I’ve been drowning in a desert world painted burnt-umber from the drought. I’ve been drowning in a world without water, in which our well gave up its ghost and cried nevermore! I’ve been drowning in a world without hope.
One hot day last week, I set aside my distress and lunched with a friend I made in college (which actually turned out to be two friends by the end), and laughing with these people filled me with hope. And then I latched onto an idea. My dear friend is currently writing her PhD thesis on Mary Wollstencraft. This might have filled me with utter frustration, due to my longing for grad school. But, instead, I decided that a scholar doesn’t have to go to school, where there happen to be many like-minded people (sob, sob). A scholar can conduct research on her own, and write her own thesis for her own strange purposes that nobody will understand but herself. So I’ve decided to write something supremely meaningful and important on the life of James Boswell.
Suddenly, I have a reason for living. Yes, I know, that sounds dramatic. For me, however, it’s true. And knowing that my Wollstencraft friend (I’ll call her Maria Wollstencraft because her name is Maria, and well, that was obvious!) is now living only an hour a way gives me the strength I used to have–in those days.
In those days! M.W. tantalized me with a portion of her thesis, and on the first page she reminded me of the 18th C male response to intellectual women, in the form of Richard Polwhele’s poem The Unsex’d Females . . . which further reminded me of those gender analyzers, made up of algorithms that determine, by word choice, the sex of an author. Algorithms are, in general, fun. But this one is sexist. Why is it that my nonfiction articles and essays always rate me a man–by about 90%? Is the language of logic and reason masculine? Is it? Why is it that my fiction rates me undeterminable–that is, it drops me to 50%, so I’m no longer strongly a male or a female? What would happen if I wrote romance? Would I suddenly transform myself into the woman I already happen to be?
For the sake of argument, I threw in a section of a WIP which uses the POV of a teenage girl who is somewhat awed by a boy she’s met. Yes, that’s right–you guessed it. I’m suddenly a female author. I get it now. Females only write about feelings and romance and . . .! Thinking hasn’t changed much since the 18th C. That’s why I get along great with James Boswell, who was an intellectual male with a big libido. Sigh.
But at least I’m no longer drowning in a dead world made up of burnt-umber, thanks to my female intellectual friend, Maria!