Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: on having both things

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

on having both things

I hadn't realized it. I thought that I had read enough cultural theory to give up the polarized thinking and structures that are built into how we approach the world.

These days realizations happen like so many wine glasses slipping through my fingers into the sink.

I spent the morning trying to unpack the disappointment I've felt lately in the men I encounter. Having this overriding disappointment in some ways is ensuring that I can place myself in a position of superiority. Not very generous. I kept thinking how I'm disappointed when men find me attractive, and that I'm disappointed when men tell me I'm smart or (recently) "brilliant." It makes me feel as though they're constructing me, not really looking at me, polarizing me.

When I started graduate school, my mother's mother sent me a photograph of her great aunt, who was one of the first women to earn a graduate degree from Cornell. My great, great aunt earned her Masters in Classics. My grandmother told me in the note that she remembered conversing as a girl in Latin with her great aunt, the spinster.

My mother's mother didn't have a job outside of the home to which she bore twelve children. She told my mother that she had wanted to be a nun before she got married. Polarization.

This is my familial legacy: women who raise families, spinsters who engage their intellect. Of course, on a conscious level, I recognize that this is extreme and that there are a thousand-some degrees of compromise, but I wonder to what extent my disappointment takes its root in fear. Am I still scared of having to give things up?

Did that refrain of my grandmother's—you're too smart for your own good—sink in?

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