So, I've been reading Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth, as research, for the book. It's an amazing read, a book that every young woman should know. How I got through four years at Sarah Lawrence without reading it is a mystery.
The other night, I read a little bit before bed. The Mathematician and I had just returned from a trip to the west coast. We had a big fight before boarding the plane in Long Beach, and didn't speak for the entire six hours on Jet Blue back to Boston. When we got home, I made the taxi drop me off at my house, alone. Hours later we resolved things over the phone, and I felt much better when I sank between the sheets to go to bed. I was exhausted from fighting, but not quite tired enough for sleep (my body clock thought it was only 9 p.m., after all), so I read. I read about the complicated matrix that binds beauty and women and work, the concept of beauty as currency in the American marketplace. Soon, my eyelids grew heavy, and I fell asleep with the light on. And I had terrible, volatile, dangerous dreams.
I dreamt of conflict and war. I dreamt that I was among a group of hostages or prisoners, being oppressed by a vigilant, unfair ruling party. We weren't just one group, my group, there were many groups, and many oppressors, and the mood was of tense chaos. The details are hazy. I was terrified, fighting for my life amongst a covert group of resistance fighters, who masked our subversive acts, so as not to arouse suspicion. We were worked like many cogs in a complicated machine, trying to overcome horrible obstacles to escape our hostage-like situations (I think the dream was also informed my my other book of the moment, Ann Patchett's fictional imagining of a hostage takeover, Bel Canto.) I raced for my life, plotting and collaborating, sneaking through a precarious spiderweb of alliances and mistrust.
Moments before waking, I saw a beautiful, angry, insubordinate woman caught and tortured at the hands of the vicious, nameless oppressor. She had long, brown hair, hazel eyes and olive skin. She was tall and had full, red lips. She was from a different group than mine, was fighting a different fight, but I knew that we shared the common goal of liberation. I stood, horrified, trying not to look but unable to turn away as a female terrorist raised a switchblade to the brave insubordinate's face, and slice a long, deliberate cut into the flawless flesh of her cheek. It snaked back and forth, a malicious ribbon running from eyebrow to chin. Eventually the wound would become a raised, ugly scar, resembling a flesh-colored piece of yarn affixed to her face, a permanent distraction from her naturally well arranged features. The pain would pass, but the scar would persist, a constant reminder of her insubordination.
But the beautiful prisoner was no victim. I watched in terrified awe as she raised her face to the knife, her jaw set and square, and growled at the terrorist: "Cut deeper." Her eyes blazed. "Cut deeper, come on, make me feel it," she taunted, not the slightest bit phased by the pain of the incision, the blood trickling down her cheek, or the impending scar. She was fierce, un-suppressable, and totally terrifying.
I put my head down and ran, and a few minutes later, I woke up. Blinking in the sunlight of my room, all I could think about was this brave, angry, brunette.
It was quite a dream, and haunted me for the rest of the day.
Perhaps I should be reading something a little bit lighter before bed?