Late last night, exhausted after a frustrating day fiddling with my recipes here on my blog , I finished re-reading The Scarlet Letter.
After the steady diet of Mind Twinkies® I’ve been gorging on lately, i.e. Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, I figured I’d do my dilapidated brain a favor and feed it some real classical food. And what better than THE book–after The Holy Bible, of course–that spoke to me most deeply during high school?
Forsooth, I cannot indeed separate the confluence of effect that The Holy Bible, coupled with The Scarlet Letter, had on my formative years, so profoundly did they both inform me; emotionally, spiritually, and sexually.
See that sentence? Nobody writes like that anymore because people today only skim what they read.
But Hawthorne wasn’t a blogger; he was a genius. His book is filled with convoluted sentences, and lots and lots of adverbs.
I feel muchly improved after reading it, like unto one who has imbibed a strong paranormal romance novel purgative.
But for you, dear
Reader Skimmer, sadly, this meaneth that thou wilt haveth to skimmeth through adverbeths, today.
The value for you is that you will soon begin to understand why I’m so messed up.
So settle did I, forthwith, down for a long winter’s reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great classic, The Scarlet Letter, to revisit once again whether or not could I, perchance, glimpse the meaning that I once saw therein.
And glimpse it therein, I did. Only now from the vantage point of a woman full-grown with a lifetime of experience behind her.
I am in awe of what my 14-year old self discerned, and yet so deeply saddened that she perceived it so starkly true with what should have been, by rights, innocent and uncomprehending eyes.
I can easily see that, first and foremost, the Girl Who Would Be Me related most acutely to Hester Prynne for she also was a social outcast in her society, which will henceforth be known as ye old High School.
I know. Isn’t everybody an outcast in High School?
But like unto Hester, I was outcast for my sexual transgressions; some real, some imagined, and some unimaginable to those small minds.
We can congratulate ourselves that today’s modern girl does not wear a visible crimson letter “A”. But we should not think for a moment that any girl gets off scott-free.
Today’s girl must needs wear the hidden letter “S” thereon upon her back because that’s where everybody talks about it: behind her back.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely outcast. I did have two girl friends. One I loved, but betrayed, and the other was a beautiful girl who departed High School for an exciting career in Prostitution. (She tried to talk me into it by telling me, “The sex is just the same, only you get paid for doing it.” Even in my foolish youth I knew she was grossly mistaken.)
Over the years I have searched in vain for these two women, but have not found them. Hopefully, just like me, they have simply changed their names.
As I wrote before, I went to high school with Tawny Kitaen.
She was a sex goddess and I was a nobody with a bad reputation. And somewhere therein that true tale lies the metaphor for the double-edged sword that is a woman’s sexuality.
I wish I could say that my comprehension of the agony of The Scarlet Letter begins and ends with Hester Prynne, but I’m afraid that isn’t so. Sadly, I also closely sympathize with Hester’s illegitimate daughter: her little Pearl.
Conceived from the ill-fated embrace of two passionate–if woefully mismatched–teenagers on a bunk bed in a Housing Project, I know well what it is to be illegitimate.
Although my father married my mother to protect her and me from our shame of illegitimacy, he proceeded to NEVER let either of us ever forget it.
But my sympathy with little Pearl does not end with my own narrow brush with ignominy. Oh, that I wish it did. But it gets worse. Much worse.
At the tender age of 7, while my father was off valiantly fighting the good fight in Viet Nam, I stole into my mother’s bedroom one night to find her engaged in my parents’ marital bed with another man. A man who just happened to be a fine, upstanding, married man from our Church.
Now is a good time to remind you, kind
Skimmer Reader–for surely if thou hast gotten this far in my woeful tale thou art deserving of that vaunted title–we were Mormons.
The lovers did not see me, but I saw them.
Realizing with abject horror the threat to me and mine this unholy tryst represented, I did the only thing I could think to do: I lay in wait for the opportunity to present itself to rectify this evil.
And as luck would have it, such an opportunity did not tarry.
While at a Church meeting the very next day, I queried my mother quite loudly, and within earshot of all present, “Why was Corky* in bed with you last night when I was supposed to be sleeping?”
Yes. You read that right.
I called my mother out.
At a Church meeting.
This did have the desired result of ending the affair right then and there. Corky, very soon thereafter, moved away, and my mother claimed to the end that they never spoke again.
But the unforeseen effect was that my mother became branded in our Church as an adulteress, and this had some lasting implications that a seven-year old simply could not have predicted.
My mother was called before the Bishopric to answer for her crime, and it was decided that my father alone would be allowed to make the judgement of whether or not my mother would be ex-communicated when he returned home from the war.
My father’s decision was again to spare my mother her humiliation, but not her punishment. He never forgave her, and for the rest of my childhood my father openly–at least to my pricked-up ears–derided my mother doubly so for the faithless whore she was.
He blamed her for enticing him into her bed in the first place and ruining his life at the start, and then he blamed her for being a faithless whore who continued ruining his life by humiliating him as a cuckold (my word, not his).
I suppose in retrospect I think I should have kept my mouth shut.
And far worse for me–socially and, most assuredly, spiritually–a record of her unfaithfulness followed us in our family’s Church records henceforth. Never again was I to know pure acceptance in the Church. I always felt that I was looked upon suspiciously, as though everyone knew that I masturbated.
I later learned that, while I was still just a flat-chested child of 11 or 12, my mother was approached by certain other women in the Church and warned that I was “too sexy”. She was asked whether she wouldn’t do anything about it?
But then I suppose the acorn falleth not far from the tree, right?
But you’ve suffered enough. I’ve already used twice my allotment of words a blogger is allowed on any given post, so I’ll have to leave the telling of that tale to another day.
*Yes, Corky is his real name. I only change the names to protect the innocent.