Friday, December 28, 2007

I Got Scared Because I Was Happy

I ordered "War of the Roses" on-demand the other day. I remember watching it when it first came out (my God, I was nineteen!) and thinking that it was a funny dark-comedy. Supposedly, the story is about a married couple who fall out of love after (about) twenty years of marriage. The wife asks for a divorce, and from there on the two spouses become petty and begin an escalating war of vengeance upon each other that culminates in their deaths. With my new perspective (critical analyzation and feminist perspective), I viewed the movie with an eye for detail. I took note of the deeper messages and symbology and the only incriminating evidence I could find toward the wife's "bad" behavior was that she refused to give up the house! She was honest with her husband in her feelings and in return he was cruel and petty to her. All of the rotten things she did to him were in retaliation to the rotten things he pulled on her first. In fact, he was quite emotionally abusive to her. I think she should have let the house go, but considering her history I could see why she'd have an unreasonable attachment to it- it had become a part of her identity.

I wrote down one quote from the movie to discuss with my husband. It was from the scene where she explains why she didn't go to the hospital when he had a heart attack. She explains that she started thinking about life without him, a life on her own, and she got scared. He pats her on the leg and says, "Oh, honey, it's okay, I'm here now and I'm okay." (I'm paraphrasing.) Then she says, (and this is what I wrote down), "I got scared because I was happy." Sooooo Kate Chopin a la "The Story of An Hour"!!! I wanted to discuss this perspective with my husband. I thought it would make for great intellectual discourse, the importance of women developing their own independent identity aside from being wives and mothers. Yet, when I broached the subject he became very defensive and couldn't seem to grasp the concept. Somehow, he took an intellectual conversation and turned it into something personaI. This really surprised me, since I think I've always tried very hard to openly declare myself as an individual beyond and aside from being a mother and a wife. Which leads me to wonder, is he just too sensitive? Is he insecure? Is he incapable of critical analyzation and symbolic interpretation? Or is he, deep in his heart, just another patriarchally brain-washed person?

Because I can't say it any better myself ponder this:
"Those who define themselves forever in terms of mother or wife? Those whose sense of self-worth is defined only in terms of their relation to others (or more exactly, in terms of other’s relation to them) and not in a sense of their own personhood? You know them. They are the women who become bitter and nasty and envious or play the martyr. I asked my students that day, when I so clumsily attempted to describe non-being, if they had read Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Have you read it? Then I told them that the end of that story is about non-being. The character has come to the realization that she is a non-being and the despair she feels is only matched by the inability to even begin to know how to create one.

I fear that I have just risked being enormously misunderstood. How DARE I debunk the myth and mystique of motherhood by suggesting that it alone is not enough for any woman? How dare I demythologize the fabled “happily ever after” that is promised with the kiss of the Prince? I do so only in the firmest conviction, grounded in experience, that no one; no child and/or no man can “make” another happy or fulfilled. These are only to be found within a free human being who seeks after them for herself." ~ Louise Doire (Doire Musings)

Anyway, I wrote Barbara Rose's quote ("I got scared...") on a sticky-note and stuck it to a cabinet in the kitchen. My husband asked, "WHY?" and I replied, "To remind myself to take care of my identity." It's possible that I'm displaying a form of passive-aggression in retaliation to my perception of his emotional abuse, but we won't know for sure until you find us both dead in the chandelier.

See the movie for yourself:

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