because it seems rude not to mention there are vaguely pornographic, highly terrorizing images below,
please note: there are vaguely pornographic, highly terrorizing images below.
in 1993, thanks to the film career of chris o'donnell, i fell a little in love with the books of maeve binchy. thus- as a result of our morbid compulsion to share- my mother fell a little in love with the books of maeve binchy and we began tracking down her collected works at various used book stores across the nation.
if you've read one of maeve binchy's books, you've pretty much read them all. because they are more or less all 500+ page stories about winsome, arty irish girls falling in love with brooding irish boys, with whom they have sex either in dublin or on a beach and for whom they then sacrifice all of their dreams of writing or medical school or baking or independent womanhood to live in rural obscurity in country cottages as emotionally unfulfilled, restless wives, their fragile hopes dashed- tragically, poignantly- against the wind.
so basically, a plot that is compellingly romantic when you're 12 and do not yet know that it will become your deepest fear at 29.
circle of friends- the chris o'donnell film version of the maeve binchy book of the same name, which prompted this literary love affair- incorporates most of these elements with the addition of a scandalously slutty dress, scandalous sex with the landed gentry, a scandalous pregnancy and the scandalous seduction of a best friend's brooding boyfriend. all of which sets up a scenario in which it would be pretty easy to arrive at the conclusion that the path to true love- and the subsequent inevitable disillusionment of wifeliness- is paved with Scandal. and that the best women can ever hope for in life is total, achingly poetic, dissatisfaction.
i come from a good family, in no way rocked by scandal, and my childhood, as i remember it, was largely satisfying in that it was idyllic to the extreme. it's safe to say that the most scandalous aspect of my childhood was my sexual education- a fact that should serve to warn fundamentalists that, yes, there are worse things than sex ed in schools. sex ed via my mother, for instance.
the sexual education of young oline should have been a fairly straightforward affair. over a period of days, my mother and i sat in the green rocking chair, where we always went for Comfort after the happening of Bad Things, and my mother read aloud from how babies are made.
at the conclusion of this process, she believed i had grasped the basics of sexual intercourse.
through this process and this series of illustrations...
i had, in fact, arrived at the conclusion that chickens crawled into the beds of unsuspecting married people and shoved boiled eggs up the vaginas they encountered there.
for the next ten years, i swore i would never marry. my parents often wondered why.
couple the chicken and eggs thing with my childhood conviction that if i did not perform well in ballet, a man in a blouse and bearing a saber would sever my hands at the wrist while i slept, and you come away with a pretty clear sense of the detrimentally over-imaginative child i was and why i am who i am today. in particular, why i find humor in everything and consume epic quantities of caffeine.
in my family, we watch movies over and over. it's comforting and we have never not done this. it's always been a source of surprise to us when other people don't.
in our maeve binchy heyday, my mum and i were watching circle of friends a hell of a lot. maybe so much as once a week. which is funny because circle of friends is all about sex. something i didn't realize until the spring of 2002, when i watched it with kbg and the scales fell from my eyes, at which point i confronted the reality that my mother and i had spent much of the 90s bonding over a sex film.
there are more horrible things in the world. boiled eggs up vaginas for one, but this was still not exactly ideal and i was suitably mortified.
i didn't mention this to my mother for years and years. any of it. by the time my parents staged an intervention and asked why on earth i- a child raised within the bonds of a loving, happy marriage- should disdain the institution so much, federally mandated sex education had already cleared up the matter of the chickens. by then my skepticism was primarily a preventative measure against the adolescent insecurity that no one would ever want to marry me, but i would be lying not to admit that lurking under that angst, a residual distrust remained. even properly informed, i was still wary of anything that might bring birds into my bed.
it would be even longer before my mother and i would discuss the sexiness of circle of friends. not until she told me my grandparents had seen shrek and were appalled by the innuendos. only then did i say, well, we watched circle of friends a million times at least and that wasn't about anything but sex. there was a brief pause, in which i could almost feel over the phone the features of her face aligning into that sanguine expression they had assumed when i was a little girl and sat in her lap in the green chair and she had snapped shut how babies are made.
i'm no longer a little girl. i'm an adult when my mother says something that almost makes perfect sense but also really, really doesn't. when she pauses and says, but circle of friends was entirely different. you were learning things. i'm a poignant, restless, winsome woman when she says this and sighs quietly, aching and poetic, as though- at last!- her work were finally done.