Monday, February 2, 2009


I love my library.  Not my own personal library, but the one down the street: the biggest lending library in the city of Toronto.  Six floors of booky goodness, all free for the taking.

Every once in a while I like to stop in and browse randomly through the shelves, picking up books that I wouldn't give the time of day in a bookstore.  A book on the history of clocks, copyright 1963.  Magazines about the science of agriculture.  Random volumes of poetry.  I get absorbed in the most unlikely subjects.  

I picked up a volume called "Dropped Threads", a collection of essays by women writers.  The common theme was Things In Life that they had Not Been Adequately Prepared For by school or their upbringing.  One woman wrote eloquently of being awake at 4:30 in the morning, not knowing how much longer she would have to spend with her husband, who had been slowly, incrementally dying of (living with?) kidney failure for the past ten years.  How could anything prepare you for that?

Some of the essays fell completely flat.  I read the first few paragraphs, then skimmed the rest.  One woman wrote about her hips, how they budded as the first sign of her womanhood; how she struggled with the aesthetics of having big hips; how she fell and broke her hip and how this symbolic brokenness went down through all the other layers of symbolic hip-related feminine blah blah blah and for Pete's sake - who cares?  

I don't mean to be cruel to women who struggle with their hips.  It wasn't the content that bugged me, it was the tone.  A very adolescent angst-y, melodramatic, overreaching-with-all-the-heavily-interlaced-symbolism tone.  Trying way too hard to make more of the story than there was.  

It was what it was.  If that wasn't enough, don't bother writing about it.

I did enjoy the essays that told genuine, enlightening stories of events that women had been unprepared for in their lives.   Like the woman writing at the age of 36 (my age) of her two abortions.  She had one when she was 23 and one at 29.  She hadn't been sure about the second one, but went ahead because she was frightened of being a single mother.  As she wrote, she was still single, and feared she might have missed her chances to experience motherhood.  What can you even say about that?

I believe the thing I was least adequately prepared for in a specific way in my life was one particular aspect of menstruation.  I assumed each period only lasted one day.  I don't know where I got the idea, but advertising wasn't as explicit back then as it is now.  There was no talk of light days and heavy days and overnight pads.  No one, not even the sex ed teacher, mentioned duration, so I imagine that it started when you woke up in the morning and was done by bedtime.

Wouldn't that be nice?

What were you least prepared for in your life?  Option a) answer in the comments.  Option b) this is the topic for your next blog post.


Logan said...

Well, there was this one time, when I was reading a blog... something about a library ... and the blogger makes the leap to writing about Aunt Flow. Whoa. I was _not_ prepared for that. Haven't had to think about that for many years.
I need a shower.

Karen said...

I was least prepared for going on and living after my mom died. She was sick for nearly a year and I watched her get sicker and sicker and eventually pass. I heard the doctors say that treatment wasn't working and it was only a matter of time. Logically I was prepared.

Emotionally was another story. Years later, I am still not ok. I still don't really know how to do it.

Sorry for being a downer.

Anonymous said...

I was least prepared for how to handle my feelings towards the opposite sex.

LL Cool Joe said...

Really interesting question. I'm not sure I was prepared for anything in my life. But the thing that I was least prepared for was falling in love with someone on-line (we didn't even talk on the phone). I never thought it could happen, don't know where the hell the feelings came from and was totally in too deep. Took everything I had to do the "right thing" and get out of it. Lost 20lbs in the process, and took me over a year to get over it.

What was even worse is, that the other person had no idea I felt this way about them, and obviously didn't give a damn about me!

Now, I think that makes me a right sado, but hell I have a big heart. What can I say?

Keera Ann Fox said...

Housework. Still challenges me. See, everything else - death, love, arguments, pain, etc. - passes and varies in intensity with time, and there are songs on the radio about those matters, but housework never passes and no one sings about it, so it feels a bit lonely.

It wasn't until I had passed 40 that I started to try to learn how to keep house, how to create a home for myself, how to value my family and household of one, and give myself a haven to come home to. It has been and is a good challenge.

Claire said...

Just plain being a grown up! I don't think I'll ever get the hang of it properly...


Kate said...

Losing my fiance. No one can prepare you for that.

Aurora said...

I've been waking up at 4.30 in the morning recently a lot. I wonder if it is a phase women go through.
Glad you are enjoying the library :)

Aurora said...

Oh sorry! What was I least prepared for in life. Teaching, without a doubt. I was 20 and without a care in the world... ok, blog post coming right up.

Anonymous said...

Improv comedy class.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I feel unprepared for life.

Sparkling Red said...

Logan: Ah, the joys of being male. You get to go for years without a single thought of menstruation. Count yourself lucky!

Karen: I appreciate your honesty. I'm sure none of us are ever truly prepared for such a loss.

WIGSF: Yeah, they don't teach that in sex ed class either.

LL Cool Joe: Wow, what a painful ordeal. The fact that you lost 20 lbs trying to get over the loss speaks volumes. The human heart is frighteningly powerful.

Keera: Oh gosh, yes! The inevitability of neverending housework. It's lovely that you have created a cozy home for yourself. Some of my favourite posts of yours have been descriptions of how you will celebrate a special moment by yourself, without loneliness, enjoying the space of your solitude.

Claire: I can relate to that. It's kind of a "fake it 'till you make it" situation, but will we ever really make it?

Kate: I can't imagine losing my husband. Sometimes I try, but it's impossible. I'd be completely unprepared.

Aurora: Really? You've been through so much, I'm surprised you picked teaching.

Unsigned: Well, that's appropriate!

Ron: I hear you. :-)