Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel
catvalente

My Dinner With Persephone

All writers have their obsessions. That stuff they can't let go, that they return to again and again. Sometimes it's a man with roughly bitten-down fingernails. Sometimes it's a girl/boy/AI hired by a shadowy oligarch seeking some crazy thing across the known world. Sometimes it's the end of childhood. There's always something you straight up just can't quit, and usually a lot of things.

I have a lot of things. Bad parents, abandoned kids, broken girls getting whole, poorly socialized psyches incapable of understanding social systems. I have a lot.

But in the end, I just can't stop writing about Persephone.

I feel bad about it in a way. There's this process by which anything girls love becomes disdainful, cliched, sad, in a way that the things boys love never do. Boys can love pulp SF and westerns and comic books, and they become greater, they become epics and serious films and graphic novels. But for every girl who ever loved Sylvia Plath in high school, for every one who watched that crocus of a girl slipping away into the earth and saw herself, there is a invisible choir of derisive laughter, there is an instant satire of that love--just another one of those sad, dirty girls, another goth girl who thinks she's special, how can anyone bear that emo poetry, how can anyone take a girl seriously who loves Morgan le Fay and Persephone and ankh-wearing Death, just like all the other girls?

And I read slush. I know. Basically no one can stop writing about Persephone. (Or did you think Twilight was about something else?) There's a reason the greatest Mysteries of the ancient world were about her. Crack open any fantasy-accepting slushpile and you will find Persephone in a hundred stories, maybe one of which adds anything new at all. It's not an obsession that has geek cred. Too much love means you can turn up your geek nose about it.

And so when I go back to that well, that well which to me is so deep and giving, I feel guilt. What if they see that I'm still that girl wearing black in the hallway of some eternal school? What if they see that what obsesses me doesn't make the cover of Wired like post-scarcity economics or reputation-based currency system? I feel I should not be That Girl. I should give equal time to others. But I can't help it, I can't help how the symbols of the story crackle in my head, I can't help how I see my life in that story, how few stories we have that are about a girl's journey, and part of the reason this one hits so hard is that there is a rape at the center of it, and we all have to decide how we deal with that elephant in the Sicilian field, whether we say she loved the darkness too, whether we give her all the power, whether we say she was stolen, whether we say she was happy underground, whether we say she was miserable and her mother saved her. We decide if we see our own rapes and our own violations, the men (and women) who have put us in a cage in the dark, who have taken without asking, who have said that because they thought we were beautiful, they had the right to own us. We decide if we see the ways in which we flipped those scripts, and came out swinging into the light. And of course, it's her mother's story too, Hades is basically a motive force that acts once and never again. The rest is the story of women.

And for me, who grew up with parents who hated each other, who spent the all the seasons but one in piney grey Seattle, and summers in California, so hot it felt like hell, felt like being underground, who spent her young life being a punchline to a sad, horrible joke her parents kept telling each other over and over, who married a man who would bury her, who would take her away from the world, to Japan, to a place where no one could ever find her, where no one could break the hold he had on her, who chose to eat those seeds, who chose that man and that marriage, and then had to claw up out of the underworld only to find herself in the rust belt with a dead lake on one side, who saw it was only underworlds all the way down and up too, and you either decide to be a black-eyed queen or you decide to be that broken kid getting dragged away into the night, well, the story just never stopped showing its relevance to me. Never stopped being about me, just like it's about a lot of us.

I don't know if I'll ever be past writing about Persephone. If it will ever stop being the myth of my life. I don't really want to--the thing about katabasis (fancy Greek word for descending to the underworld and returning. It's such an important thing it gets it own word, and my name is Cat, and it's short for everything) is that it never stops. It's a process. And if you don't hit that black stair every year or so things wither up. The whole idea of that story is how a person is a world, and the cycle keeps moving, and it's never, ever over. You have to go into the earth, you have to come back up again.

So I repeat myself. I keep writing this story. Because the world has a stutter, and she keeps picking the crocus. Because for a this girl, a Sylvia girl, a Morgan girl, a Death girl, a pomegranate girl, it's the story that keeps telling me.
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