Sunday Ramblings: from Golf to Feminists

I follow the blog Persephone’s step Sisters and had just read fellow WordPress blogger and writer, Cynthia Gregory’s recent post. It was about the importance of good dialogues in stories, which is true. A lot of stories develop around good conversations. Good conversations often give us something to take home, even if you are just listening in. And they open up a vast collection of questions, issues, and stories giving insights to the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

The best inspirations for dialogues are of course, real-life conversations and an advice at the end of her post which said, “so, pay attention. Listen. Eavesdrop,” got me flexing the listening, eavesdropping ear muscles.

Putting this to practice, I listened in on dad’s conversation with his friends at dinner last night. At one point there were arguments of whether an early retirement is really a good thing. One of them, whom I will refer to as Uncle Jack, is of the view that an early retirement may not be all that awesome.

“What would you do? If you sat around, you would get bored, that is just welcoming the onset of dementia, and Alzheimer’s,” he said.

“As long as you keep yourself occupied, and exercise your mind you do not have to worry,” Dad replied.

“I will work until I am 92,” said Uncle Jack. Uncle Mark who believes in early retirement, and has in fact retired completely and is traveling the world frowned at the thought. “You want to work when you are 90?”

Dad remarked, “He does not really work, he plays golf.” This of course brought them all to laughter, and the subject of golf.

“I will,” said Uncle Jack backtracking amidst the talks of travels and golf, “and then retire at 93, and probably die at 99.”

Oh aren’t they a funny lot? Great planning Uncle Jack!

Speaking of planning, my mind floated to a different conversation. One of my favourite friends had quit her job a couple of years back to get her hands dirty baking good cakes, without being interrupted by office-hours. She bakes amazing cakes no doubt  (That Last Slice). Her life when I knew her looked like a life well-planned: get a new hobby, get married, turn hobby into a business, quit job, have a baby and all this before turning sweet 29 on Saturday. I am very proud of her I must say.

When her baby was born just before her birthday I said to her, “Twinnie, you are now three-steps ahead of me!”

“No need to hurry, you will catch up!” she said with a laugh.

Well, according to my mom and her friends, I do need to hurry. All the, “So when are you getting married?” and “how old are you now, What? Are you married? Do you have someone?” has yet to get to me, but it is there, in my face, all the time. I just smile while thinking, “look, I am a late-bloomer, and I row my boat at a very slow pace.” After all I am not one to win races, nor do I particularly enjoy being in them.

Naturally my mind wandered off to another conversation, with itself. “Who said we had to do certain things by certain times?” and “why do we all feel we have to achieve these things before we can call ourselves successful?” (I’m talking about the marriage and kids hoo-hah). Society sure has set certain rules – how do I play the ‘what makes a successful woman’ game and win?

I have heard many conversations between single girlfriends who seem to have answers to that question. In my head their answers sound something like this, “bla-bla-bla marry a rich man bla-bla-bla.”

You know, everyone thinks they are Liz Bennet but as you can see, every now and then it feels like there is a Lydia that secretly hides in their subconscious and jumps out to strike. No one shows-off their Lydias, but everyone wants to be Liz, right? Well honey, they say, Liz marries the rich man, as cool and ahead of her time as she was. Look, it is hard. She was brought up so aware of what her goal in life should be as a woman. Mrs.Bennet’s ghost still lurks behind every corner yoo-hoo-ing the minute you forget that your biological clock is ticking. And then when her finger wags you start thinking, oh shit where is that Mr.Darcy. Yes, it has to be Darcy. 21st century or not.

(Fellow blogger and writer Margaret Blaha had an interesting take on this in an entertaining satirical-fantasy piece on Austen’s women and the 21st century.)

Damn, Austen sure sets high standards and ruins it for us whose mouths open wide in surprise when men, in reality, are not like Darcy at all. Yup we twisted idealists sure fall crashing when reality hits. This crashing often leads WritersClubKL’s Mae and I to our, “guys suck!” conversations. But in one of those conversations dear Al kindly pointed out, “does this not make you both sort of feminists?”

“I am not a feminist!” said I. Yea ok, maybe. But I do not like being called that word. It suggests I am not the equal-ist I profess to be. But yes, it may well be a breed of feminism: to place women on pedestals, and allow them to cross their arms and go all judgmental saying, “men should be like this and should do that.” Dear expectations, when will you learn to get real?

Mae and I ascribe to the “I really am not a feminist, I think guys and girls are equal, but are made different, and so we all should play our own roles in society” school of thought.

Which brings us back to: What is the role of woman?

[Sidetrack: Wordpress comrade Imelda Evans shared a li’l something-something about ‘defining girly’.]

I do not have an answer to that question. But one of my favourite books (Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits) explores this topic between pages quite a bit. There is a particular conversation between Transito Soto and Esteban Trueba that expresses a keen observation about women in that society while putting forward a feminist ideal.  Here’s what she said:

“In that respect women are really thick. They’re the daughters of rigidity. They need a man to feel secure but they don’t realize that the one thing they should be afraid of is men. They don’t know how to run their lives. They have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of someone else. Whores are the worst, patrón, believe me. They throw their lives away working for some pimp, smile when he beats them, feel proud when he’s well dressed, with his gold teeth and rings on his fingers, and when he goes off and takes up with a woman half their age they forgive him everything because ‘he’s a man.’ No, sir, I’m not like that. No one’s ever supported me and that’s why you’ll never find me supporting someone else.”

See where conversations and dialogues take us? A long way from where we began! And I have gone on long enough so I will leave you to your thoughts and ponderings.

Do share your thoughts with me below…

Happy Sunday and to a great week of awesome conversations ahead!

p.s. Quick update: Ali's book will hopefully be out by 2nd week of June. The Red Beanbag has graciously offered for us to use their   space one Thursday a month for Readings. And Mollydookers have offer-ed to host Ali's book launch, when the book is out.