Despite how clunky the twenty-six year old film Go Fish is, I found myself watching the entire thing again yesterday. Why? In part because of the scene about 42 minutes into the film where the writer character, Max, considers how her life would be if she wound up marrying some nice man and raising kids in the burbs. The character concludes the scene saying, "I'm not waiting for a man. But I get this eerie feeling that a man's waiting for me."
The last time I felt the urge to see this scene again was when I was quitting academia. In fact, I used to own the DVD of the movie, but I left it in my work laptop and when I quit that laptop was in my office several states away. I didn't bother to ask for the DVD.
I don't remember what made me want to see that scene again back in 2017, but it might have been the book I'm (still) working on. As I fill out different worksheets today for that novel, I realize that even though it's an ensemble novel that all four of the women are facing the same crisis--how to identify when the core things they used as identifiers--their partners, kids, jobs--are removed, who are they? How will they exist without those identifiers?
All of these characters are alternate versions of me, of course. I don't suppose I could or would write them if they weren't.
Back in 2017, I was wondering about how I was going to identify after leaving academia. And, I will say that my sense of self has taken some punches. I still subscribe to Higher Ed Jobs and look at the trickle of positions that hit my in-box. I know I'm not going to apply for anything, but I still read those emails. I still click on the link and look at the qualifications. I do this less often now than in 2018, for sure, but I still look.
And, that scene is so meaningful to me now as I think about who I would have become had I not left the life I was trying to make myself fit into when I was a twenty-something.
My first viewing of Go Fish was probably back in 1999 on IFC. I know the year couldn't have been any earlier than that, as I have a clear memory of staying up really late to watch it in my little rental house in Auburn, Alabama shortly after I moved in. It very well might have been something they were doing for Pride Month, as I remember Go Fish, The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, and Beautiful Thing all playing back-to-back. I couldn't turn off the TV and go to bed. I stayed up and watched them all.
That scene with the wedding dress stuck with me because what Max West was describing as a choice she could make was a choice I had made. And it was a damaging and dangerous one for me. And, likely it would have been so even if the man I married was a perfectly nice one (which he wasn't).
For the most part, the men in the WIP are okay guys. A couple of them are assholes, but nothing too traumatic or serious.
A book recommendation:
Today, as I walked the dogs and listened to Rachel Caine's new book Bitter Falls, I realized the ways in which so many characters wind up reflecting on the lives their other selves lived. Gwen Proctor (formerly Gina Royal, the unaware wife of a serial killer) and her kids have a whole new existence by book four in the series, but the reminders of their past lives keep coming back to haunt them and cause them to doubt their current path, even though it's a good one.
The WIP doesn't have serial killers in it or that level of trauma, for sure, but it does have characters who question themselves and who let their past mistakes and trauma lead to self-doubt.
Also, this novel is an ensemble novel--the chapters have headings for the character POV and they are all in first person. The WIP is currently third person omniscient.
The whole series is good, but book four is really awesome. If you're in Kindle Unlimited you can read and listen with your subscription. (Don't you hate how we always say "for free"? KU is not really FREE, but it can be a good bargain).
Note: I ask myself: Had I not become who I am now, would I still be alive?
I mean this in a variety of ways. The person I was married to in the early 1990s had the potential to be physically abusive--while he never actually hit me, he did put his fist through one of those all-one-piece-molded lawn chairs once. And I know he had the capacity to violence.
Emotional and psychological abuse, yes. And as I get older the more I realize the extent of that abuse. One of our mutual friends told me years ago, in horror, that my ex said he should have just gotten me pregnant. That would have solved the "problem."
I have never wanted children and have never been pregnant. For that to have happened would have been the result of flat out assault.
That relationship, sadly, was not the first (or last) bad relationship I had. And some of those relationships did include physical harm.
There's a reason why I'm not in contact with most of my past relationship partners.