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.