Monday, August 01, 2011

Little Women

I love how the girls in Little Women patiently submit to their lots in life with zest, enthusiasm and obedience. Trials stemming from rebelliousness are temporary and soon ended with a kind word from "Marmee."

There should be a personality test for women in which you are identified as a Meg (bustling, domestic, motherly, likes nice things but is willing to sacrifice, proper, musical); a Jo (rebellious, rough, tomboy, restless, literary, unconventional); a Beth (charitable to a fault, kind always, still, faithful, also musical) or an Amy (elegant, tactful, artistic, the center of her social circle).

I've always most identified with Jo, though in some ways the above description isn't necessarily self-fitting. On a recent reading, Jo's main character trait that stands out to me is her restlessness. What suspends belief is that when she is married and more or less settled with her old professor and a houseful of boys is that all restlessness ends for her: maybe the houseful of boys was enough movement for her. Or not. Alcott herself was pretty much Jo, though she never married. The last chapter of her novel reads like her own castle in the air that isn't really grounded in reality. I can almost see Alcott in the garrett of smallish home, writing her prose and pining away for a man who would never come. Her father was a great friend to Thoreau: perhaps he was her ideal man in the way the professor was to Jo.

I am very restless this week. As we plan our annual pilgrimage to Utah, during which Plantboy and Jedi Knight are going to take an awesome canoeing trip, I cannot help but think that women spend a lot of time standing still while men get to move. And I am still having trouble learning to be still. I know that some of it is situational--my kids are still quite young--but it doesn't change things a whole lot. And we train them from a very young age to think this way: our girls go to Girl's Camp for long afternoons of crafts, a few water games, lots of cooking lessons and touchy-feely self-esteem boosting type activities. The teenage boys? They left this morning for a 50 mile backpack trip this week. In my mind it should be pretty clear which type of activity is more character-building, and yet we persist in defining kids almost wholly by their sex.

Oh, I am so restless. Graduate school this summer was very easy as I took an introduction class. Maybe as the challenges arise in the fall I won't feel like my spirit is trying to crawl out of my skin.


Melanie said...

I always resented the fact that the boys got to do such cool things for scout camp, while we sat around and made crafts and MAYBE took a one mile hike to pass off some requirement at girls camp. Some girls would like to be more adventurous, and I'm pretty certain that not all boys enjoy the roughness of scout camp. I wish we would just offer both camps and let the youth of both genders go to the one that suits them best.

AmyJane said...

See, I'm a Meg, so I'm allllll good with this life I lead right now. (Well, mostly allllll good.) However, there's an answer to that girl's camp/boy's camp question for girls like you and it's called Venturing Scouts. Who even knew there were girls in boy scouts? High adventure, no less. It's a FANTASTIC program for older girls. I've learned a lot about it being married to my husband and while I would never insist my girls do it, I would certainly support them if they were the "restless" type.

Julia said...

I'm assuming you're talking about the church-sponsored girl's camp...and wow, your girl's camp was not run by the people who ran ours. We learned first aid, navigation by compass, building barometers, navigation by sun/lichen/trail markers, knife care, wood chopping, various ways of building fires, etc, etc.

I don't remember much in the way of long restful afternoons doing crafts. I remember being dragged into a meadow and having spaghetti artfully arranged on my tummy so it looked like I had a belly wound.

We took long hikes (12 miles one year, ok...that's not 50, but still).

The oldest girls got to actually backpack away from the main camp and rough it. Sadly, I skipped my last year of girl's camp.

Jenny said...

Clearly you need a stake YW calling...
at our girl's camp we have a rifle range, archery and the mile swim across the lake for starters.
Keep looking! You will find what your restless spirit is looking for.


Science Teacher Mommy said...

Hm . . . so much to think about and say. I think that instead I will just say that y'alls' wards sound completely awesome. I'd ship my daughters off to you if I had any. :)

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I saw myself most in Meg. Ironically, I also found her the least interesting character in the book.

All the YW "camps" I attended resemble your description - lots of crafts, skits, and testimony-building stuff, with a few outdoorsy things thrown in. I only recall one hike, and it wasn't very long.

As a teenager, I often felt a bit envious in BYC meetings when the boys reported all the cool campouts and hikes they went on. I once suggested to a stake YW leader that we might all grow closer to the Lord at girls' camp if we roughed it in tents. My proposal went over like a lead balloon. I don't think she was the outdoorsy type.

Desmama said...

Interesting that the girls in the book all sort of kind of cover the color spectrum of personalities. Perhaps that wasn't accidental? And perhaps we're all hybrids of a few of them.

emandtrev said...

Wow, I could not have read this post at a better time. It has been a rough week in my household, so I too am feeling a bit restless.

Interestingly enough, I picked up an agenda my husband left in the car after a scout committee meeting. I may or may not have spouted off just a little about the differences between the opportunities available to the YW and the YM. Oh, I understand it. To an extent. And that doesn't keep me from spouting off. :)