This was a pretty interesting article, about which I don’t have much time (heh heh heh) to say anything…except, on the one hand, yes of course. I think women (to generalize too broadly) are easier to interrupt than men. Witness that I was in a coffee shop yesterday, trying to write, and my children called me no less than eleven times to ask what kinds of things they could eat, even though their father was in the kitchen ready and willing to answer those questions, it just didn’t occur to the children to ask him. One time a child DID ask him, and when he gave an answer, that child had trouble believing the veracity of his reply and called me to double-check. So then I was in the coffee shop shouting, “I DONT CARE WHAT YOU EAT ASK YOUR FATHER.”
But also, on the other hand, I am dubious. Because I think throughout history some women have of course had leisure, and not all, or even very many of them, produced the works of Shakespeare. There were plenty of upper-class women who had nannies and maids and cooks who kept anyone from bothering them when they retired to their rooms to “write their letters.” Looking over the landscape of society and the church, some of those upper-class women with leisure did immense good on behalf of the poor, running institutions and organizing ways for people to be more comfortable. And then many others of them probably frittered away all that free time into the black hole of history the way we all do.
Also, when I read to my own dear husband the line about how the only kind of flow a woman could expect to experience was when she was ironing her husband’s shirts, he laughed bitterly. I have a beautiful unused iron shoved in the back of my cupboard, behind a lot of wrinkly garments, that I don’t have time to use because of all the Very Important Blogging I do.
In other words, life is a complete muddle and it is too trite and easy to say Blame Society, or Blame The Men. Of course, some people who are geniuses don’t get to bring their lovely intellectual gifts to the world, be they men or women. That’s because of sin–something no one ever really wants to account for in a personal way. Society, who can’t bite back, is always to blame. One might wonder, on a societal level, if it’s not too bad that now so many of us have so much leisure to express ourselves every moment of the day on twitter, facebook, youtube, instagram, and whatever new platform has emerged just this moment. If you haven’t written your three-volume novel, the man to blame might not be your husband, it might be Mark Zuckerberg.
Looking over the intellectual proclivities of my children, I am happy to report that the girls and the boys seem equally able to waste their lives in dilatory pursuits. Deep work is always available to them, but they are too busy calling me every three seconds to interrupt mine. For those of you feeling hopeless, here is the snatch I read early this morning by Elizabeth Von Arnim, who was a lovely writer and also the kind of woman I was thinking of before, who had servants and time, and who used it to write this passage which is so beautiful and also funny:
I am very busy preparing for Christmas, but have often locked myself up in a room alone, shutting out my unfinished duties, to study the flower catelogues and make my lists of seeds and shrubs and trees for the spring. It is a fascinating occupation, and aquires an additional charm when you know you ought to be doing something else, that Christmas is at the door, that children and servants and farm hands depend on you for their pleasure, and that, if you don’t see to the decoration of the trees and house and the buying of presents, nobody else will. The hours fly by shut up with those catalogues and with Duty snarling on the other side of the door. I don’t like Duty–everything in the least disagreeable is always sure to be one’s duty. Why cannot it be my duty to make lists and plans for the dear garden? “And so it is,” I insisted to the Man of Wrath, when he protested against what he called wasting my time upstairs. “No,” he replied sagely; “your garden is not your Duty, because it is your Pleasure.” What a comfort it is to have such well of wisdom constantly at my disposal! Anybody can have a husband, but to few it is given to have a sage, and the combination of both is as rare as it is useful. Indeed, in its practical utility the only thing I ever saw to equal it is a sofa my neighbor has bought as a Christmas suprise for her husband, and which she showed me last time I called there–a beautiful invention, as she explained, combining a bedstead, a sofa, and a chest of drawers, and into which you put your clothes, and on top of which you put yourself, and if anybody calls in the middle of the night and you happen to be using the drawing room as a bedroom, you just pop the bedclothes inside, and there you are discovered sitting on your sofa and looking for all the world as though you had been expecting visitors for hours.” Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Well, now I will go fold the laundry, but if you think I’ll be getting out the iron, you are very much mistaken.