I apparently can’t write about them as fast I can read them. I read the next 3 short stories in a day; this blog is 3 days older.
Remember in the last post I told you about the chick who married a guy in less than two weeks? Well this next short story is just as effed up. It’s called Man and Wife, and it’s by some lady named Katie Chase. Setting… *clears throat*… in a modern day society where girls are married off. Plot… *clears throat*… about a girl who is married off at 9 years old.
I could not get over the shock when I read this. Especially when I find out that the man to marry her met her once.. and is like a bazillion times older than her. Erkay. I’m done.
But I can’t be.. I started to think… what if girls were still married off? What if I was married off? Oh. My. Gawd. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. The idea upsets me, of course. As a gay woman, I would NOT want to be forced to marry someone I would not be attracted to.
But… this girl, Mary… she was 9, pre-pubescent age. So she obviously did not know yet what it was like to be attracted to anyone.. nor did she love someone she met once. Therefore, she can totally relate. I mean… she tried running off on her wedding day.
There is hope for Mary, however. Mr. Middleton is seemingly a decent fellow, and indeed proves to be one. In a society where you have no choice in whom you marry, Mary got super lucky. Mr. Middleton adores Mary’s brilliance, and acknowledges she is a child and does not expect any sexual favors. When she gets older, she is his apprentice to his successful business. In fact, when he dies, he’s leaving it to her. I wish I knew someone who even had something to give me… but alas, I only know the property- and business-less.
Now THIS had me thinking… how people are so fickle now. They marry because they are infatuated with each other (like chick and creeper), and then it ends in too short a time. Now I think… marriage is a partnership. You need to marry someone you can build a life with.. because passion burns bright at first then dies. If you are with someone who has the same values and beliefs and goals.. well that may be the person to marry.
Unfortunately, this idea supports the phrase: “There are the women you sleep with; There are the women you date; And then there are the women you marry.”
In the end, however, Mary never learned to love Mr. Middleton. She was only fulfilling her duty, and waiting for Mr. Middleton’s end: “The benefits mature with time. I’ve begun to appreciate just how much work parents invest in their children, and wives in their husbands; it’s only fair for the investor to become a beneficiary.”
So, what have I learned from this short story? Well, that marriage is a partnership. But I also learned that I am ever so grateful I live in a society where I choose whom I marry…
In the next short story, Virgins, by Danielle Evans, a group of teenagers have a little more freedom than they should..
so basically what happens is this girl spends a night in The City, and I clearly mean NYC 😉 She’s following her friend from a club to a party. Her friend is upset because she lost her virginity to some loser. So now she’s acting like a slut.. that makes total sense.. flirting with guys she doesn’t know and sitting in their laps and following them into a car and back to their apartment. I have no idea why Erica is following her around. Jasmine is selfishly self-destructive. Anyways… Erica leaves eventually, and ends up at her other friend’s place (name is Michael). There, Erica follows the motions and has sex with Michael’s brother.
I think the best quote that describes Erica’s situation is “I didn’t know that, but I did understand then that there was no such thing as safe, only safer, that this, if it didn’t happen now, would happen later but not better.” It’s a shame I think, that Erica doesn’t feel safe around men. No young girl should feel that way… but I s’pose it’s a way of thinking that will help you survive in this world.
There is one similarity between this story and the previous one. Both Erica and Mary settled. Both did so because of society. I see a lot of hate for feminism.. i.e. hate against pride for being a woman and the demand of equal respect and equal rights. However, both these are about the struggle of being a woman, and how these girls feel as though they cannot obtain their rights and do not deserve respect. If it weren’t for the feminists, more girls would grow up like Erica… and we would still be in a world where all cultures are as in Man and Wife.
I guess we could see it the other way.. these girls learned the limits, and took control of their lives within those limits. Erica chose the situation in which to lose her virginity, and Mary decided to stay and marry Mr. Middleton and be the duty-bound wife who gets a “inheritance.” Neither situation is as loud as some feminists may be.. but displays the power of the girls.
You can choose how you’d like to interpret the stories 😉 After all, interpretation of literature is subjective.
We do have a break! The last story I’m covering, Closely Held, by Allegra Goodman, is not about a girl. It’s about a man. I really really like this guy..
“Orion loved to tinker. He was a puzzle solver.”
“Orion hadn’t set out to be wealthy.”
” ‘I’ve studied our code. I don’t give a shit about the marketplace.’ ”
“He forgot the one thing Molly wanted.”
Orion is a simple man, with simple needs and desires. His security software company takes off, and he soon finds himself in a Fortune 500 company. But he doesn’t want the wealth or the fame. Orion just wants to get lost in his code. My favorite scene is when he’s working on code all night long, and when he find the bug he’s been looking for he is super excited. And goes out with a coworker to enjoy the sunrise. Orion loves how his life began.. and hates what his life has become: friends are money-hungry, girlfriend is never around, and his work is not about work but about making product as quickly as possible (however flawed).
I like Orion because he has a passion for programming, and he doesn’t care about the money he’s making.
I think all these short stories are worth checking out! If you haven’t read them, you definitely should. There’s a reason why they were chosen for Best American Short Stories 2008.