Cover of Jose Gonzalez’s “Heartbeats.”
This video just now made it into my Facebook news feed, and I’m probably using it in cultural studies to discuss gender expectations for women. One of the things I like about comedians like Grace Helbig, Jenna Marbles, Amy Schumer, and of course Amy Poehler, is the ways that they take so-called gender norms for women and then upend them. Not being ladylike, aka not folllowing a rigid standard of femininity, as this end of this video implies, doesn’t mean that you are not some how a woman or female. It simply means you don’t chose to perform that gender construct.
“‘And I do assure you, ma’am,’ pursued Mrs. Croft, ‘that nothing can exceed the accommodations of a man of war; I speak, you know, of the higher rates. When you come to a frigate, of course, you are more confined–though any reasonable woman might be perfectly happy in one of them; and I can safely say, that the happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared. Thank God! I have always been blessed with excellent health, and no climate disagrees with me. A little disordered always that first twenty-four hours of going to sea, but never knew sickness was afterwards. The only time that I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience.'”
~ Jane Austen, Persuasion
This is not the normal beginning of semester post. I tried starting that, but it sounded really petulant, when mostly I’m just sad and tired because my grandmother passed away last week. Yes, it’s busy, and the fear of not doing well is fully present. But it’s no busier than usual really, although the added pressure of throwing an on campus event next week is getting to me. (I apparently still need to learn to not propose ideas or I get stuck doing the work, even when I’m not even on that committee anymore.) The first day was a dizzy swirl of trying to figure out where I was exactly, and the shift in intensity from being at home with family to being here with students in a long row has taken me until today to fully process. My department head who is now on sabbatical/stepped down for happy baby reasons soooo owes me a drink for taking one of her classes, since doing so means I teach four different classes in a row without a break MW.
I impulsively put my grandmother’s wedding china in my china cabinet today. It was not on my to do list for the day. I should be writing or cleaning or cooking. But all of a sudden, it’s what I had to do.
It’s a pattern called Gloria by Theodore Haviland from 1953, one of two by that name Haviland produced. It’s been used precisely twice as far as I know. Once back when my grandparents first married and once when my mother was cleaning some stuff out and reorganizing for grandmommy and pulled the crumbling cardboard box it was in out along with a lot of pink depression glass. I insisted we use it for Thanksgiving that year, and then into better wrapping and a plastic tub it all went. Last September, mom and Terry came up for a visit, bringing the china with them. My grandmother, the consummate pack rat, who never let anything go or threw anything away, wanted me to have it. (Although I think some is still lurking at my grandmother’s house.) I had some china from Crate & Barrel in the china cabinet that was my doll cabinet as a kid. I didn’t know what to do with it, and so the wedding china sat in my closet. Now my cousin Catherine is taking the Crate & Barrel dishes, and this delicate china sits in my kitchen, gleaming. It’s a beautiful, pale pink flower pattern. Both me and entirely not me at the same time. It isn’t a complete set. As far as I know, several big dinner plates are missing and some serving pieces. I’ll probably slowly fill it in, add to it. The tea cups feel like doll’s cups. The plates are so much smaller than our modern, overly huge dinner plates. I want to use it for my friend Jennifer’s baby shower at some point. I want to use it for everything, actually.
My grandmother was not a fancy woman, and this china must have been her nod to a kind of beautiful order that my chaotic family doesn’t quite embody. My grandmother liked nothing better than a loud gathering of family and friends with food, lots of food. Almost every picture of her in the slide show from the funeral involved food, a family gathering, or her holding a baby. This china would never have survived all those events, and yet, I like the idea of having the chaos same in my home and saying damn it all, let’s use the good china, thus treasuring these pieces but also remembering my dear sweet grandmother who spoke to me in Martian and let me call her grandmommy, when apparently that wasn’t what she wanted to be called. They remind me that she prayed for me everyday, prayer I could feel. While it will take many cups to get me to my required caffeination level, I think my Saturday breakfast in bed ritual just got more elaborate.
I discovered this site when looking for a quick link to a definition of dandyism for my students. It’s about the modern dandy, but most importantly, it includes a quiz! Some of the responses are great, such as where do you live–“A cloistral male sanctuary for you alone”–or how do you prefer your tobacco. Take it, if you can. It’s highly gender specific, and asks some strange questions, such as is your waist smaller than your inseam.
“We confess, however much we may admire independence of feeling and erectness of spirit in general or practical questions, yet in works of genius we prefer him who bows to the authority of nature, who appeals to actual objects, to mouldering superstitions, to history, observation, and tradition, before him who only consults the pragmatical and restless workings of his own breast, and gives them out as oracles to the world. We like a writer (whether poet or prose-writer) who takes in (or is willing to take in) the range of half the universe in feeling, character, description, much better than we do one who obstinately and invariably shuts himself up in the Bastile of his own ruling passions. In short, we had rather be Sir Walter Scott (meaning thereby the Author of Waverley) than Lord Byron, a hundred times over.”
~ William Hazlitt, “Lord Byron,” Spirit of the Age
Cross posted from many other things!
As the kick off to our Read This! season, we have writer Sam Snoek-Brown on campus, Thursday, August 28, from 7-9pm at the Boreham Library, in Room 122. He’ll give a reading from his new novel Hagridden, about the Civil War, and then he’ll answer questions and sign books afterwards.
Samuel Snoek-Brown writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. He also works as production editor for Jersey Devil Press. His work has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Ampersand Review, Fiction Circus, Eunoia Review, Red Fez, SOL: English Writing in Mexico, and others. He’s the author of the flash fiction chapbook Box Cutters, and of the novel “Hagridden,” for which he received a 2013 Oregon Literary Fellowship.
For more information on “Hargridden,” published August 19, please see hagriddenbook.com.
For upcoming Read This! events please see the Read This! Facebook page or readthisuafs.wordpress.com. Follow us on Twitter at @UAFS_ReadThis.
Here are some pieces on Ferguson, police profiling, and racism in the US that everyone should be reading:
Ta-Neishi Coates, who, if he isn’t already in your required reading, should be. Currently the first two pieces are on Ferguson and are must reads. But so is everything else. As a public historian and intellectual of the first order, Coates’s grasp of race relations in America is unparalleled.