Saturday, February 5, 2011

Growing Strong and Growing Strange

"And when I see you
I really see you upside down
But my brain knows better
It picks you up and turns you around
Turns you around
Turns you around"
-Death Cab for Cutie "A Lack of Color"

A landscape of blurred colors rushes by. The snow beneath the streetlamps reminds me of fiber optics pinpricks. I huddle into my trench coat, curling my legs up beneath me on the bus seat. I bury my rosy-red nose beneath it's black, woolen warmth. I am the only passenger, this late and this far out on the bus route to Ladanybene. It is a small village. The houses have thatched roofs, and grapes grow on the roadside. The mist is thick in the mornings at 5am when I walk to my bus stop to head towards Kecskemet for the school day. 

Living on a farm in Ladanybene is like living in the land of Faerie. Tall walnut trees stand like sentinels, guarding bashful apples. The grass is thick and everywhere. The smells are musky, earthy, dark. A number of animals appear ghost-like in the fog, before they are swallowed by its constant presence. I spend hours sitting out by the pond, though the autumn weather is chilly. I feel at home.

My thoughts return to my present. The bus is loud. It shakes as it rumbles through the streets. Silhouettes flash across the windows, too quickly to be properly made out in the dim lights. I am thinking about a letter I want to write. I am always thinking of a letter. How do I put into words my feelings? I want to share my experiences, but I want to focus more on my adoration for the one I had left behind. The one I was coming back to. 

I stand as the bus stops to let me off. The cold hit me as I leave. I dig my nose deeper into my trench coat. I meander through the snow, breathing in its silky wetness through musky fabric. The gate ahead signals that I have reached my little farm. I rub my  hand across it and feel splintered wood, glazed with ice, and sugared with freshly fallen snow. I begin to walk up the road to my host parent's house, but I stop. A patch of snow has caught my eye. It glints in the moonlight and to me there is no more obvious sign of welcoming.

I let myself fall into the drift. I lie there and stare at the dusty grey sky. I think about my letter. I remember someone once telling me that I was in love with being in love. My retort was that no, I was in love with flesh, with bone, with blood. I was in love with thought, and dreams, and words. I was in love with a boy.

It is snowing again. Although right now, I'm sitting in my dorm room. I am watching cars drive past on the interstate. There is a song stuck in my head. The lyrics accompany the above memory, and I cannot place why.

Looking back, more than a part of me was in love with being in love. Being away from my boyfriend for an extended period of time, (10 months), gave me an excuse to write to him. I have always liked writing. The letters were self-indulgent in that respect. I meant what I put in them, but their content was not really aimed at him. Instead, I was sorting through my own feelings. Grappling with words. Articulating emotions I did not have a chance to vocalize.

Our culture places a big emphasis on love. Well, what it deems "normal" love anyway. I was sixteen, he was sixteen. I am a female, he is a male. We stayed faithful even countries apart. It was a very "love-conquers-all-Hollywood-blockbuster" sort of scenario. I remember when we had just started dating.

Our gender roles were very typical. He was the one paid for things, opened doors, initiated conversation. I was unsure of how I was supposed to act around him and I am sure he felt the same. Sometimes we both knew that some of the responsibilities we had given each other were silly. For instance, he once was so insistent that he be the one to walk on the left, that he physically stopped me mid stride to reposition himself. In that case, I reacted by stopping him in turn and a little over dramatically moving back over.

Apart from a few moments like that, I did not really mind our relationship roles. For the most part, we tried to retain a sense of balance and gender neutrality. One of my favorite things to do was to pick him up and spin him. He not only allowed this, but sometimes encouraged it. As our relationship evolved over time. We became more lax in our roles. We traded off paying, and I was never afraid to assert myself in conversation. In fact, one of the things I liked best about our relationship was its eventual equality and spontaneous role reversals.

I'm leaving you today with a very loosely related quote from one of my favorite films:

" Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, "You're crooked. You've always been crooked and you'll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!" said the straight tree. He said, "I'm tall and I'm straight." And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said, "Cut all the straight trees." And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange." 
-Kneller, Wrist Cutters: A Love Story


  1. Interesting post, Megan. How do you think this experience with your boyfriend will impact future relationships and gender role expectations within those relationships?

  2. My experiences with my past relationship have left me uncertain of relationship gender roles. When I go out with someone, I never know who's paying. Usually I hastily offer to pay before my date has a chance. Sometimes I get strange looks, and often not a second date. However, this is my way of avoiding what I find an almost suffocatingly awkward scenario. I would rather assert myself early than sit nervously waiting to find out if my date is paying. In other ways this trend continues. I am constantly fighting the idea that it took time for the gender roles in my last relationship to balance and my thirst for this equality. I am impatient. Perhaps I am rushing things along. However, I, as an equalist, do not see why a relationship should start in a place other than the one I wish it to get to. A gentler person might ease gender role balance. I tend to shove.