Today I tried to open corrupted text from old 1997 Word files, hoping their content could be reclaimed and would inspire me, that I might tap into something I had then that I fear I’ve lost now, a foothold on universal truth. I re-read an essay I’d written about Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, feeling an immediate connection to Nora Helmer, a doll-like wife and daughter who allowed her father, then husband, to pull her strings. But blogging about it felt familiar, like discovering a muddy path marked with my own footsteps. I squinted and thought, I’ve blogged about this before. A quick search through this Greek Tragedy blog and sure enough, I re-read Pulling Strings, written in first person. You could easily mistake her life for mine, as I tell it, an ode to what Nora might’ve felt had she lived today.
I opened the next Word ’97 file and re-read a poem I’d penned about Galatea, certain I’d already blogged about it, but unsure of exactly how. What exactly had I written? A fight song, as it turns out. I must’ve had Avril Lavigne blaring when I’d penned it. An “I’m done with this shit” clit-rock favorite, all about how fed up Galatea is with Pygmalion. FYI: Pygmalion is mentioned in Ovid’s poem Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he’d carved, Galatea.
Then, only now actually, did I realize the very real theme that lives in Galatea and the character of Nora Helmer: the fight for self-worth and independence. What a very real theme that’s whispered in and out of my life for so many years, seesawing between compromise and authenticity. Compromise used to feel like the gradual unspooling of my authenticity. My fear of yielding and losing myself to a strong, willful, and very convincing man (Phil, Phil, and Phil) unraveled the fibers of my being. Today, I’d like to believe that compromise is maturity. It’s being confident enough in who you are to know that any compromise you make doesn’t hold the power to compromise who you are.
I’d like to believe it because, damn, that sounds strong. But aren’t we the sum of our choices? Yes, but more to the point, it’s all about framing. How you frame (read: rationalize) your choices, is ultimately how you leave feeling about them. Resentful or restful?
When you compromise, I now try to insist, you’re mature enough to make the choice to give. That, or you’ve conceded so many times, that now, you can’t tell the difference between choice and habit. Or maybe you’ve just learned how to let go of the smaller stuff, to live a life with lint and dog hair on your clothes.
After Galatea and Nora, I re-read old psychology lab reports, and copy-pasted the phrase, “naive as to the purpose of the experiment” into a side document I keep for phrases or ideas that pique my interest. I like the cold formality of the phrase, and I’m fascinated by the polarity of “naive” and “experiment,” but mostly it makes me think of an entire world that can live behind that headline.
NAIVE AS TO THE PURPOSE OF THE EXPERIMENT
I expand its form and can’t help but think of the cliched, “I was just some bet?” Bet= Hypothesis. “I was just another one of your stupid experiments!”
She’s All That
My Fair Lady
Can’t Buy Me Love
They pretty much all have elements of a Pygmalion Plot. Not only was someone trying to change our protagonist, but usually our hero was amenable to the change… until they weren’t. Then, what follows is a neat, fulfilling resolution: the true findings of the experiment (in Romantic Comedy, it’s true love). The big revelation, the a-ha moment, results in a transformation of one of the main characters followed by a period of atonement and a satisfying, if not completely happy, ending. I haven’t figured out my a-ha moment yet, but I’m workin’ on it. And you know what helps? A kickass anthem…
How much am I loving this Sara Bareilles song from the new musical Waitress (based on the movie)? Repeat, repeat, repeat. I don’t love this video at all and think the song is much more powerful when you listen to it WITHOUT watching the video.