1. alistairconnor - 4/7/2005 11:48:01 AM
Here we go :
Webfeet has promised, Message # 2862 in thread 141, to give us Chapter Three, "Scenes From a Marriage", of her forthcoming novel (publisher not yet selected).
I think that, in return for this privilege, we should try to give her a bit of cogent and pungent literary criticism. Help her tighten up the literary tummy muscles, so to speak.
And although Magoseph hasn't actually promised anything, I think she could be flattered/threatened into a short story (childhood in Provence, immigrant in the US?).
There are plenty of other authors here : we'd all like to read something from such stylish writers as Ronski or Resonance; and we're all of us capable of chunking up something worthwhile out of the depths of our subconscious.
No imposed format or length. Except that suggested by the maximum post length : 8000 signs, or multiples thereof. Suggested theme : fictionalised elements from your own life.
2. webfeet - 4/7/2005 2:48:18 PM
The only thing I craved was a retreat, a temporary state of permanent rest. Not death exactly, but someplace I could go to check out, where I could simply go and disappear for a short period to sleep--no tennis, golf, masseuse, Jacuzzi, nothing else. Just sleep. And then a demented plan hatched in my brain: maybe I could just stage my own death? But I would need a corpse to pull that off. What if I simply threw one of my raincoats into the East River and filled the pockets with my credit cards and driver’s license? That might work. I could just go missing and then reappear in a week better rested. It probably happened all the time.
3. webfeet - 4/7/2005 2:54:44 PM
This excerpt is not from Scenes From A Marriage (although I will add that later) but it is kind of like, if I were doing a one-woman monologue, the essence of the novel.
Thanks so much for creating this site, alistair. This is fun. And I hope that this is entertaining.
In my mind I imagined the day when I could finally be happy. It was a day when the house would be in order; unstained hand towels folded neatly, obscure plastic toy parts that have been floating around the house, such as puzzle pieces or parts to the playdough wafflemaker, that turn up in odd places like the bread basket, would be reunited with their proper set, and the nursery would be a well-ordered haven, a model of American life as shown in a Pottery Barn catalog; rice and cereal and sticky pools of dried baby food would not stain the floors and they would actually shine. Like a mirage, I would admire it from afar,
The dish drain would not have wet scrambled eggs or pasta shells clogging it and shoes thrown off in a hurry would not litter the hall, causing me to trip unawares as I stumble over them. The pages of my checkbook would not stick together from dried apple juice that has spilled; and the spots of shame, stains on the carpet that I try to convince myself are just shadows, would be magically erased.
Although I know that this is just a fantasy, it is still one that seems, almost impossibly, just within reach. If I can just try a little harder, I think to myself, it would all be right. And this is the illusion I maintain each morning as I wake to a sink full of dishes, my bare feet sticking to the floor as I greet Rene and the babies after their crepe-making breakfast. I know that I will not come remotely close to achieving this housewife’s eden, but the challenge of it, is what keeps me going day after day.
4. webfeet - 4/7/2005 2:55:18 PM
I had to resist the temptation to order clothing out of catalogs, square wholesome, I want to Nurture Myself in a Chenille Sweater kinds of things that, outside of the catalog’s rosy garden where a honey blonde, photographed wearing one, is pausing to gain sustenance from the morning sunlight, actually looked repellent and lasciviously clingy in real life, like the kind of velvety sweater a substitute teacher in my elementary school might have worn with a brooch and polyester pants. When I wore it I looked like a QVC shopper from New Jersey . Who was I becoming? Catalogs weren’t shopping. No, not in the tactile way. That was why they were to be mistrusted. I fyou couldn’t wear the clothes, feel the clothes, be the clothes, then you’d never really know if they were right for you. The only problem was that the clothes I felt were right for me, the ones I actually saw in the stores in Nolita, were either obscenely expensive or belonged on someone else’s body, someone who had smaller breasts and ample time to invest in a gym, before they went out to play in the city’s bars and restaurants. And those somebodies, it appeared as I walked through Nolita with Juliette in the stroller, were all around me.
I decided as I glanced at the young, smartly dressed men and women shopping and laughing and drinking latte’s that the world was classified into two different people: those with children, and those without. They were a seductive species, those without; there was something vampirical about the men,, their slender forms in gray and black clothing; their faces barely hiding the residue of their nocturnal adventures, pale and shadowed as though they hadn’t quite made the transition to daytime. They were like exotic species I never saw anymore and I stared at them with fascination.
They were young. The girls could still party all night and wake up the next day with just a fresh coat of lipstick to brighten up any traces of sleepiness on their youthful faces. I remembered when I could do that once, without looking like one of the Furies as I did now, waking up most mornings, after Charlotte’s hell nights, with my dark circles, dried out fatigue crusting my skin making concealer pointless, crusty hellish adventure. There they were, childless and carefree. The Miu Miu cuties, the vagabond hipsters, or the girls in cloche hats and granny sweaters who looked like they wanted to be spanked. And, of course, the Japanese twins in Ugg boots and mini skirts, playing at being Pebbles and Bam Bam. They were all at play, work was play, play was play, everyday was play. I hated them.
They didn’t know what it was like to keep a ledger of your free moments, adding and subtracting minutes in a day that weren’t spent in enforced playtime or performing the drudgery and dull labour that made the house a home and not a crack den. To console myself, I played a cruel game that momentarily enthralled and entertained me. I took the prettiest little fashion slut I could find and imagined her hauling a diaper bag around the childrens museum on a rainy Saturday afternoon, when the moist air smells of bananas and wet diapers, and it seems you are breathing it for hours as you sit there, deathly bored reading the Metro section while your child rolls tennis balls down a pipe ad infitum. And I pictured the end to her breezy little fashion trips as all her play money mysteriously got absorbed in formula, diapers, and over-priced children’s toys.
“How is it, with two? We were thinking of having another one.” Another mother asks me, as we sit at the playdough station inside the Children’s Museum of Art. Charlotte is busy with the dough and I am relieved that I can let go for a moment.
“It’s work. But you know,” I said, imaginging myself like a guest on Phil Donahue, when the subject, a trying one, suddenly brightens and the interviewee decides to let you in on the little ray of hope that all of mankind could grasp onto, “I really feel now like I’ve crossed the arc, that it’s getting better and I am actually learning to manage both.”
At that moment, a black mother who was sitting with her daughter quietly rolling play dough, said “I think you better get that playdough out of her mouth.”
“Oh she ‘s okay. If I responded everytime she put things in her mouth, I’d never get anything done. She’s passed that stage anyway,” I said, dismissing it. Wasn’t there always a nervous nelly in the bunch? Always the worry wort ready to reprimand you? Make you feel bad?
Just then Charlotte;s eyes went red and watery, and she began to splutter.
“I think she’s choking on playdough,” the black woman said with deliberate calm.
Seized with panic, I pried open Charlotte’s mouth and was shocked to see the roof of her mouth was coated with pink dough. She had been squirreling little pellets into her mouth quietly and methodically until it looked like she had a wad of bubblegum stuck up there. I slid my finger in several times and removed little pieces, praying that her throat wasn’t coated too. Charlotte was screaming, her face red and hot with tears. And I realized, as I worked to save my daughter once again from a needless death, that I was not just the biggest idiot in the world, but the poorest representation of motherhood that ever existed.
Now that Charlotte was freed from the deadly playdough, the quiet scene that had devolved into a minor psychodrama ended and everybody silently went back to play as though nothing ever happened. Charlotte and I returned from the bathroom where I had washed out her mouth and she was now smiling again, my wiggly ball of love, alive and beautiful. My shame was so great, so silently overpowering however, that, returning from the bathroom, I walked past the other mothers without a brightening word, like “She’s all better! We’re fine now!” Winkety wink wink. Disney mom goofed. Instead, I walked by and said nothing, blinking, in my mind, like the lights on Chernobyl, a radioactive mother.
Later on as we left the museum and I pushed her in the stroller, I watched her little feet in their tights coiling about and kicking in boredom. I thought about how responsible I was for those funny little feet and their movement, at how helpless they were, that I hated myself for jeopardizing their happy ballet with my carelessness.
5. alistairconnor - 4/7/2005 4:45:24 PM
Very vivid, particularly the olfactive and tactile stuff. And the palpable sentiment of overwhelm.
OK, you've set the scene... so, um, where's the sex?
6. Jenerator - 4/7/2005 4:48:13 PM
Well, it's hard for me to be objective when reading this memoir of mommyhood. Given that webfeet has managed to perfectly represent what motherhood is like for me, as well as others, all I can say is that I love it. The ups and downs, the insecurities and confidences, the elation and the utter fatigue is all there.
Motherhood is almost fickle in a sense. One minute we're marveling at how beautiful our child's/children's eyelashes are, the next we're desperately trying to bribe anyone into watching the little ones so that we can have a few minutes of escape.
And my God do I relate to the feelings of embarassment, acceptance and annoyance over the condition of the house!
Everyday I must reconcile myself to the fact that I am not 22 anymore and my body is about function rather than form - and when did I start thinking that Target and Costco are the greatest and most essential stores in the world?
Sometimes I mourn my youth when I think about vacations filled with tanned skin, hard bodies, and complete freedom. Nowadays I am planning trips with Disney and every place I go to *must* have a bathroom nearby. No more tanned skin, no more hardbodies, and definitely no wanton freedoms.
Then I look into those baby blues of my son or I feel a little kick from the baby growing in me, and I realize that this is my life. It may be messy, but it's beautiful in its own right.
Thank you Webbie. Thank you for reminding me that I, and the other mothers out there, are not alone in this process of life and of motherhood. Thank you for articulately expressing the balance it represents and the fortitude it requires.
7. judithathome - 4/7/2005 5:06:39 PM
The Miu Miu cuties, the vagabond hipsters, or the girls in cloche hats and granny sweaters who looked like they wanted to be spanked. And, of course, the Japanese twins in Ugg boots and mini skirts, playing at being Pebbles and Bam Bam. They were all at play, work was play, play was play, everyday was play. I hated them.
This paragraph is fabulous, as is the rest of it, but THIS is the most perfect picture of what you are describing...I can absolutely SEE the little shits!
8. webfeet - 4/7/2005 5:38:20 PM
Jen, your reply leaves me heart broken, happy and hopeful all at once--excuse the corny alliteration.
Heartbroken because even though I didn't come of age under the Texan sun, we share a similar consciousness (that story you contributed last year in Heartbreak Alley about trying to be sexy for that football player was poignant and adorable). It's been at least eight years since we've been on this forum together and we've gone from Sex and the City to Disney, Costco and Target in the blink of an eye. And it's extremely tough if not a little scary to watch it all fly away.
Most of all, though, it's such a pleasure to know that you can relate to this. I think it's why mommy blogs have become so popular lately. We can fool ourselves with our smart consumer options and cellphones that we are not the 1950's housewives Betty Friedan describes in The Feminine Mystique (a book that is getting its second or third wind thanks to Judith Warner and her recent Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, but there are too many similarities to the feelings of isolation mothers today experience in this age of technology and also, to the consumer aspects of the New Mommy Culture (the world of cool mommy gear) to be ignored.
And you express the pleasures and pains of motherhood far more elegantly than I can. You're a beautiful writer, seriously, and I think your spirituality enhances the way you express yourself.
And sometimes, it just takes a little inspiration. Juliette (Charlotte) is both my nemesis (a diabolical, mischievious, horrible little brat) and my muse (the most beautiful lovable, flirtatious little girl in the universe.
Anyway, I'm so grateful for your feedback. It really separates the sense of being just a lunatic writing to try and cope to creating something that actually resonates with other mommies.
9. webfeet - 4/7/2005 5:40:10 PM
Thanks Judy! You guys are spoiling me! It's like I feel like the winner of the $1.99 beauty contest from years ago, parading around with my roses! Thanks!
And alistair, me mate, you're going to be sadly disappointed if you're looking for Mothers Home Erotica, whatever sex there is, and there is a little in Scenes from a Marriage, it takes place in what I've called Barney's playhouse. ANd it's NOT SEXY.
10. Jenerator - 4/7/2005 6:54:45 PM
I think that that has to be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me here!
You are so sophisticated and so humble, and I love your poetic, fun and straightforward way of looking at things. I truly believe that you have been gifted with a deeper insight to life than most.
You're the kind of person people want to be around.
I really didn't know that cool mommy blogs existed. A couple of years ago I stumbled on to one forum that seemed to be only a place to vent about how vacuum cleaner X worked and how husbands are jerks. True or not, I wasn't inspired there.
I think that your comments about that feeling of isolation that many mothers are experiencing is really relevant. It's funny - right after I had Dylan and he was still at that age where Icould leave them in his carrier for little bits at a time and do things, I decided to pick up a couple of the books that you had previously mentioned as ones you felt to be important. The Feminine Mystique being one of them!
I remember getting about a third of the way into it and thinking that I would get a divorce if I kept reading the book! The loneliness I was experiencing and the expectations that were being crushed by the poopy diapers, sleepless nights and cavalier husband were all too real for me during that time and that book made me start feeling intense pain.
I think that Friedan might have been on to something that she wasn't aware of at that time: consumer accessibility and equal rights among the sexes don't necessarily improve the life at home. I don't know, my thinking is still clouded from sleep deprivation. It seems that once I got the insomniac to finally start sleeping through the night, my newly pregnant bladder kicked it into high gear.
Anyway, your writing is a gift, and I admire you very, very much.
11. Jenerator - 4/7/2005 6:58:31 PM
Sorry about the typos!
12. webfeet - 4/8/2005 3:15:53 AM
Thanks, cherie. Really lovely. And it doesn't sound like your thinking is clouded at all (except the part when you said you admired me!!)
But I am concerned for you. The exhaustion is what gave rise to the idea for this novel. Having children is already overwhelming. Sleep deprivation makes it a confusing, nightmarish struggle. And it can weather a marriage, for a variety of reasons. Irritability and exhaustion. And then there is the uninvited guest, Veiled Melancholy, the dark dame of depression, camping out on your floor.
So that's why I urge you to spare no expense or enlist your mom to help you--you will need it. And if she can't be there-- spend whatever it requires, even if you think it's too much--to get some help on a regular basis. At least in the beginning. You've got to have support. In societies like India, South America, women do not raise children alone. There is like a whole network of family, friends, community to assist in the process.
Anyway, I have too much to say on this topic so I will stop for now.
Except: have you tried one of those Bedtime herbal teas for your insomnia? Oh, God, drinking tea before bed is like the last thing you need--you'll be peeing all night. But try something homeopathic to relax you so that when you have to get up, you can fall back to sleep with ease. Smelling lavendar helps as do deep breathing exercises from lamaze.
13. webfeet - 4/8/2005 3:42:55 AM
...and another thing about sleep deprivation, jen, is that you wake up in the morning looking like Keith Richards. Or worse-- some greek tragedien from The House of Agamemnon.
Get a babysitter tout de suite! Mine thought I was an incompetent, utter wreck. But it helped. I felt like a teenager everytime I got to leave the house, light and free, like I could go for a run and listen to depeche mode on my walkman.
14. Macnas - 4/8/2005 8:04:31 AM
My sister left work to begin her maternity leave 2 weeks back, and on the second day of it, at about 10.a.m. or so, she rings the mother out of boredom. "what am I going to do now?" sez she, "I'm so bored I'm floored" sez she.
When the mother tells me this, I say she should get her husband to take a few pictures of her while she sleeps. Then she could look at them when she's up at 3.30 a.m. walking the floor with a screaming hobgoblin for whom nothing you do will do. Just to remind herself of her old life.
Myself and the missus would spell each other when we had our kids, each of us running away from the house as fast as we could when our turn came around. Then you'd get a mother or a sister or somesuch to babysit so the both of you could go out for a drink together.
You sit there like a pair of shell-shocked soldiers trying not to talk about the children, and you realise that it is just not the same as it was, you both have a terminal case of responsibility. It's not like your sense of "get up and go" has gone, but it definitely has too much to do these days to get up and go anywhere.
I've always thought that getting married, having children, and the death of a parent were the 3 major steps in your life, the one's that make you an adult. The kid part though, that is the real bollock kicker.
Webfeet, you write really good stuff, it's very entertaining to read, and bears being read again. I'm no good at critique, it's either good or it isn't.
15. alistairconnor - 4/8/2005 9:04:01 AM
OK I think it's your turn, Mr Nas.
Unlike most of us, you can wing it : I bet you can write a coherent short story as fast as you can type it. Stick with the parenthood riff, or something completely different?
16. Macnas - 4/8/2005 10:00:26 AM
My daughter, for whom I write bits of rhyme and little stories, asked me if I could write a love story for her, so I gave it a go.
At sea, terrible things can happen, and one night that’s just what happened. His ship was wrecked by a huge storm and was sunk. He floated on the water, clinging to some timber that had been torn from the ship. He hung on for as long as he could, but he became exhausted, and closing his eyes, he slipped away from the timber and knew no more.
She had been alone for so many years now, long and long. ‘Though the island teemed with wildlife and good water ran there, nobody ever came. She had been forgotten about by all that ever knew of her, and like old ink on poor paper, as the years passed she faded out of sight and mind from the rest of the world.
The morning light spread across her, the dark lifting and receding like a veil being drawn away, when she saw him. He lay on the sand, half in and half out of the water. She looked and looked, it had been so very long ago, and she feared him to be dead, a corpse thrown at her by the spiteful sea.
But no, she could feel his heart beating through the sand, and although her powers ended at the waters edge, she drew him further and further up the beach until he was clear of the water. The sea hissed and spat in anger, but she knew the sea would soon forget. The sea has no memory, but she did.
17. Macnas - 4/8/2005 10:04:01 AM
He awoke much later, so hard to open his eyes sealed shut with dried salt from the water. Some palm fronds had fallen from the tall lithe trees that swayed above him, and he was covered over in a leafy blanket. Slowly he gets to his feet, stumbling, falling, his head ringing and his body aching.
A huge thirst roars inside him, as he makes his way up the beach to the forest edge. He hears the sweet teasing sound of fresh water running, somewhere ahead of him. He moves deeper into the forest.
Leaves rustle and quiver as she watches him come ashore, she feels his faltering footfalls, his hands as he grasps the branches to steady himself. As he finally reached the spring, alive and urgent with fresh water, she sees him drink and drink, then finally slumping down , slipping into sleep.
She protects him as he lays insensible on the forest floor. She warns away the wild pigs, as a huge boar, massive tusks and bright eyes, glares at him from the undergrowth. She chides the snakes as they move around him, attracted to his warmth.
He wakes up as the sun heats up the forest, and feeling alive once more, sets out to discover some of his surroundings. He walks for 2 hours before he realises he is on an island, and the rest of the frantic day tells him he is alone here. He falls to his knees and starts to cry, tears dropping onto the sand as he stares out at the sea.
18. Macnas - 4/8/2005 10:25:56 AM
She tastes each tear as it soaks though the sand, and she wishes she could tell him not to cry, that she will look after him, that he is not alone. Her tears fall as soft rain on the hilltop, as he stays on the beach all night.
Years go by, and with each passing year the man hates the island more and more. He chops down trees just to punish this lonely place, and kills animals whenever he sees them.
She bears his hatred patiently, still providing for his every want, never punishing him for his wilful cruelty, never loving him any less than she did since the day he came to her. The only true sorrow she feels is when, every evening, the man climbs to the hilltop and watches the horizon until the sae sips the sun under the waves.
19. Macnas - 4/8/2005 10:28:26 AM
Then, one day, as he watched the sea and sky, he caught a flash of silver as flying fish in the lagoon below leapt from the water to escape the dark murderous shape he could see hunting them under the water. He looked at the soft green forest that housed him, fed him. He went to the waters edge and knelt on the sand, feeling the days warmth soak into him. He sinks his hands into the soft sand and feels the grains fall away as he lifts them up. How often had he, when he was amongst others, dreamt of being here, in a place like this. What had he accomplished in his old life that compared to what he had done here?
Once again, he spent the night on the beach. She was unsure, she knew something was happening, she could feel him, feel his mind turning and turning, but what about she could not tell. Her worry and fear flashed as lightning across the hilltop, and her doubt and anger crashed as thunder.
But in the morning, she felt a peace in him that she had never felt before, and her heart was warmed again. His eye was firm now, his manner was easy and he walked the shore for the first time, for the pure pleasure of it. Here was his home, now and for always, how beautiful the island was, now he finally realised that he loved it, that this was his paradise and he was content here. He had no need to look for miles away mizzenmasts anymore, to take him away.
Her heart sang, her song of love was heard as birdsong welcomed the dawn. How she loved him, how happy they would be together.
20. Macnas - 4/8/2005 12:46:07 PM
You know, I know its a story for my daughter and all, but it looks awfully awkward after the smooth urbane tale from webfeet.
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