14 December 2009

Working on Working

This seems to be the week of random single memories, because two days ago I had one about my father, and tonight, while I was doing my ballet barre in the kitchen (perfect location, it turns out: warm, big, quiet), I had another. I was holding onto the countertop and moved my hand forward so it touched the edge of stove, which, to my disgust, was lightly coated in grease. And this made me remember weekend mornings with Irishboyfriend - not every weekend, but a fair number - when I used to make him a breakfast that included very thin potato slices, fried. In this memory, which was all the days smooshed into one, it was sunny, and I was in my favourite flat in Massachusetts, and he was in the bedroom reading while I cooked the potato slices, wearing a long white nightgown I used to have but since have lost. It was the grease on the stove that reminded me, of course, because the grease in which I fried the potatoes went everywhere, but what a nice memory to spring from grease: bright but n
ot hot, alone cooking for someone I loved in the next room, my feet bare on the boards and my long white cotton nightie circling around me.

Anyhoo (BUEno), that's just by the by. I've been working today, and knock wood it's been going pretty well. Of course, that may be because a good deal of the work has been cutting up my chapter and repasting it so the narrative runs differently. And when I say, "cutting up" I mean, cutting up," and when I say, "repasting," I mean "with Scotch tape." For some reason, this is the only way I can successfully reshape a piece of writing of any length; I suspect it's because it's the only way I can see it all before me and get a sense of its rhythm. Anyway, now half my desk is covered with little strips of paper containing a sentence or two sentences and the other half is covered with sheets of notebook paper alternatively taped to partial typewritten sheets and covered with a paragraph of handwriting followed by a partial typewritten sheet. As I said, it's been going well - I just feel bad about killing so many trees.

Tonight at dinner I had a most interesting and wide-ranging conversation with S.A., on subjects both mentionable and none of your business, thank you very much. One of the mentionable subjects, however, was my hypothesis of this morning (while I was making my first cup of tea in the kitchen) that men raised by single mothers are better than other men. In this hypothesis, men raised by single mothers are better than other men; it seems to me, from my experience, that they tend to be more open to discussions of emotions, more interested in talking aimlessly about the world (this is a vastly important skill, I think), and less rigid about gender expectations. Also, they seem to be more relaxed and open generally. Also, also, they like to dance - an attribute very rare among men. Exhibits in favour of this hypothesis include:

My FTT - okay, rather conservative in the gender expectations department, but surprisingly open (given that) to discussions about emotion and psychology, and deeply deeply (deeply) interested in clothes.

Now, I recognise that this hypothesis has a number of pieces of evidence against it:

Exhibit A: Dr. Heier. Well, his parents were married until he was around 18, so maybe he doesn't count. But he was certainly vastly closer to his mother than his father, and he was not in any way relaxed (although neither was his mother), and he certainly had stern gender expectations - if a film possessed the merest hint of male homosexuality, you could feel him practically go rigid with discomfort.

Exhibit B: The many men I know who are relaxed and open, and chatters, despite being raised by both parents. Okay, that kind of throws a spanner in the works.

So perhaps I'm going to have to work on this hypothesis (which is why it's a hypothesis, not a theory). If I work empirically, however, I could draw the conclusion that men raised by strong mothers are, subjectively (me being the subject), better than other men. This is because: first of all, in my experience men with strong mothers are not afraid of, and often know how to deal with, strong women (yes, strong women have to be wrangled, just as do strong men. That doesn't mean you shut them down, but it does mean that there are ways to be strong and tempered, and ways to be strong and dictatorial. A man who has had a strong mother can avoid the risk of a strong woman becoming the latter). Second, men with strong mothers seem to have learned, somehow, to engage in conversation - that is, to listen and engage with other people - rather more pleasantly and effectively than other men. And they tend to be fairly comfortable in the realm of emotion, or at least of discussion that is not rigidly goal-centred. They also tend to help out more around the house. Also, they tend to notice what you're wearing (hey, it matters to this subject).

Although this post really isn't going anywhere, I'll end with some supposition as random as the rest of the thinking. My supposition is that all these benefits come into being because of the increased communication exposure gained by growing up with a woman. Women talk more than men, and by and large they like to converse more than men. Now, the fact that women openly enjoy this and to some degree expect the same from the people they live with means that the men who grow up with strong women are to a degree forced to join in. But I actually don't think force comes into it. I think we largely do and are comfortable doing what we see modelled: we think this is what all people do. Men who grow up with someone who chats randomly, who helps out as a matter of course (something women also tend to do more than men), who is open and comfortable about discussing emotion, and who pays attention to her own appearance and that of others, will simply do the same - they think it's what people do.

Or so I believe tonight.

At some point I'm going to blog about feminism. But I think everyone involved, reader and writer, will have to gird their loins for that one.

And tomorrow I get my hair cut and blown dry straight, in anticipation of a formal dinner for O.'s birthday tomorrow night! Reader, I love getting my hair straightened. I know we should love ourselves the way we are, and I do. It's just that...I really love myself the way I am with straight hair. So I am looking forward to tomorrow. And Wednesday I have a date! And I am interested to see if my loved straight hair will make any difference to my date!

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