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Between a fixed place and a happy house

So my cousin’s been bursting with the news that her friend has been ‘fixed’. ‘She’s so lucky!’ exclaims Cousin Flighty, ‘Only in grade eleven and already she’s fixed!’ Our doyenne of sharp wit, eight year old Aamena, asks incredulously, ‘Was she broken?’

I dream of a fruitful life, Insha Allah Al Aziz, in which I can ultimately settle into a charming, little cottage, a truly ancient building, circa 1930, amid a lush English garden (that maintains itself), in Parktown North perhaps, or the midlands even, or perhaps further abroad… Allah A3lam! But the floor boards will sing of bygone times, and the windows, like a photograph, will take me back to halcyon days. Essentially, it will be a house in which I can surround myself with books, with unadulterated happiness. Yes, I’ve referenced that, it’s Vincent Starrett who said, “When we are collecting books, we are collecting happiness.”

 

I am rather chuffed with one of my most recent bookstore acquisitions, Fay Weldon’s What makes women happy. When I first came across the volume a few weeks back, on the literary criticism shelf incidentally… I really don’t venture near self-help, in all endeavours, requiring the prefix self, I know myself, quite confidently, to be helpless. Weldon’s writing, is the kind of writing to which I aspire, witty, insightful, purposeful, knowledgeable and female. I highly recommend the only other book of hers I’ve read, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, to anyone with even a remote interest in literature, literary theory or indeed, Jane Austen. Most memorable from there, ‘To believe a Mills and Boon novel reflects real life, is to live in perpetual disappointment’ and this, ‘The inner excitement when a writer realises for the first time that this whole new world of invention and meaning lies waiting to be explored, is intense and overwhelming and exhilarating. It is like falling in love. The feeling of being singled out, of suddenly discovering, that you are different from other people, and in some way special, is powerful.’ She really is good.

Back to What makes women happy, knowing that it is available on amazon.com for under a dollar, which with postage, would still cost me less than what was expropriated from me, I had to have the book. If for nothing else than this endearingly insightful opening:

Women can be wonderfully happy. When they’re in love, when someone gives them flowers, when they’ve finally found the right pair of shoes and they even fit. I remember once, in love and properly loved, dancing round a room singing, ‘They can’t take this away from me.’ I remember holding the green shoes with the green satin ribbon (it was the sixties) to my bosom and rejoicing. I remember my joy when the midwife said, ‘But this is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. Look at him, he’s golden!’

The wonderful happiness lasts for ten minutes or so. After that little niggles begin to arise. ‘Will he think I’m too fat?’ ‘Are the flowers his way of saying goodbye?’ ‘Do the shoes pinch?’ ‘Will his allegedly separated wife take this away from me?’ ‘Is solitary dancing a sign of insanity?’ ‘How come I’ve produced so wonderful a baby- did they get the name tags wrong?’

Anxiety and guilt come hot on the heels of happiness. So the brutal answer to what makes women happy is ‘Nothing, not for more than ten minutes at a time.’ But the perfect ten minutes are worth living for, and the almost perfect hours that circle them are worth fighting for, and examining, the better to prolong them.

So taking the cue from Aamena, I’m looking into the etymology of this fixedness. Certainly, it smacks of an arranged marriage and while the match in question isn’t, it speaks of a culture where it was once a norm, but as a concept isn’t it rather archaic? Why not get engaged? Or married? Why fixed? It does imply that we are indeed broken without the promise of a husband somewhere down the years.

Aamena, still troubled, asks, ‘You mean she’s engaged?’ ‘No…’ ‘So is she married then?’ ‘No…’

These are murky times.

 

10 replies on “Between a fixed place and a happy house”

>Oh and global citizen and waseem, thank you, shukran, merci. You are too kind. Now if only an editor could share in your entusiasm enough to pay me for being ‘charming’ and ‘elegant’:p

>WASEEM, in my experience fear, angst and anxiety are much more enduring. But I too, have been questioning the idea of ten-minute happiness. And I love the noojism, NOORJEHAN, it made me smile and it’s already found a place in my archives, but principally it’s reiterating what Weldon is saying in her introduction. I haven’t completed the book yet, when there is a critical discourse analysis laying neglected and a research proposal to submit, Weldon , and blogging, are the kind of reading that gnaws at my scholarly conscience. Do we really have to stop thinking and be more egotistical and then the magic wand will bestow happiness? So principally, femininity is stopping us from being happy? But then, we are going back to socialisation practices. Such are our roles in society but does that really preclude us from happiness? Weldon quotes this example:

The papers this morning were in a state of outrage about Sandy, a feckless girl of 19 who went on holiday to Spain leaving her three children in the care of a 15-year-old. When summoned home by the police and the media, she refused to go. She was having too good a time, she said.

Now we can all label that sort of behaviour outrageous, scandalous and stupid, yes, very stupid. But she just wants to be happy! She’s able to defer the responsibility, anxiety and guilt to concentrate on just herself. So are men conversely, in a constant state of tail-wagging bliss? None of us are blessed with a constant set of perfect circumstances, we are just socialised differently. Happiness by nature is fleeting thus the constant, driving pursuit toward it. In all our lives we tread the line between careless and careful. So, GLOBAL CITIZEN, I think it’s finding a balance, we can’t be happy all the time, but we can be content most of the time. Crikey! I’m beginning to sound like a feminist motivational speaker version of myself, spouting garbled, recycled garden fodder on all of you.

SINGLEGUY, they do indeed. It’s disarming! And Aamena, especially never fails to disappoint. SAALEHA, just the other day she was watching the home channel with mum and dad, and a townhouse in Hyde Park for 7 million took her fancy. She asks, ever so guilessly, ‘Would it be ok if I give them R7 now and a million afterward?’A few years ago she was certain she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. When once I ventured to ask why, she looked at me, contempt flaring, and replied, ‘For money obviously.’ Her ambition inspires, her honesty humbles. Masha Allah 3leiha! May we live to see many, many more like her, ‘harbingers of hope’, indeed. :))

I’ve just about ascertained that the word fix, has its roots from old French. The earliest Eng. usage was to “fix” one’s eyes or mind on something; sense of “fasten, attach” is c.1400; that of “settle, assign” is pre-1500 and evolved into “adjust, arrange” (1663), then “repair” (1737). Sense of “tamper with” (a fight, a jury, etc.) is 1790. As euphemism for “castrate a pet” it dates from 1930. The noun meaning “a position from which it is difficult to move” is first recorded 1816, Amer.Eng., from the verb. Meaning “dose of narcotic” is from 1934, originally fix-up, which dates from 1867 in ref. to liquor. Fixture “anything fixed or securely fastened” is from 1812.
How then does a woman become fixed?

To happiness, worthy subjects! Bon journee!

DISCLAIMER: Should any of the above fail to make sense, kindly make allowances. My brain has joined the strike.

>My comment was gonna be same as Saalehas, about the fixed thing, not the harbingers thing.

I enjoyed the post, more your writing than the excerpts, I think charming and elegant is an apt description.

I don’t accept this 10 minutes happiness thing. Yes, people worry alot but it’s not to say there can’t be sustained happiness, that is very sad view then if that is true. and what about men, hey? Are we puppy dogs content with our tail? Just kidding, I’m not really asking, unless of course you have an answer.

>there are showcases and there are homes. my favourite home lies somewhere near overport where, from the time you enter, you are invited by shelves of books upon books and i have to force myself to be civil and offer a “salaam” before getting down to the real business of meeting these volumes. i imagine if i were ever to visit you, despite your chatter being as lively as your writing, the same thing would happen 😛 a noojism on happiness: “happiness is those milliseconds of stupidity i would not give up for all the knowledge in the world…”

>Khadija,

Despite the charming and elegant seriousness of your post, I, suprisingly, found myself laughing out loud eventually.

I believe I have grown fully accustomed to that type of social, cultural, religious (you name it!) ideology that constantly forces women to be ‘fixed’ at a certain age.

Now I’ve reached a point where I find this type of ideas hilariously ridiculous. What I profoundly believe in is that a woman can and should define her own self-worth and independance away from any sort of social or cultural pressures that ‘somehow’ associate her self-value with the presence of a husband.

What Makes Women Happy? Quite interesting, I must say!

>When an animal is neutered, the colloquial expression of this is also; ‘fixed’.

The Aamenas of this world are the harbingers of hope for what I used to fear would be a lost generation.

>I agree entirely! There was a lovely article in sisters about such issues… hav u seen it? Too often I’m asked, so u r STILL studying as if, of course that’s y u r not married yet… yalla, what to do?

>i wholly agree!
the image of being “fixed” is too opressive for women…
we are not broken..
marriage complements us, it does not fix us…
marriage is not the yardstick by which to measure the worth of a women…!

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