Saturday, 23 August 2014

Confinement & Emancipation

"I want to capture a sense of confinement," she said, proudly surveying her work. "The veiled woman's hand is in sight, and on her fourth finger is the ring that speaks of her despair." The painting was delicate, refined and had taken much attention to detail. A quote by Baudelaire in gold accompanied the image of the woman covered in a burqa, her multi-coloured eyes pleading with the audience. Elegant arches made up the backdrop.

A decade later, she extends her hand to me. I give a cursory nod at her large diamond ring, and her gaze drifts to some point in the distance. "I can't say this doesn't mean much to me," she murmurs, and I wonder at what point she started to change into someone I couldn't relate to. Her gaze has a world-weary cruelty I haven't wanted to acknowledge for years. I can see it better now that it's not directed at me. I don't want to spend time in her company, but I feel I must.

She has become the woman in the picture - languishing in her finery, trapped by her expensive taste. She coos at and pampers a man she doesn't love. Worse, they are so mismatched that she has to pretend to return his affections at considerable strain. She intends to take a lover.

All of my friends tell me that marrying for money is just what some women do. I was given a warning that this is how things would play out when she daydreamed of a rich husband and the passionate affairs - her version of having her cake and eating it too. I assumed it was one of her darker moments. But if it was, it would swallow her up and not let go.

I couldn't stop singing, mainly because I didn't want to talk to her. Eventually I couldn't handle it anymore, and told her as much. But I couldn't let her go. I couldn't say goodbye to the person she had been, the person I made her out to be for the longest time, and the person I still wanted her to be, despite everything. The time has come to admit that I can't bring back the past. It's time to see her as she is, not in an idealised light. It's time to take ownership of the fact that, no matter how normative some might say it is, I can't reconcile lying and cheating to my code of ethics. It's time to admit that her absence has changed my life for the better, even though I sometimes miss some aspects of her personality. It's time to reward myself for speaking out against love crimes, against Stockholm syndrome, against gender norms. It's time to celebrate the identities I've created for myself as a person now that I no longer have someone trying to bend me to their unimaginative will. It's time to celebrate my freedom.

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