In many, many novels, especially those written by Jane Austen, female characters make heavy use of a sudden headache whenever they wish to retire from company and be alone. Anne Elliot does this to avoid a dinner with Captain Wentworth. Lizzie does this when she discovers from Colonel Fitzwilliam that Mr. Darcy in fact took an active role in preventing Jane from seeing Mr. Bingley when she was in London. (Hmm--in fact, it seems that there has been scholarly research
on the subject of headaches and Jane Austen.) In an Hercule Poirot episode, a woman who wishes to be undisturbed for a while (so that she can change into her alter ego who is actually a murderess!) goes upstairs to lie down with a headache. A sudden headache, in short, is the perfect plot device to make a character disappear for a few hours without anyone asking any questions, and yesterday I discovered why. I do not get migraines, although poor Mr. Philena does,* but some combination of sun, heat, dehydration, stress, computer screens, air pressure, lack of caffeine, or who knows what else yesterday sent me to bed with I think one of the few bad headaches I've ever had in my life. I'm rarely really sick (although once I had a cold that genuinely did take away my sense of taste, so extreme was the congestion), so whenever I feel so bad that I can't actually function properly, I get a bit scared on the one hand (as the lovely writer of Hyperbole and a Half illustrates in the last few pictures of her saga of a health scare a bit more dramatic than my headache
**), and a bit fascinated on the other. I remember taking great pains (aha ha ha) to try to figure out exactly where the discomfort was located (sort of behind the eye sockets, a bit in the forehead above them, and some in the back), comparing and contrasting the sensation to a caffeine headache (very similar, but more intense), and finally giving up, taking a tylenol, having a nap, and waking up feeling much better.
But enough about headaches! Let's discuss more pleasant pastimes. One occupation that will have to come to an end now that school has started in earnest is my gobbling up of science fiction books. One particularly good series I have been reading recently (The Sharing Knife
, by Lois McMaster Bujold---thank you,mummimamma
, for mentioning that there was a new one out) has struck me because it features a female protagonist who is extremely different from the standard heroine of such novels. See, usually these novels are set in a swords-and-sorcery type of world, where if women are to go on adventures they must cease to be like women and start doing manly things, and a lot of plots are built around the girl-dressing-up-as-a-boy or the out-of-place-girl-who-always-wanted-to-
such-was-socially-ostracized. Yet in this series, the female character is none of those things: she is brought up learning cooking and sewing and weaving, and she is good at it, and her place in the world as a cook and weaver is valued and important. After all, despite what the covers of fantasy novels would lead us to believe, it's difficult to go hunt monsters without clothes: if you don't have trousers and socks you get saddle sores and blisters, and someone
has to wash all those bandages after they've been used on your dragon bites. Usually the traditional gender roles in these sorts of books go hand-in-hand with the traditional values attached to the bearers of those gender roles, but if you're building your own world, there's no need to take them together. Authors often try to separate household activities from the traditionally associated undesirable connotations of femininity by giving cooks and weavers and so forth magical powers that somehow spring from the cooking and weaving. What I like about these books (aside from the very compelling world-building) is that Bujold doesn't even need to do that. Domestic skill in this world doesn't need to have anything special about it to be inherently valuable, and that approach is refreshing.
Another pastime that I will not be giving up because it is the perfect procrastination tool is watching lousy science fiction television series on Netflix. I might have mentioned my delight with Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, but that has come to an end. I can only take so much dying-and-coming-back-to-life and associated angst before I get bored. The newest delight is Stargate: SG1
, which I have only recently discovered is based off the movie Stargate
that came out when I was young enough to enjoy it tremendously (although by all critical accounts it was terrible.) I don't, in fact, have any real reason to enjoy it; it's not as good as Star Trek or Firefly, or as imaginative as Heroes, or as charming as early Buffy. It does, however, allow me to be smug about my education. Somewhere out there is a TV audience being catered to who is expected to sympathize with the man-of-few-words warrior who can only wrinkle his brow and go "huh?" when the smart astrophysicist explains that stars move over thousands of years, but the relative difference in position between closer stars is less than the difference between stars that are farther apart. I, on the other hand, fall neatly into the other TV audience, which is expected to laugh at the foolish gun-man and sympathize with the smart astrophysicist, whose carefully scripted explanation sounds just smart enough to make people who follow it feel like astrophysicists themselves. (I also love the moments when people on alien planets speak in not-English, and everyone stares at the anthropologist, while he stares dumbly back at them. It reminds me of my language classes, when the professor says something to me, and everyone stares at me, and an answer is expected, and I don't have it. These moments are becoming fewer, it seems. Apparently, as the season progresses, people on other worlds have started learning English much faster.) Eventually I imagine even my smugness at knowing what electromagnetic radiation is will not be enough to make up for the pretty execrable writing, but for now the ego-stroking and pretty costumes keep me quite happy.
with truly alarming aura symptoms: the first we learned of it was when he suddenly lost the ability to read and could not remember names of his colleagues, resulting in a night in the emergency room getting CT scans and scheduling MRIs to determine whether he'd had a stroke. Subsequent migraine auras restricted themselves to more respectable flashing lights and tingling hands.
I love this blogger. Any fan of standard written English (coughaheamMommycough)would tremendously enjoy her treatment of the malopropism "alot"
. If anyone wants to give me a gift, I would love a mug with the picture and caption "I care about this alot."