Chicago and Aloneness

A few weekends ago, thanks to the immense generosity of a friend, I flew to Chicago. I was there for two reasons: to visit my generous friend, and to visit the boyfriend, who was passing through the city with work. Of course, seeing the two of them was the best part of the trip. But there was another part that I found profoundly enjoyable.

One day, while Ben was at work, I took an Uber from the hotel to the nearby train station, bought myself a one-day pass, and figured out how to get downtown. To be fair, it was a pretty straight shot, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. After wasting some time and no money in Sephora, I walked to Michigan Avenue. I ducked out of the cold and the misty rain into the lobby of a building, and rode its elevator to the American Writers Museum.

The American Writers Museum takes up the second floor of the building where it is housed, and it is delightful. Though the merchandise is at the entrance, it is shunted off to the corners on either side of the sales/information desk. I found that refreshing, because it showed that making money is not the primary reason for the institution. So many museums have huge gift shops, and I cannot blame them for this, as most museums and galleries are not-for-profit institutions and run on donations. But the fact that that wasn’t pushed down the throat of the visitor at the American Writers Museum was refreshing.

The American Writers Museum is every bit as delightful as any writer or aspiring writer could desire. The museum exhibits are arranged around the perimeter of the floor of the building, with the visitor arriving at the entrance upon completion of the circuit. There is a room decorated in the art of classic American children’s books, including The Wizard of Oz, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and Charlotte’s Web. The museum then moves to a timeline of great American authors. There is a room with books and chairs with informative plaques on the walls, which leads into my favorite room of all: the room full of typewriters. That exhibit allows for the visitor to load some paper into any of the typewriters and type and write away, which I did, for about half an hour, probably to the chagrin of my fellow visitors.

The pleasantest part of my visit to downtown Chicago and the American Writers Museum was the fact of my aloneness. I answered to no one, and no one answered to me. There is a responsibility that companions have to one another, whether they want to or not. Though no one wants to admit they sway the way another moves through space and time, they do, intentionally or unintentionally. If I had been to the museum with Ben or my friend, I would have felt an obligation to them – to keep up, to examine what they examined, perhaps to rush – through no fault or design of their own. They would have felt the same obligation to me, though I would ardently desire them not to be affected by my presence at all. But it was lovely to soak in what I wanted to, to rush past what did not interest me (though this did not really happen in this instance), and to have a long and rich conversation with myself completely in my head, and choose whether or not to talk to someone else. I spent most of my visit in silence, and it was delicious not to make noise for such a long stretch.

If you’re wondering, I cannot recommend the American Writers Museum enough. I recommend it for everyone, but for writers especially. What I left with was two things: a keychain (hey, I loved my visit and wanted a memento, okay), and a renewed desire to write. Not necessarily to write my masterpiece, but to write and practice so that one day, the masterpiece might be written. I’d like to be in some museum someday, I think. And the way to get there is practice.

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It’s Been Awhile

Hello.

As I am currently in one in-person class and two online classes, I’ve been a little busy. Then again, everyone is busy. I’ll be doing the whole three-class thing again in the second summer session, so I won’t really have free time until mid/late July. Please bear with me!

The biggest benefit of my taking three classes in five weeks is that I’m reading. I’m reading a lot for classes, obviously, but more importantly, reading for these classes has brought me to a place where reading is all I want to do, and is what I spend most of my scant free time doing. It’s been fantastic; now I’ve been reading, reading, reading for weeks, all I want to do is write. I can feel the creative urge beginning to stir within my heart and mind. My to-be-read stack is ridiculously tall, but I’ll get to it. I’m steadily moving through books. I don’t devour them in a matter of hours anymore like I did my entire childhood, but I am consistent with how much and how often I read, and I still read in large chunks at a time.

I’m currently reading (for fun) You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. My classes are Representing Women, which so far has largely been about female representation in and creation of art, Major American Authors Colonial-Romantic, and Contemporary Rhetoric, so you can see how I am doing a lot of reading. The class I enjoy the most so far is Major American Authors.

So, I’ll keep plugging away and working my butt off. I’ll try to update here.

 

Four Favorite Children’s Books

DISCLAIMER: Though these books all feature strong female protagonists, this list has not been assigned a title that excludes any gender. It is important for true feminism that all genders see many different types of people in positions of strength, whether those positions follow traditional gender roles or not.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle

An excellent introduction to science fiction, this book is engaging, chilling, and enlightening. This book is important not only for this reason, but also because it stresses Meg’s worthiness, despite her lack of conventional beauty and traditional academic success. It showed how her intelligence was in other areas, and just as valid as any other type of intelligence. This book forces the child to think while it never lets them go until the last page.

2. Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

(DISCLAIMER: Judge not this book by its movie, despite Anne Hathaway’s talent.) I’m a sucker for any iteration of the “Cinderella” story. Ella, though, is not the traditional Cinderella. Inflicted with a curse from birth that forces her to be obedient, Ella Enchanted offers an explanation besides traditional societal roles for her remaining with her abusive family. Ella disobeys to the best of her ability, and she is brave and charming and considerate. The book is full of adventure. A great read for girls and boys alike.

3. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

Anne is the funny, lovable, imaginative protagonist of these books (yes, it’s a series – eight books long). Her imagination inspires the imagination of the reader. The descriptions of Prince Edward Island are utterly beautiful. A delight.

4. The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

I need not tell you why this book is important. Though this book is for the middle-school age reader and older, it is an essential read. Anne is wise beyond her years, even as she goes through typical and universal adolescent struggles. This book shows the resilience of the human spirit and keeps alive the legacy of one of the best writers of the twentieth century, who was struck down in an untimely manner, and torturously and inhumanely.

Snow White and the Tomboy Phase

Like many girls, I went through a phase where I rejected anything “girly.” For me, it happened from about ages eight-twelve. During this time, I refused to wear anything that wasn’t pants, and forget about getting me to consider the color pink (though I’ve never been a huge fan). In my mind, “girly” was inferior. By being a “tomboy” I was superior to those “girly girls.” I didn’t know what my justification for this was at the time, but I’m sure it was an internalization of the patriarchal belief that anything traditionally feminine is inferior. And I believed it! I promoted it! (Not that I had much influence, being a child, but still.)

Of course there are traditionally feminine attributes that can tend to promote “female inferiority,” such as submission and acquiescence. Though these things can be useful in certain situations, being in a constant state of total submission and acquiescence can certainly lead women to be overlooked and pushed over.

However, there are many “feminine” qualities that, while not overtly representative of strength, do, in fact, show an incredible strength of character.

Take the Disney character, Princess Snow White. Firstly, let it be mentioned that she is canonically fourteen in this movie, and so is not a fully grown and developed woman. However, she still shows tremendous strength of character.

Snow White has lost her father, either physically by his death, or emotionally through his marriage to her stepmother, the Evil Queen. She has also been reduced from her status as a princess to a scullery maid, the lowest rung on the ladder of servants. She is forced to dress in rags and spends her days doing chores, and is largely alone.

Despite this, Snow White is kind, trusting, sweet, pure, gentle, and industrious. Despite the abuse and degradation from her stepmother, the loss of her father, and her solitude, she retains her optimism and belief in the good of others. The animals of the forest see her purity and so are not afraid of her after their initial meeting. She is gentle and kind to them in return for their help.

She trusts the hunter who takes her to the meadow of flowers, despite knowing his role in the castle as a killer, and does not suspect him of any ill intent. Snow White trusts the forest animals to bring her to a safe place to stay. She trusts the old woman who gives her a poison apple that it will make her wish come true, despite the knowledge that the Evil Queen is looking for her in order to destroy her.

Snow White also has a strong sense of fairness and justice. When she comes upon the Dwarves’ cottage, the first thing she does is clean it. When the Dwarves agree to let her stay with them, she takes up the role of house mother to seven grown men. She cleans for them, cooks their meals, and makes them treats, while giving them affection and a little bit of sass.

Snow White went through a lot – abuse, loss, and degradation. Yet, despite this, she retained positive qualities, and did not let her circumstances affect her as a person nor her outlook on life. If this doesn’t show strength of character, what does?

Just because someone is traditionally feminine doesn’t mean they are not strong. It means they are strong in different ways. I think we all – men included – have things to learn from Walt’s “original three.”