Posted tagged ‘women’

Overheard/ Seen

August 31, 2009


1.  Overheard in a Grand Central Station tunnel:   “A woman scorned… she can be nasty, man.”

“Oh boy.  You make a woman mad, that’s the end of it.”

Chuckling.  (Gently.)

2.   Seen on elevator news screen (more or less):  “Test shows that the part of the brain that signifies anger is far less active when the person angered is lying down.”  [The actual test, I discovered later, had to do with the brain’s response to insult and was conducted at Texas A& M University by a team led by Eddie Harmon-Jones.]


The first point is one I’ve trying to impress on my husband for some time.  Luckily, my very sweet husband, like the men underground (who really did smile, laugh, and ruefully shake their heads), usually  seems to get it.  That is—and I don’t mean to sound sexist here—that anger is sometimes to be expected (and accepted) in a wife.

(Just a note, the scorn the men seemed to be talking about was not the bitterness of unrequited love, so much as the irritation of unappreciated labor.)

Women do an awfully lot these days, what with many serving both as a significant, if not primary, wage earner, as well as chief cook and bottlewasher.  A little frustration now and again should be seen as par for the course.

Which brings me to point 2.

“I’m not going to take that lying down,” appears, in the light of this study, to be an exceedingly poor method of resolving arguments.  Especially for married couples.

Maybe, given applicable brain patterns, arguments between partners should be scheduled for bed, or at least, by mutual agreement, immediately moved to a prone position.

I’m not really sure I needed a cognitive scientist to tell me that this strategy would likely lead to prompter conflict resolution.  Still, it’s always nice to know more of what makes the brain (ahem) light up.

Check out 1 Mississippi (Karin Gustafson) at link above or on Amazon.

Niceness – Writing – “Oh Plunge Your Hands In Water”

August 19, 2009

I was thinking today about women from my generation–I don’t quite want to confess what generation that is, let’s just say that we are just old enough to actually remember when President Kennedy was shot–and the internal pressure many of us feel to be “nice.”

We are sometimes accused these days of being overly nice, or artificial or precious in our niceness, or just plain mamby-pamby.   This really is maddening.  Some of us are still too well-trained to get openly mad about these  unfair characterizations, but they are still upsetting.

This piece  deals with that issue indirectly.   It was actually a writing exercise, written with my writing buddy, in a ten or fifteen minute session based on the phrase “Plunge Your Hands in Water” from the poem “As I Walked Out One Evening,” By W.H. Auden.

(The Auden poem is simply wonderful.    Here’s a link to an online copy:

The piece has been slightly edited since the original exercise, but it really still is an exercise.   (Sorry.)

(Final point re my Blocking Writer’s Block series – a line from a poem can be a great starting point for a writing exercise.   While your exercise may be quite different from the poem, your work will may still get some depth from such an elevated jumping off point.)

“Plunge Your Hands in Water”   – W.H. Auden

At my elementary school cafeteria, the tiles were blue green grey and the trash cans were an amalgam of ketchup and fishstick skins and small red milk cartons usually half full.  The women were large and wore white stiff dresses like nurses.  They served the food in surgically cut portions on brown cafeteria trays, which were topped with mauve or yellow plates, the colors of everything an illustration of the word “faded.”  Their big rounded hair curved around their heads like the double breast that curved from their fronts, the hips from their sides.  It was good food–we all knew that–good meaning solid.  No one used the word nutrition much back then; what we knew was meat and starch, ketchup and pickle.

We sat at long tables, whose benches folded out;  the tables were cleaned with vinegar water and the whole placed smelled of the Golgotha Christ, his side or head or thirst, a reminder that we were all there, undeservedly, to be saved.

We were supposed to sit still but I dreamt that everyone ran from gorillas who chased us from spot to spot–through the lunch line, inbetween the line and the tables, then from the tables to the garbage cans.  They were big furry gorillas who ran on two legs, their forearms outstretched as they chased, while we ran, ran to do what we were supposed to do, and then sat where we were supposed to.

It was an old-fashioned school;  ice cream did not appear for some years.  When it did, all hell broke loose.  No one would eat anything else and Scott entertained us all with taking the chocolate coating from his ice cream bar and spreading ketchup and mustard on the vanilla ice cream, then re-anointing it with its chocolate sheathe.  The girls squealed in horror, the boys howled and scowled, as he took a big smiling bite, the ketchup/mustard smearing his lips with variegated orange like a fire-eater’s.   The girls pretended to bend over in nausea, and Scott looked like he felt incredibly cool for a time, though he was a troubled boy, a sad boy, a boy on whom I felt somehow that belts had been used, and who, in first grade, sometimes peed in the little classroom bathroom with the door open.   I felt it my duty to always smile at him, and he, in turn, sent me a letter covered in huge slanted writing I LOVE YOU.

I felt sadder than ever for Scott watching him eat that ice cream, thinking of his open-doored pee, and kept my head down, only looking up with the corners of my eyes, and even then trying to focus on the gorillas, the chase, and the fact that if I sat exactly where I was supposed to, they wouldn’t be able to get me, and maybe not anyone, no matter how they circled.