love the romantic side of Persuasion (and believe me, I do!), I think there's more to Jane Austen than meets the eye. Her writing speaks to the individual on many levels, and I'm sure I have barely scratched the surface to the subtly and nuances present within her writing.

And with that, I think I'll go watch the ending.  Again.


Mrs. Howard said...

I completely understand what you are saying!! We, as a society, have reduced being single to being synonymous with Saturday night clubbing and I hate that. It is definitely not a reality. Loved heading your perspective! Love you!!

Mrs. Howard said...

I completely understand what you are saying!! We, as a society, have reduced being single to being synonymous with Saturday night clubbing and I hate that. It is definitely not a reality. Loved heading your perspective! Love you!!

Christina said...

I love your thoughts! I think this is one of your best blog posts yet! Keep them coming. :)

As for the content itself, I'm sure I could write lots of things here, or we could just chat in person. :)

Also, now I want to watch more Jane Austen.