Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Girl in the Swing

Jean-Honore Fragonard, The Swing, 1766

The too much digging I did yesterday sent me this morning for a warm soak in the bathtub, but yesterday the sun didn’t burn off the clouds, so the solar panels didn’t heat the water, & because the Argentine-manufactured instant hot-water heater doesn’t work as well as it should, I took a not very warm soak & climbed out chilled to the bone. Thank goodness Susan gave me a down vest. Either the coolish bath or the Ibuprofen or both have silenced my sore cheek.

How would I have written that if I lived in the age of Watteau & Fragonard? My servant would have boiled water to fill the tub. I wouldn’t have been digging in the first place, not if I was the girl in the swing wearing flouncy petticoats some loutish suitor tried to look up. Probably I wouldn’t have bathed more than once a week. I would have worn strong perfumes to hide my menstrual odors. I would have married one of those louts, born six or eight children, demanded more servants & a better cook, grown stout.

Dressed in complex undergarments under my elaborately fitted dress, I would have written with a quill pen from my desk in Cheltenhamshire to my sister in London, asked her whether her unmarried, childless, still at home with our parents life [her governess life; her nun’s life; her whore’s life] suited her better than the life she would have lived — mine — had she also been beautiful. 

I would have told her how every day I wish she would come to live with me, to help care for these children rather than reading & sewing the day long; how if I die young, she could become my husband’s second wife in order to experience all of my life, to bear more children from his urgent loins, some of them girls who will follow in our footsteps as slaves of men.

He is no lion, my husband. Not of industry or intellect, generosity or geniality. No, he is a person late to rise, annoyed by children, dissatisfied with meals, unwilling to socialize or travel. He lives for his dogs, guns, hock, whiskey, cigars, two or three friends in the same mold. He stinks of them all when he stumbles onto me in the dark. I pray an accident will carry him off.

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