Frogs In A Well

Purdah. Rich muslim women behind screens looking out. They are cared for. They wear rich clothes. They are fed. They bathe. They smell good. Jewelry everywhere. Make-up, hair. And this is what they call themselves: frogs in a well. For they cannot be in the world.
How much can be seen? Not much.
But imagination can run. Hope cannot.
Fantasy is fed. Willingness is not.
It is an old story. Women behind screens on a high balcony. Women with bound feet.
In my own life my mother said. “the more respectable you are the less you do.” She was horrified that I would want to change the oil in my car, shop for myself, wash my own hair.
The flip side is not opposite.
I spent some time listening to women say they were nobody without taking care of someone else. They were free to move. Free to drive and shop, read books and write. But they identified themselves by who they take care of, whose wife, whose mother, whose friend.
And still others who seem to only care for themselves. My mother looked like that sometimes. She preened and had “admirers” who sent flowers, she seemed to think only of herself. Once while visiting me we separated in Cambridge, MA. She got lost while I did an errand – too plain for her. When I couldn’t find her I went to the chi chi- est shop and there she was. Salespeople all around, sitting having a cup of tea. She looked at me, said, “What would I do if something had happened to you? How would I get home?”
Indeed, I worried about that too.
My point here is not to expose my mother’s peccadillos but to the larger issue of how we are who we are and how we treat ourselves.
Not knowing how to get home is not a good idea. Not knowing how to be without a project also not life-provoking. And that crosses genders.
How fully we each reach out to ourselves and what we say is crucial. The body is eavesdropping on the mind constantly – not just checking in from time to time. What you say about yourself to yourself is duly noted each time, no exceptions.
My lovely wife danced a dance many many years ago with the title “Frogs in a Well,” I don’t have a clip of that but her newest solo, “Speak,” is handy to me. In it she explores the consequences of autism – of our godson trapped in a speechless form for now – I can say freed to a speechless form for now as well. I believe they are equal. There is nothing that is good or bad but thinking makes it so. My good friend Marcus Aurelius said that a long time ago.
Speak – performed at Lincoln Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *