needle ice

Sometimes, while watching a movie or reading a book, the situations strike too close to home, and I can feel my body tensing, my throat stiffening, a sense of cold dread coming over me. The child inside me cowers, helpless, as I recognize and sympathize with the voice of a writer who experienced the same childhood invalidation and oppression that I experienced. The mother-daughter scenes in Disney's Tangled (between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel) did this to me - I think I spent half the movie holding my breath and while I think it was an excellent movie, I can't say that I really enjoyed it. Many scenes in Jonathan Franzen's book The Corrections held the same sense of recognition and dread for me. Again, marvelous work of fiction, but I don't think I'll be reading any more Franzen.

I'm currently reading The Golden Compass (known as Northern Lights in the UK), the first book of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I expected anti-Catholic / anti-religious sentiment; I did not expect a scene from my childhood, and it took me by surprise:
"Lyra, if you behave in this course and vulgar way, we shall have a confrontation, which I will win. Take off that bag this instant. Control that unpleasant frown. Never slam a door again in my hearing or out of it. Now, the first guests will be arriving in a few minutes, and they are going to find you perfectly behaved, sweet, charming, innocent, attentive, delightful in every way. I particularly wish for that, Lyra, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Mrs. Coulter."
"Then kiss me."
She bent a little and offered her cheek. Lyra had to stand on tiptoe to kiss it...she drew away and laid the shoulder bag on her dressing table before following Mrs. Coulter back to the drawing room.
"What do you think about the flowers, dear?" said Mrs. Coulter as sweetly as if nothing had happened. "I suppose one can't go wrong with roses, but you can have too much of a good thing..Have the caterers brought enough ice? Be a dear and go and ask. Warm drinks are horrid..."
Lyra found it was quite easy to pretend to be lighthearted and charming, though she was conscious every second of Pantalaimon's disgust, and of his hatred for the golden monkey...she felt like a universal pet, and the second she voiced that thought to herself, Pantalaimon stretched his goldfinch wings and chirruped loudly.
Pantalaimon is Lyra's daemon, which is a kind of familiar. I'm not yet entirely sure what the daemons are, but so far they seem to be a reflection of the person's subconscious - like their inner, more wise, more honest voice. The monkey is Mrs. Coulter's daemon. I can remember having that sense of going along with my mother's tyranny with relative ease - or at least what must have looked like ease to those on the outside - while still having a part of myself that recognized how wrong the situation was. My mother, likewise, had a smooth, aren't-the-roses-nice exterior that she showed to others, while I knew that the authentic, imperious golden monkey version of her was there. I cannot think how many times she said - explicitly or implicitly - "we shall have a confrontation, which I will win." There was no room for my personhood. I hated her even while loving her, and the combination of the two made an icy lump inside of me.

What's funny is that she accused me of being cold-hearted or hard-hearted on many occasions. Those occasions were always times in which I was showing myself to be engaged, perspicacious, and above all, my own person.

I've been thawing for years now, and yet she thinks that I'm the coldest I have ever been.

While reading this book, I'm whispering, Run, Lyra! Trust your instincts! 

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