My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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20th century women, and the end of the impasse

Another dear old friend visiting – Lani saw me in my first Vancouver show in early 1975 and immediately hired me for her company; we all wrote a revue to tour through the Kootenays. And so I befriended a most interesting, quirky woman, as we sat on camp chairs beneath those glorious mountains, drinking martinis she’d made for us while the men in the company argued about where to park the bus. We went on to have many adventures together, both personal and professional, including mutual boyfriends and many more shows – she tiny and fierce, I tall and genial, apparently a hilarious team, especially our Helena (tall) and Hermia (short) in their fight scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream.

She has lived for years in Stratford, recently moved with her husband Maurice to Ingersoll, and has come to the big city for a few days. Today we went to see 20th century women. What a fine film – as original as Lan. It’s autobiographical, the story of director and writer Mike Mills and his unconventional, empathetic mother in Santa Barbara in 1979. Since I’m writing about that very year, I had my notebook ready to jot down insights about that time.

But what hit me most about this lovely film, the coming of age story of a boy surrounded by women trying to help him grow to be a good man, was how hard it is to be the single mother of a male of the species. My God, I identified with that, as Annette Bening’s character struggles to cope with the mysterious creature she has brought into the world, and the boy tries to understand the various fascinating women in his life, at a time in the world when feminism had taken hold and the clitoris and menstruation were dinner table topics. I loved the scenes where his mother tries to tolerate the violent punk music her son likes, as I reacted with incomprehension when Sam started to listen to rap and hiphop, “motherfucker music,” as I called it, since that seemed to be the only word the musicians knew.

The film is thoughtful, a bit slow, a bit too careful, politically correct and sentimental, perhaps, but special – human beings in all their complex, marvellous glory. All the actors are wonderful, but Greta Gerwig is spectacular.

As important to me is the fact that – drum roll! – I’ve moved past the logjam with the book. Suddenly, after weeks of me diddling about with no idea how to fix a central problem, a solution broke open. The opening scene started to come together, and it all started to flow. Yes, flow. I read some of the new material to Lani, and at two points she had tears in her eyes, so I take that as a good sign. I have renewed purpose and energy and will soon enter the obsessive phase, I fear, when all that matters is the book.

In the meantime – sometimes it seems criminal to have a life, to care about anything else when the world is disintegrating and a lunatic is running the most powerful country on earth into the ground. How is it possible to have someone so wrong about every single thing right there, in our faces, and not go mad?

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2 Responses to “20th century women, and the end of the impasse”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beth, I totally relate. Firstly, on the book "obsession". I'm in the same mindframe. Listening to the radio the other day, an author was asked how she found the time to write (she's a wife, mother and has a full time job.) And she replied – you have to steal time. SO TRUE! I too have a full time job and on my lunch hour I find a quiet corner in the staff cantine and steal half an hour a day to write or rewrite.

    As for Trump? I truly believe he's evil. We already knew he was a misogynist. Did you see how urgent it was for him to (a) stop funding women's health clinics, (b) start building a wall, (c) cancel Obamacare, etc. etc. With all the problems in the world, THESE ARE HIS PRIORITIES?

    Have you seen that video of him that went viral? It's all over Youtube. Everyone's wondering what he said exactly to Melania at the inauguration to make her facial expression rapidly turn from a big smile to a terrible sad downcast look. He said something vicious to her as he was being inaugurated. He's evil, he has surrounded himself with equally evil men, and his policies will darken and diminish the country.

    Juliet in Paris

  2. beth says:

    Good for you, for stealing time for your book – though according to yesterday's post, your gruelling job also involves tours of the Paris Opera and champagne …

    The word 'evil' is a tricky one, but I do believe now the man is more than a selfish, nasty, blind narcissist, that he's mentally ill. He and his people are a nightmare for the entire planet. Four more years.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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