Friday, May 29, 2009

The best revenge

I thought the browser was about to freeze on my way to the "New Post" page and I would then have a reason to walk away from the computer and the empty space on the screen. But the browser pulled through and here I am, mind dancing, contacts blurry, left ear ringing, and no serious knitting anywhere in the house to call me away from playing with my blog.

I'm done clearing my throat.

The title "Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman" keeps rolling through my mind. I think it's a good title, but I'm not sure what it's a title for. I'm not sure what the revenge might be. There is much about life as a fifty-something woman to be avenged, starting with that feeling of irrelevancy that sets in when young, pretty, unwrinkled girls of twenty or even thirty seem to be everywhere, seem to be having all the fun, seem to be the ones who flirt and flit and laugh and matter. Also to be avenged: the frustrations of trying to see things both near and far without taking out contacts and putting on glasses (or putting away glasses and putting in contacts). There's my newly crowned molar, crowding all the other old and crowned molars in my mouth. There are the times when I know my outside doesn't match my inside, when I feel absolutely childish inside while looking ever more unyielding and stern, like the Grandma Gotsch of my childhood.

What form would the revenge of the middle-aged woman take? I try to invent answers, wild and creative, meaningful and bold enough to get some attention. Should I craft a detective novel in which the middle-aged female detective (an unforgettable character!) or the crazy middle-aged female perpetrator (powerful in her own menopausal way) ultimately blasts someone away with a gun? I would have to do a lot of research just to figure out what kind of gun. Not exactly writing about things I know.

Perhaps I could create performance art in which the bitter and articulate middle-aged female monologuist avenges a her lost girlhood by slicing up a sofa with a broadsword. She then plays a Chopin etude (one of the posthumous ones) as the lights fade to red, a flash of green, and then black.

"I really haven't got any ideas," she said, sighing a little sigh and sinking back into her chair. (This is me describing me, not me describing a middle-aged female character in a story, who may or may not resemble me.) Exciting ideas, I tell you go back where you came from, that foreign country where creative artists, more courageous, more widely experienced than I, beat back despair with frantic disconnected activity.

Me, the aging suburban mom--all I can genuinely come up with is "Living well is the best revenge." Falling back on a cliche, which has some truth in it. Am I living well?

The wine in the fridge is only so-so (though the beer's pretty good). I have not been a paragon of wisdom or virtue this week. I've fumbled for answers to tough questions and been sarcastic in reply to dumb ones. This last week, the reality-based definition of "living well" would have to include ignoring the dishes piling up on the kitchen counter for several days, so that I can read the NY Times online in the morning and flop down on the couch and stare at whatever's on television from 9:45 to 10:45 at night. Other reality-based definitions: talking back to Bruckner and then Van Morrison on my iPod in my office (which no one else can hear anyway--I think); kicking off Saturday with a long breakfast with a friend, rather than the necessary loads of laundry and (ugh) gardening; spending an hour tomorrow afternoon with Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer, author of Washington's Crossing. (At this point, I'd read anything he's written because he writes very, very well. And he's an optimist. He's living well.)

Doing what I want to do from one moment to the next, without being constantly responsible, constantly looking ahead. I kind of like that version of living well. Sometimes it works.

Whoops. I criticized a teenage child of mine earlier this evening for pretty much that same approach to life. Someone's avenged.

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