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VIVIAN GORNICK
[WRITER]
Weknewwewerenotliberatedandwerenever
goingtobeliberated.Butweknewwhatliberation
was.Itwastofeelcenteredinyourself.Tofeelyou
weretheagentofyourlifeyouwerenotsittingby
thetelephonewaitingforsomethingtohappen.
Bornin1935intheBronxtoJewishleftwingers,Vivian
Gornickgrewuptornbetweenthesimplicityofradical
politicsandthecomplexityofliterature.Oneday,she
writesinher2008collectionofcriticalessays,TheMen
inMyLife,Itwasexcitingtosaytomyself,theonly
realityisthesystem.Thenext,IdpickupAnna
Karenina,andthesolerealityofthesystemwoulddoa
slowdissolve.
Overthecourseofherlongcareer,shehasmanagedto
captureinelevenbooksandcountlessessaysand
articlesboththegrandnessofpoliticalidealswiththe
complexitiesofinnerlife.AsareporterfortheVillage
Voiceinthe1970s,shechronicledthepoliticsofthe
feministmovementthroughherownconversiontothe
cause.Inheressays,shepushedherselftounderstand
howhercommitmenttothemovementhadchangedher
dailylife.Her1987accountofherrelationshipwithher
mother,FierceAttachments,broughtanalyticinsightto
bearonthestruggletoassertoneself.Readersofthe
contemporarymemoirboommayfindmanyofits
hallmarksbitingobservation,bareandcasualhonesty
drawnfromGornickswork.Recently,Gornickhas
turnedherattentiontotheradicalismofothers.Her
twobiographies,ofEmmaGoldmanandElizabeth
CadyStanton,bothaskaquestiontowhichshehas
turnedthroughoutherwork:whatdoesitmeantolive
alifeinformedbydifficultideas?
IvisitedGornicktwiceinherGreenwichVillage
apartment,whereshehaslivedforseveraldecades.
Catsloungedamongthebookshelves.Inconversation,
shewaschallenging(Ialwaysthoughttheinterview
wasalazyformofjournalism)andpunctuatedmany
ofherstatementswithasharp,aggressivelaugh.Her
facetightandclosedwhenshewasboredopened
withexcitementwhenshetoucheduponanideathat
grabbedher.Thefirsttimewemetsheworebrightblue
eyeshadowthesecond,babyblue.
MadeleineSchwartz
I. AN UNANSWERABLE QUESTION
THEBELIEVER:Iwantedtostartwithamomentyou
oftenreturntoinyourwriting:yourinvolvementinthe
feministmovement.Howdiditcomeabout?
VIVIANGORNICK:Iguesswhathappenedwas:itmust
havebeen1970.IwasntintheNewLeft,butIwasalive
andfeelingitsconsequences.AndsuddenlyIsawthe
samethingthateveryoneelsesaw.Iwenttoworkforthe
VillageVoice.Oneofthefirstassignments[thepaper]
gavemewastogooutandinvestigatetheseliberationist
chickswhoweregatheringonBleeckerStreet.SoIwent
outtoinvestigatetheseliberationistchicks,andIcame
backafeminist.
Weallsawsomethingslightlydifferent.ThethingIsaw
wasthatwehadbeenraisednottotakeourbrains
seriously.Thatwasthesinglesentenceinmyhead.Here
Iamfortyyearslater,andIdontthinkverymuch
differentlythanthat.[Laughs]Thatbecamethemother
lode:Wehadbeenraisednottotakeourbrains
seriously.Andfromthatallelsefollowed.Iwasneveran
activist,inthesensethatIdidntreallyjoinalotof
organizations.Iwasntoutinthestreets.ButwhatIdid
becomewasawriter.Myactivismwasinwriting.
BLVR:Didfeminismgiveyouanewlanguage?
VG:Feminismgavemeawaytoseemyselfinculture,in
society,inhistory,andthatwasveryimportant.Then
psychoanalysisshowedmethatImightbeneurotic
becauseIwasagirlbut,asChekhovmighthaveputit,I
alonehadtosqueezetheslaveoutofmyself,dropby
drop.SobetweenFreudandwomensrightstouse
thosetwobrilliantperspectiveswastogainavantage
pointfromwhich,asweusedtosay,Icouldseemyself
bothpersonallyandpolitically.Andyes,thatgaveme
language.
BLVR:Youwriteoftenabouttheclarityofinnerbeing
thatradicalsandartistsgainthroughtheirwork.Was
claritysomethingthatyougleanedfromfeminism?
VG:Whatfeminismdidwasmakeclearformehow
muchIlongedforclarity.Igotmarriedtwice,eachtime
inafog.IhadsomanycomplicatedfeelingsIcouldnt
understand.IhatedbeingMrs.fromthefirstsecond
eachtime.Ididntknowwhy.AllIknewwashow
uncomfortableitfelt.Ihatedbeingonehalfofacouple,
withoutunderstandingthatitwasntthehusbandorthe
manIhated,itwassituation,theidentity.Itwasjust:I
didntknowwhoIwas,sohowcouldIbeonehalfof
somethingelse?
Thats,Iguess,howIusethewordclarity.Whatisitall
about?WhatamIreallythinkingandfeeling?What
shouldIreallybethinkingandfeeling?Whatsgoodto
reallythinkandfeel?Thatswhatwritingisforme,as
Imsureitisforeverybodywhowrites.RobertFrostonce
saidthatapoemisastayagainstconfusion,andI
guessthatsaysitaboutaswellasanything.Whatyou
feelwhenyourewritingisthereliefofthinking:ifyou
writethesentencecorrectly,youreclarifying.Ifyou
writetherightsentence,nothingfeelsasgood.
BLVR:Whyisthatfeelingmoreimportantforsome
peoplethanforothers?
VG:HowcanIanswerthat?Thatsanunanswerable
question.Youcanseethatitis.Ioncewroteabookon
womeninscience.IrealizedwhenIwasinterviewing
themthattheyweretheequivalentofwriters,oranyone
elsewhotriestomakeartoutoflife.Throughscience
theyhadreachedtheexpressive.
Oneofmysubjectshadgrownupinthesuburbs.When
shewasalittlegirl,hermothertookherconstantlytoa
shoppingmall.Andyouknowhowaroundevery
shoppingmalltheresastripoflawn,withtrees,ona
curbaroundit?Shesaidthatwasthereinherchildhood.
Andshefoundherself,asshewasgoingthroughthe
door,wonderingwhythreeleavesturnthiswayandthe
oneturnedthatway.Andshefoundherselflongingtogo
themallsothatshecouldseethatagainandagainand
again.Shegrewupandbecameageneticist,andshesaid
nothinginherentirelifethrilledherasmuchasthe
momentwhenshethoughtsheunderstoodwhythree
leaveswereturningthiswayandoneleaftheotherway.
ThatstheequivalentofwhatIfeelasanimaginative
writer.
IwroteabookonEmmaGoldman,andshehadthesame
feelingaboutanarchism.Nothingthrilledherasmuchas
themomentwhenshesawradicalismasexpressive.
Everyonelongsforexpressiveness.Thatswhylovecarries
somuchweight.Becausesomanylivesarewithoutother
meansofexpressiveness.Soloveisathrillinthatsense.
Peoplefeeltransformedbyit.Theyrenot,buttheyfeelit
foramoment.
BLVR:Whatsthedifferencebetweenloveandthethrill

VG:Ofwriting?Orpolitics?Orresearch?Youknowwhat
thatis!Itlastsalotlonger![Laughs]Itsalotmore
reliable.Itwontgoonyou.Idontmeanthatcynically.
Thelifeofthesenses,eroticism,sexuallove,itjust
doesntIftwopeoplefallinloveonthatbasis,itjust
doesntseemtolast.Itsnotrichenoughtolast.People
whofallinlovewitheachothersmindandspirithavea
lotbettershotatitbutnot[peoplewhofallinlovewith]
thesenses.However,ifthesesensesareappliedto
somethinglikewriting,ormoralphilosophy,orscience
inotherwords,somethingthathasrealcontentyou
becomeaddictedtoit.Becausenothingfeelsasgood.
II. A DISTINCTION
BLVR:HowdoyoudistinguishtheVivianGornickin
yourworkfromtheVivianGornickhere,infrontofme?
VG:VivianGornickinactualityis(likeeveryoneelse)
messy,mercurial,changeableinconsistent.Alotof
peopledontrecognizemeinthefleshaftertheyveread
me,becausewhatIdoonthepageiscreateapersonaout
ofapartofmethatistellingastory.Thestoryis
everything.Forinstance,Imwritingabooknowakind
ofmeditationonmeandNewYorkCityandfriendship.
Thepersoninmewhoisgoingtointegrateallthose
concernsis,intheend,akindofessenceofthemewho
presentsherselftotheworldatlarge.Thedifference
betweenmeinmyworkandthemewhoishereinfront
ofyouisthatonthepageIcreateaconsistency,avoice
thatmustsoundreallyreliablewhereasinpersonIam
freeobviously!tosoundeverywhichway.
BLVR:Andthisconsistencyisdistinctfromtheperson
youare.
VG:IwroteFierceAttachmentsmanyyearsago,and
afteritwaspublishedIwasatadinnerpartyanda
womanactuallyaccusedmeofnotbeingthepersonshe
wasexpectingtomeet.ShethoughttheIinFierce
Attachmentswasgoingtohavedinnerwithher.Butthe
Iatdinnerwasalotbrasher,alotmore
confrontational,alotlessthoughtful,alotmorereckless
inhercertainties.Shethought,What!Whoareyou?
[Laughs]
Thatsthingaboutnonfictionwritingthatcameassuch
anastonishment.Infictionwriting,yourecreating
characterswhobearthebruntoftheworldyoucreate,
andtheyallargueanddramatizeeachother.Inmemoir,
youhaveonlyyourselftodramatizethewholething.And
thatshard,hardwork.Topulloutofyourselfsomething
thatresemblesbothconsistencyanddrama.People
think,Oh,itsjustme,Iknowme.Buttheresnothing
moreseriouslydifficultthanthefamiliar:totakecontrol
ofit,understandit,shapeit,makeitmeansomethingto
thedisinterestedreader.
BLVR:SometimeswhenItellastoryoverandover,I
forgetwhichistrue:thestoryItoldorwhatreally
happened.
VG:Iembellishstoriesallthetime.IdoitevenwhenIm
supposedlytellingtheunvarnishedtruth.Thingshappen,
andIrealizethatwhatactuallyhappensisonlypartlya
story,andIhavetomakethestory.SoIlie.Imean,
essentiallyotherswouldthinkImlying.Butyou
understand.Itsirresistibletotellthestory.AndIdont
oweanybodytheactuality.Whatistheactuality?Imean,
whosebusinessisit?
Ifellonthestreettenyearsago.Ifellrighthereon
SeventhAvenueonasubwaygratingandIreallyhurtmy
knee,andallthesepeoplegatheredaround.AndIwrote
astoryaboutwhathappened.ButactuallythestoryI
toldwasonlypartofwhathappened.[Laughs]I
thought,WhomdoIowe?TowhomdoIowethe
actuality?Iowethestory!
BLVR:Whataboutwritingaboutotherpeople?Youmay
needtomakesomeoneacharacter,butyoudontwantto
reducethemtosomethingtheyrenot.
VG:Youcantreduceanactualhumanbeingyourejust
writing!Yourenotdoinganythingtoanotherperson.
Theymayrecognizethemselvesinwhatyourewriting,
andthentheyhavetosay,Well,shedoesntseemeasI
seemyself.Look,allawriterhasisherownexperience,
andthatexperiencecomesoutofhumanrelationships.
ThatIdontagreewith,thatissomethingIvenever
subscribedto,thatImmakinguseofotherpeople.Imay
causesomeonetofeelbadly,notbecauseImdoing
somethingtothem,butbecausethewayinwhichIsee
mightcausepain.ButIamnotdoingthehurting.
WhenIwasayoungjournalist,workingattheVoice,I
didwriteastoryoncebasedonwell,whathappened
wasIranintoanoldcollegeschoolmate,amanwhomI
hadknownyearsbackatCityCollege.Heandanother
schoolmatehadmarried,veryyoung,upongraduation.
Andthen,youknow,weallsortofkepttrackofeach
other,andthenwelosttrackofeachother.SohereIwas,
tenyearslater,writingfortheVoice,andImonmyhigh
horseforradicalfeminism,andheandIsitdownand
haveacupofcoffeeandhetellsmeabouthismarriage.
Now,youknowwhatscoming.Theyhadthreechildren.
Shefellintoadeepdepression.
Andhestellingme,Idontknowwhatswrongwithher.
Shedoesntwanttogetoutofbedinthemorning.SoI
knewwhatwaswrongwithher!IgohomeandIwrite
thisup.Ijustbarelydisguisethem.Itoldtoomuchof
whatIjusttoldyounow.IchangedtheirnamesI
changedtheiroccupations.Butshereadit.Hecalledme
upaweeklater,afterthepapercameout,andhesaid,I
wantyoutoknow,shereadyourstoryandshecameinto
thekitchenandshesaidtome,Didyoutellherallthis?
AndIsaid,Noheliedandsaidno.Andshesaidto
him,IfIthoughtyouhadtoldherallthis,Iddivorce
you.
Sothatscaredtheshitoutofme,andItookalotmore
careafterthat,sothatthepeopleIwaswritingabout,as
ajournalist,wouldnotbeoffended.Now,Idontwrite
fictionbutIdowritenarrativeIwritememoirsthatI
treatlikestories,sowheneverImusingsomebodyI
actuallyknowasamodel,Iamsubmittingthemtothe
agendaofastoryteller,andIfeelfreetodowhatIwant.
Thesepeoplearenotgoingtobethemselvessomuchas
servesomethinginthestory.Theyservesomethingelsein
journalism,too,butnotasmuch.Itsatrickybusiness.
Youknowtheysaywritersselleverybodyout?Whatcan
youdo?Youknowonlythepeopleyouknow.
III. CRAFT, CRAFT, CRAFT; ITS A JOKE; ITS
REALLY A BAD JOKE.
BLVR:InTheSituationandtheStoryyouwrote,Thirty
yearsagopeoplewhothoughttheyhadastorytotellsat
downtowriteanovel.Todaytheysitdowntowritea
memoir.Canmemoirdosomethingthatfictioncannot?
VG:Thatseemstobethecase.Itseemsthatfictionno
longerproducesworkthatmakesonefeelthehuman
conditiondeeply.Idontknowwhethermemoirsdoordo
not.However,Idoknowthatmoreexcellentormore
penetratingormoreinterestingworkseemstobecoming
outofnonfiction.Forinstance,W.G.Sebald,inrecent
years,istheonlywriter,Ithink,intheWesternworld
whohasbeenseenandfeltasamajorliterarytalent
hesanonfictionwriter.Theycallhisbooksnovels,but
thatsbullshit,theyrenonfiction.Thisisan
extraordinarysensibilitylookingatthebleaknessofthe
world,andbeyond.Insteadofendinginrealism,hedoes
somethingamazing.Idontthinktheresanovelist
writingnowwhogivesreadersthatsamefeeling.When
youreadSebald,youfeellikeyoureinthepresenceofa
majorliterarysensibility.
BLVR:Whataccountsforthisprobleminfiction?
VG:Ithinkthatmodernismwentsofarinbringing
ordinarynarrationtoanend.Butthedesirefornarration
keepsonreassertingitself,sothatsincemodernismand
fictionbroughtnarrationtoanend,itissoughtin
memoirs.Idontreallyhaveatheory.Itsjustaquestion
oflookingatwhatis.Idontknowifmemoirscan
produceliteraryworkofthefirstorderIdont.ButIdo
knowthatnovelsaredoingitonlyrarely.
BLVR:Whenyoureadcontemporarynovels,manyof
themseemsoconservative.
VG:Itsawful!Familylife!Marriage!Love!Itsnotwhere
itis!Idontknowwhereitis,butIknowthisisnotit.I
knowitfrommyownresponsesandthoseof[others].I
dontthinkthatartingeneralisinagoodwayinthis
century,thishalfcentury.
BLVR:Afriendofmineoftensaysthatthepastdecade
wasthemostculturallyconservativeonesincethe1950s.
VG:Iagree.Certainlyinliteratureitwas.Idontknow
abouttheotherarts.Theresmoreandmoreexcellenceof
technique,andlessandlesssomepenetratingsenseof
thewaylifefeels.
BLVR:DoesthathavetodowiththeMFA,theemphasis
oncraft?
VG:IdontthinktheMFAprogramsarecausaltheyre
symptomatic.AlltheyearsthatItaughtinMFA
programsanditwasalotofyearsIcouldstillbe
teachingIhatedallthesecraftcourses.IthoughtI
woulddiefromthem.AndIwasalwayssayingtomy
students:Fuckcraft!Whatareyouwritingabout?What
isthisallabout?Craft,craft,craftitsajokeitsreallya
badjoke.Becausetheyallcomeoutthirtythousand
dollarsindebt,atleast,probablymore,thinkingabout
craft.
IV. IT ISNT OVER TILL ITS OVER.
BLVR:Youvewrittenanumberofreviewsofnovelsby
heterosexualmaleauthorsfromthemidcentury:James
Salter,RaymondCarver.
VG:SalterpoorSalter.Iamtheonlypersonwhohas
writtenthatkindofreviewofthisnewbookofhis,All
thatIs,writingasIdofromafeministperspective.The
restwerewrittenbyhisstandardadorers.Nevertheless,
thereviewreceivedagreatdealofattention.AsIwent
aboutmybusinessintheweeksfollowingitspublication
themostamazingnumberofpeoplewentoutoftheir
waytothankmeforit.EverywhereIwentsomeone
wouldfindhisorherwaytomeandsay,Gee,Ireally
appreciatedthatreview.Sowhatdoesthatmean?Here
Iam,theonewiththepoliticswhocanputherfingeron
thefaultlineinthissortofsentimentalHemingwayesque
writing,onlytodiscoverbynowwhatIseeiswhata
greatmanyothersalsosee,evenifIamstillinthe
minorityofthosewhocalltheshotsastheyseethem
ButwiththeSalterreviewIthought,Gee,Iman
organizeratlargeagain,remindingpeople,Itisntover
tillitsover.
BLVR:Wereyoutryingtolowerhisplaceinthecanon?
VG:Yes.Definitely.IsortoffeelforSalter.Idontthink
hesabadpersonoranything.Andithurtsme,because
heseightyseven.IfeelIshouldbemorerespectful.And
Icanseehemustbefullofanxiety.Hesaromantictype
whowouldbefullofanxietyinthisworldifhelethimself
thinkatallaboutwhatsbeenreallyhappening.This
bookissoIdontknowifyouvereaditso
outrageouslyretrograde.Itsjustunbelievable.
BLVR:Whatkindofhopeisthereforsomeonelike
Salter?
VG:Hope?Heseightysevenwhatkindofhopedoeshe
need?Forwhat?Forhimseeingtheworlddifferently?
BLVR:Yes.
VG:None.
BLVR:Doyouthinkthattheaimlessnessoffictionthese
dayshassomethingtodowithchangescausedbythe
feministmovement?
VG:Thatmayverywellbe.Thesearegenerationsof
transition.Youcantmakearealstrikeagainstawhole
cultureaswehaveandnothaveadverseeffects.Itslike
whatdotheycallitwhenyoutakeadrugthathelpsyou,
butithassideeffects?Thatswhatthisis.Itsaside
effect.Nodoubtitstruethatagreatdealoftheself
confidenceofmenhasbeenchippedaway,butallthese
youngmenwhowritetheseterriblydepressedbooks
aboutbeingthemselvesImsodepressedIturnonthe
emailsixtimesaday,ortentimesaday,orthatkindof
thingtheyreridiculous.Butitllchange.Itllchangein
yourlifetimeforsure.Butyoumayhavetolivetwenty
fiveyearsbefore[ithappens].Whenyourbuncharein
theirforties,orfifties,letshopeforsomethingbetter.Its
goingtobedifferent.Whoknows.
V. WE ARE ALL SUCH ANTAGONISTS.
BLVR:Itssohardtoknowwhattodowithromancein
writing.Ontheonehand,narrativesofromancereadas
sostiltednow.Butloveissuchabigpartofpeopleslives.
VG:Absolutely.Itjustthatlovecantbeametaphor
anymore.Ifyoutrytomakeliteratureoutofit,itdoesnt
work.Ofcourseitsaforceinlife.Peoplewillgoon
fallinginloveforever.Andmoreimportant,sexual
infatuationwillenraptureeveryone.Otherwise,no
babies!
Thatspartoflife.Butjustasonceuponatimeyoucould
maketheexperienceofreligionornatureagreat
metaphor,sonowitiswithlove.Itsjustnotthekindof
thingyoucanputatthecenterofaworkofliteratureand
haveitreallyrevealustoourselves.
BLVR:Sowhatdoyoudowithit?
VG:Youlookfornewmetaphors.Mostwritingthesedays
isabouthowharditistofindametaphor.[Laughs]
BLVR:Itseemsanumberofwritershavetakenonthe
subjectoffriendship.Isthatanadequatereplacement?
VG:Peoplewhoareoldenoughandreallyhaveabsorbed
thewearinessoflovehavebeenforalongtimenow
turningtofriendshipnotasanideal,butasanother
waytoembracethesubjectofhumanconnection.Which
isalwaysthesubjectofliterature.
BLVR:Whydoyouthinkthatfriendshipslastand
romancesdont?
VG:Imnotsurethatstrue.Onethingweknow:sexis
thekiller.Sexuallovemakesyoufeelmorevulnerable
thananyotherkindoflove.Thatsonereasonthatpeople
aresothornyandsovulnerableandsoeasilywounded
wheninlove.Butpeoplearejustasneuroticinfriendship
astheyareinlove.Peoplehurtandwoundeachother,
anddontunderstand,andbetray,andallthosethings.
Andalsoemotionalsympathiesjustdryupanddieaswe
change,andtheyareasmysteriousinfriendshipasin
love.Imean,itsarelationshiplikeanyother.Thefactis,
theolderIgrow,themoreIrealizehowunfitwearefor
relationships.Weareallsuchantagonists.Itspartofthe
humanconditiontobedeeplyunfaithfultoconstancy.I
dobelievethat.
BLVR:Someofthefeministsofthesecondwaveseemso
afraidoflove,soangryaboutit.
VG:Weallgrewupsoutterlyvulnerable,enthralledby
romanticloveasweknewit.Firstofall,itwaspounded
intoyoueverywhichwaythatyouvegottogetmarried
andyouvegottohavebabies.Thatyourenotanatural
womanifyoudont.Sothatledtoalotofsittingbythe
telephoneandwaitingforacall.Andthatledyouintoa
cultureinwhichyouwerealwaysinasubordinate
positionwithoutrealizingithamstrung,notabletotake
action.Thatwasthemostimportantthing:youwere
alwayswaitingtobedesired.
Sothatswhytheyrealllikethat.Theyveneverpurged
themselvesofthosefeelings.Mostpeoplemyagewe
nevercalledourselvesliberatedwomen.Weknewwe
werenotandwerenevergoingtobeliberated.Butwe
knewwhatliberationwas.Itwastofeelcenteredin
yourself.Tofeelyouweretheagentofyourlifeyouwere
notsittingbythetelephonewaitingforsomethingto
happen.Youwereacting.Acting!Thatbecamethemost
importantthing.Moreimportantthanlove.
BLVR:Doyourememberthepointwhereyoufelt
yourselfashumanwithoutneedingtobedesired?
VG:Yes,Ido.Butitcamewithaprice.Andtheprice,of
course,wastofeelseparatedfrommen.Notcloserto
them.Nothatingthem,justseparated.Torealizethatwe
wereallgrowingupwithantagonisticcultures.The
cultureinsidemewasnotthecultureinsidehim,andthe
oneinsidehimdidntwishmewell.Wedidnotwisheach
otherwell.Wewereallinstrumentaltooneanother.
WhenIwasfirstmarriedIwastwentyfiveyearsold.My
husbandwasanartistandIwasagraduatestudent.
Hedbeentoartschoolandhewasgraduating.Thenwe
satdownandwesaidtoourselves,Whatwillourlife
be?
WhenIbecameafeminist,oneofthefirstthingsI
rememberedwasthattimewhenwesaid,Whatwillour
lifebe?whatwereallymeantwasWhatwillhislife
be?Becausewesatdownanddecidedthatwewouldtry
forafellowshipforhimwhereveritwaspossibleforhim
togetone.Thatbecameourlife:applyingtoafellowship
forhim.WhatwasIthinkingaboutmyself?Nothing!
Thatwasoneofthefirstrealizationsin1970forme.
Whenitwasallover,Iwaslongdivorcedfromthat
person.Andonlyrecentlydivorcedfromthesecond
person.
BLVR:Doyoueverthinkwhatyouwouldhavebeenlike
withoutfeminism?
VG:Iwouldhavebeentheworst.Theworstbitchinthe
world.IknewmanywomenwhenIwasgrowingupwho
werejustassmartasmeandcouldtalkasgoodasme,
andhadntknownhowtobeanythingotherthan
secretariesorsocialworkers.Theywereoftenmarriedto
menwhoadoredthembutdidnothavethewherewithal
toprovidethemwithagoodlifethatis,thelifeonlythey
wouldhavebeenabletoprovidethemselveswith.They
werethewomenwhooutofanunholydissatisfaction
withthemselvesabusedtheirhusbands,sneeredat
them,werefullofcontempt,arrogance.IamsureI
wouldhavebeenoneofthem.
Minewasalifeconstructedaroundallthesedissolving
truisms.Lotsofushaveendeduplivingalonenot
becausewewanttolivealonebutbecauseithasbeenthe
consequenceofalltheseyearsofhavingfoundourselves
intheamazingpositionbeingabletosayyestothis,and
notothat.
BLVR:Itsstrangehowsomethingsseemlikechoicesin
themoment,buttheyarenotreallychoices.
VG:Theyrenotreallychoices.Theyreresponses.Ata
certainpointinlife,youdorealizewhatyoursituationis,
andyoudotakestepstoameliorateitorlivewithit.
ButforthemostpartitsmoreIcanlivewiththis,Icant
livewiththat.Inourcase,wasafantasticthingthat
happened,thatwecouldevensaythosethingsto
ourselves.Becausebefore,growingup,everywomanI
knewandlivedwithandwasraisedbysaid,Ihaveno
choices.Thenecessitiesoflifehaveallbeenlaidoutfor
me.Idonthaveanyfreewill.SothefactthatIcould
suddenlysay,No,Iamnotgoingtolivewiththis,that
wastremendousprogress.Isthatachoice?No.Itsa
miracle,though,thatyoureataplacewhereyoucansay
suchathing.
MadeleineSchwartzisawriterandjournalist.
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