Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Invisible Woman"

I promised myself that if I got a bunch of work done, I'd take myself to Newport for the afternoon and catch a matinee at the little theater that shows the cool indie films.

These are the kind of deals I have to make with myself so that I can stand living with myself.  Because having too much work during a week when I'm supposed to be on "break" has definitely been making me grouchy.

But this afternoon did the trick.  The sky cleared, the sun came out, the temperature went up to 60.  (I didn't think that was possible anymore.)

And the movie was timed such that, given that I parked in one of my favorite spots at the beach and walked in to town, by the time I walked back out to my car, I got to enjoy a sunset drive.

I saw Ralph Fiennes film, "The Invisible Woman."  It's about Charles Dickens' relationship with Ellen Ternan.

Although I had read a Dickens biography and knew about the relationship, it was different seeing it played out right there in front of me.  Dickens was 45 when he met "Nelly" Ternan; she had just turned 18.

And don't tell me, "Oh, but things were different then..." and "Love knows no age...".  Bullshit.  He was over twice her age, and he was married.  If anything, they were far less "open" about such things back then.  It was a huge scandal, and as the film itself suggests, Dickens went out of his way to ensure that he protected himself from as much it as possible by turning Ternan into an "invisible woman" that no one saw or knew about.

Quite frankly, if any of my married friends (I'm 45 myself) began casting their wandering little eyeballs on my friends' teenaged children, I'd be rather upset.

But then, he was Charles Dickens.

And because he was Charles Dickens, Ellen Ternan ended up having to put up with quite a bit. 

Really, most people probably don't want to be in a relationship with a famous writer, even if they think they do.  With rare exceptions, they're often not the world's nicest people, despite the amazing literature they write for all of us.

Stick to the literature, I say.  Don't get to close to your idols.  It never goes well.

So, for example, as I watched the film, I cheerfully pointed out to myself (I do this sometimes--point things out to myself in case I'm not paying attention) that at least I have never been in a relationship with a guy who pretended that he didn't know me and that we hadn't been living together for months when the train we were traveling in crashed.

In my opinion, that's when you know you're in a bad relationship. 

Various scholars speculate that Ellen Ternan was the model for many of the heroines of Dickens' later novels, including Bella Wilfer (Our Mutual Friend) and Estella Havisham (Great Expectations). 

If you've read either of these novels, you will quickly realize that, if this is in fact true, there is yet another reason for her to break up with him.

I can only imagine my own reaction:  as I'm angrily flipping pancakes in stony silence one morning, Charles cheerfully asks if there's any syrup--and not just any syrup, but that special maple syrup he likes, you know, the kind his devoted fans who've read every single one of his books have regularly shipped to him by the gallon, ever since they heard about how much he likes it...

At this point, I shriek, "Is Estella supposed to be me, you pen-dipping, word-scribbling JERK?!  Well, IS it?  Answer me.  Oh, and Bella Wilfer's all hung up on money, is she?  Gee, I can't imagine why--like a girl's not supposed to be concerned for her future, she's just supposed to fall in love and everything will be just wonderful...yeah, OKAY.  Sure, Charlie, sure.  Oh, and while we're on the subject, I got news for you: you aren't PIP, and you certainly aren't Eugene Wrayburn or John Harmon either.  So do me a favor and get over yourself, okay?!  You big JERK."

And so on.  Basically, Charles would have realized early on that I'm simply not his type. But I do like his novels (aside from his depiction of women, that is), so we have that in common.

And the good news is, I can do my own writing, make my own pancakes, and enjoy wonderful afternoons at the beach and the movies.  I even knitted several inches of a sock during the film.  I KNOW.  Crazy, given that it's dark and all, but I wanted to try it, and it went with only 2 mishaps, one that somehow (miraculously) fixed itself (something that basically never happens) and one that I caught in time, which means it doesn't officially count as a "mishap," really--a "near mishap," perhaps.

And at the end of the day, there was this:


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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."