I just finished reading the last L. M. Montgomery book I had left to read. Montgomery is the author of the Anne books, and the Emily books, and the Blue Castle, and lots of other wonderful books and stories. My grandma gave me the Anne series when I was little, and I loved them. I went to the library to go find more books by her, but the only other Montgomery books my library had were the Chronicles of Avonlea, which were about Avonlea but not about Anne, and I was not into that at all. Later I found the Emily books, and I did enjoy those, but I wasn’t aware of the rest of her books until I was an adult. So I have been slowly working my way through and really enjoying the process.
The last book I finished last night was Magic for Marigold. The book is an expansion of four short stories, and it feels like it. It doesn’t have much in the way of an overarching plot. But there are still some good stories, and Marigold is an interesting and spunky character. Until the last chapter, which is titled “Her Chrism of Womanhood.” I am now going to reveal to you what the chrism of womanhood means, so spoilers, but again this book is super episodic and knowing this episode doesn’t really spoil the overall plot, since there isn’t one.
Up to this point in the book Marigold’s best friend has been an imaginary girl named Sylvia. She made friends with other girls, but usually when she is away from home, or they are visiting her. Then a new boy, “Budge,” moves in next door, and they a great friends. They play together all the time, and she tries to impress him by touching frogs and stuff like that. Then another boy, Tad, moves into the neighborhood. Then Budge and Tad become BFFs and Marigold is all alone again. Then, praises, Budge and Tad fight, and Budge comes back to Marigold. Marigold listens to all of his troubles and rejoices when he says that he is through with Tad. They make a plan to play the next day. But the next day, he is friends with that drat boy Tad again! But he still wants to play with Marigold. So they have a great time, but at the end of the day he still goes off to play with Tad again.
So Marigold is feeling kind of bummed about this, and her Aunt Marigold finds her and gets the scoop on all this. Now Aunt Marigold is a lady doctor in this day and age, so you know she has spunk. She tells Marigold a sensible thing: real friends are not like imaginary friends, because you can keep imaginary friends all to yourself, but real friends are going to have other friends. Makes sense! But then it gets weird. This is her whole speech:
You must not expect to have Budge wholly to yourself dear, as you had Sylvia. Our earthly house of love has many mansions and many tenants. Budge will always be coming back to you. He finds something in your companionship Tad can’t give him. He’ll come for it, never fear. But you must share him with others. We--women--must always share.
What is this? Initially I’m following along and I’m like sure, real people aren’t like imaginary friends...Everyone needs to share their friends...okay...Only women need to share their friends? Wait, what?
Marigold takes it like this: “Yes, she must share Budge. The old magic was gone forever--gone with Sylvia and the Hidden Land and all the dear, sweet fading dreams of childhood. But after all there were compensations. For one thing, she could be as big a coward as she wanted to be. No more hunting snakes and chivying frogs. No more pretending to like horrible things that squirmed. She was no longer a boy’s rival. She stood on her own ground. ‘And I’ll always be here for him to come back to,’ she thought.”
END OF BOOK
This last paragraph has a few non sequiturs in it, so I’m not sure how much sense it can actually make. But the general idea seems to be that this is the deal of being a woman: men go out and do fun stuff. They do not want you around. But don’t worry, they will always come back to you. And what you get out of this is that you don’t have to pretend to be interested in their weird man-stuff, like frogs. So you have to “share” men with the world and wait around for them to come back to you, but bonus, no frogs.
And it’s good that Marigold isn’t messing around with frogs if she doesn’t want to. The bad thing is that the waiting around part is labeled as distinctly feminine. In fact, it is THE chrism of womanhood.
And that is bonkers. I mean, it’s a really great system. For men. Men can say, “Listen, you just have to wait for me to decide I want to hang out with you. Oh well yeah sure it’s inconvenient for you, but that’s just part of being a woman! Maybe even the essence!”
This might sound like a very old, very sexist problem (this book was published in 1929), and in some ways it is. And in some ways it’s not. Women are less likely to believe that waiting around for men is part of their essence, but they still might find themselves doing it anyway. Maybe they are dating a guy who doesn’t treat them very well, but they think it’s the best they can do so they put up with it. He doesn’t make them a priority, but they are glad he’s around at all.
But here is the thing: when you are with a man who is right for you, he won’t make you wait around. You don’t have to “share” him with the world in some specifically feminine way. You both will let each other go out adventuring, and you will both be there for the other person to come back to, and you will go out and adventure together. And that is what I wish Aunt Marigold had told Marigold. Hopefully Budge eventually figured it out.