Should have known better

Weddings in May
Sisters beckoning to cows. Small-town NC, May 2015.

We had two weddings in two states this past weekend, and they were both beautiful and fun (one wedding for beloved friends, one wedding for family). People are so generous at weddings; I am floored by the multiple kindnesses. At our friends’ wedding, I was especially so impressed by my dear friend, the compassionate bride, and how concerned she was with everyone else’s well-being throughout the day. She was beautiful and happy but thinking of everyone else’s happiness and comfort.

I thought our wedding was ideal, but I would have done things so differently if I had gotten married today. We will celebrate our five-year anniversary at the end of this month, and I smile when I think about what a different day we might have had if we had married now. We had a very small budget, and we truthfully invited way too many people. I would have cut the guest list in half (maybe even have whittled it down to a third); I would have not done a bouquet toss, which is so absurdly insulting; I would have had a ton of wine; I would have had a lot more lovely wedding paper and designed the invitations myself. But everything else about the actual day was really perfect. We were speechlessly happy.

Saul Bellow had a character say or imply somewhere in Mr. Sammler’s Planet that intelligent women were almost always angry because they were paying attention to the world. This has stuck with me since then (particularly as the sentiment is coming from a notable misogynist), and maybe I’ll mull it over for a longer post sometime. I think it is mostly true. I’d rather not live in a perpetual state of anger and frustration, but when I think of the smartest women I know, I would not use words like “blissful,” “complacent,” or “cheerful” to describe them. (I think the same can be said of smart people in general, regardless of gender.) Frustration, ire, sarcasm, and skepticism seem to me to be the hallmarks of an intelligent woman. The intelligent woman is paying attention to what is going on in society at large and therefore has a reason to feel angry. (Insert semi-related point here about my perpetual state of befuddlement that women can and do vote Republican.)

I’m not sure what the conclusion of this thought is, except how can intelligent women channel their anger in useful, publicly productive ways? Writing, for one. Protesting, for another. Starting organizations. Helping others. Speaking up and speaking out. Serving as an advocate for the less fortunate.

In this way, all of the anger that is generated by women who are paying attention may yield fruit (and perhaps some powerful social change). That is something to hope for.

Whenever I settle in and start deeply and intently cleaning the house, one of the first thoughts that floats to the surface of my mind is, Maybe the dogs will suddenly die. Then I won’t have to deal with this horrible mud and endless quantities of fur and dust and slime and drool… if the dogs were dead, I could have nice things… yes, yes, maybe the dogs will inexplicably die. It sounds so horrible to write it here, but I can guarantee you that I will think this as soon as I start dusting, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing again. I fantasize about not having them around. The thing is, though, that if I didn’t have the dogs, the only thing that I would be able to think about would be how much I needed dogs. This is all just to say I love those little monsters. Just when I’m not cleaning up after them.

Below, my sisters, two of the most intelligent women I know. They are more compassionate human beings than I am, and they have found very socially useful channels for their awareness/anger. Brava, G. and K.; proud to be related to you.

10 May 2015
The trials of having beautiful sisters.
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5 thoughts on “Should have known better

  1. Abby, You are absolutely a fortunate person to be blessed with your wonderful siblings..
    Me.., I have one hideous and disgusting sister that I don’t need to complain much about… Cheers!

  2. I love the part you wrote about “The intelligent woman is paying attention to what is going on in society at large and therefore has a reason to feel angry.” can never be more correct, and funny in some aspects. Love your writings, I would spend time reading yours more. Best regards – Pearlie –

  3. On dogs dying and clean houses:

    The last few weeks of Freya’s and Lasya’s lives were a series of messes running into each other as they both suffered neurologic decline – Lasya had been fading over the past two years and Freya’s was sudden onset – from seemingly fine to hind-end-paralyzed overnight. They were separated on two sides of the house and Freya’s side was a patchwork of old towels and blankets donated by my friends, dog beds and puppy pads. I had to get her up and in and out with a sling and even if she made it outside there was a great deal of clean-up involved. I didn’t know how I could live like that for long and the way things turned out, I didn’t. After they were both gone I went on a wild cleaning frenzy. I threw away soiled beds, I swept and vacuumed gobs of double coat. I reveled in my clean house and thought maybe I wouldn’t have a dog again, not anytime soon. And then the silence set in. I missed the click of toenails and the heavy breath of dog sleep. I missed a solid dog skull under my hand. I adopted Ruby one week later. I would do it all again with Freya and Lasya – I would do it better. Somehow their legacy has been an excess of love and care for the ginger generation. I’ve learned so much and I know firsthand the full price of life shared with dogs. It is absolutely worth it. (and I know you know this, your beautiful honesty just sparked my own confessional)

    1. Thanks for sharing, Lara; you write so poignantly. I am sure I would do the exact same thing (cleaning craze and then start to feel very sad because there were no dogs around).

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