"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in de Beauvoir (3)

Saturday
Apr072012

Femininity and Feminism


Paris is rubbing off on me. I’m wearing skirts again. Not all the time, but more in the past month than I have in the previous twenty years.

What was it Simone de Beauvoir said about being a woman?  “One is not born a woman, but rather becomes, a woman.”

I disagree. Nothing could be easier for most of us than being the sex we are born.

 

 

Maybe de Beauvoir meant 1940s women. I do know she wasn’t referring to becoming more feminine in style. 

While men's and women's differences are to some extent culturally determined, many of our differences are innate.

Women are more attuned to nuances of relationship than men.


Women are more radial in their sensibility.

Men tend to find it easier to stay focused on getting to their goals.

 

 

Men tend to be more linear in sensibility.

Generalizations, I know. But for the most part, I’ve found them to be true.

I know a gifted psychotherapist, one of whose specialties is couples counseling. She once told me that with most couples, when you ask the man what he wants in a relationship, she usually hears, “I just want her to be happy.”

 

 

Women have more complicated recipes for happiness.


In the realm of relationships, men are simpler, she says. They want to be appreciated. They want to be admired. They want their women to be happy.

The great psychiatrist and mythographer, C. G. Jung, had another angle on the subject: he came up with the notion of the anima and the animus, the contra-sexual being inside both women and men. Men have within them an image of the feminine, or a female soul. Women have within them, the image of the masculine, or male spirit.

 

 

Virginia Woolf emphasizes how we are all, especially artists, androgynous.

 

In A Room of One’s Own Woolf describes her concept of the androgynous mind:

I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating.


 


To be successful the mind must possess an ignorance of sex, Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own:

the mind of an artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent, like Shakespeare’s mind.


I seem to be circling around what I want to say. And I can’t really approach it through generalizations. (If I were a man, I’d have gotten to the point by now.) I can only approach it by recalling certain moments in my life that still resonate.

Some happened before I was born. Others happened afterwards.

What shall I call these moments?

What if they all together added up to a constellation, a metaphorical shape in the sky? A shape I won’t recognize without first laying them all out, like stars?

 

 

Stars, because they burn in my memory. Stars, because they shed light on something larger than the light of each one.


So, stars:

Star: It is 1945. My father is in the Navy. My mother travels from their apartment in Greenwich Village to her childhood home in Fairmont, Minnesota.

Her father, my grandfather, had left the farm on which he was raised to go to medical school, to escape the life of a farmer. He was now a brilliant medical diagnostician, a beloved family doctor. 

 

 

His oldest child and only daughter, my mother, always wanted to be a doctor, and had her father’s gift for it. 

My mother wrote to my father that she wanted to go to medical school while he was fighting the Axis.

No, he said, since they wanted six children, he’d be happy to earn the living for the family while she raised the children.


My grandfather and my mother’s brother, himself a doctor, also dissuade my mother from going to medical school. Why do women need to go through all that?

Star: My parents have five children rather than the six they planned. Four are girls. My brother is given a middle name. We girls are not, presumably because we’ll marry and get name #3 that way.

 

 

Star: It’s my first year of college at Sarah Lawrence. I’ve just come out of four years of a girls’ boarding school. At Sarah Lawrence I study during the week and spend the weekends at men’s colleges nearby, Princeton and Yale. It is a shockingly schizophrenic life. A monk during the week, and black-out drinking among the men on weekends. After half a year of sailing through the work, something breaks down in me, and I can’t make sense any more of why I’m in college, the strange dichotomy between study and weekend frenzy, being a subject during the week, an object on the weekends.

 

 

Star: Spring break from my second year of college, in England. I take a train alone through France and Italy on the way to Greece. Italy feels like a descent into hell, men like a ravening pack of wolves hounding me on the train. I take refuge in a car full of nuns. Relief. Safety.

 

 

Star: I live with my artist/painter boyfriend in Novato, California. While I’m visiting my family in Paradise Valley, Arizona, my boyfriend calls, excited. “Guess what. I just bought an interest in a schooner. We’re going to live on it! Change your ticket to meet me in Honolulu.”

I do so, with no discussion of his decision. We move from a ranch in Novato to an 85-foot schooner. We move from land to the sea. We move from the life of being a couple to being a “crew.” I don’t question that he hasn’t even asked me whether this life appeals to me.

 


Star: 
We sail from Honolulu to Marina del Rey. We are a crew of ten. We move to a shipyard in Newport Beach, where we’ll renovate the ship for the next two years. Everyone chooses jobs on the schooner. Since I’m the only woman who lives full-time on the boat, it is assumed that my job is to cook. I don’t like to cook, though I’m perfectly good at it. And anyway, I can’t rebuild engines.

Star: 
It’s 1972. It’s the Virgo decade, the decade of Demeter. Everyone is tuning up their health by careful dietary choices. The men want no dairy in their diets. They want home-made corn bread and three meals with three or four courses each a day. But we’re rebuilding the galley, and don’t have a refrigerator or stove, so I must market once or twice a day and cook on an hibachi in the noisy, dusty shipyard.

 



At the market one day, I pick up the first issue of Ms. Magazine.

The ship is an optical illusion, a mirage. From the outside it looks like the ultimately glamorous life: we’re rebuilding her to sail around the world.

 



Groupies flock around the single male crew members. These are seriously mentally challenged “chicks” and the turnover is high. It is my job to comfort the broken hearts of girls who were attracted to adventurous guys who have something they want (a free ticket to sail around the world) but who quickly grow tired of them.

From the inside, this life is anything but glamorous. It is hard physical labor all day long, seven days a week. It is a perfect life for an extraverted action type who loves being surrounded by people and adores physical labor, like sanding masts, rebuilding engines, pumping the bilge.

For an introverted intuitive type like me (you know, a dreamer), it is my definition of hell.

I beg my boyfriend to leave the boat. He doesn’t hear me for two years. “Think of the adventures we’ll have sailing around the world,” he says.

But it’s too many people, too little time for reading and writing or any of the things I like to do. 

 

 

Star: A. and I rent a little apartment on the beach in Laguna Beach. It is so small that we have to halve the day. He leaves in the a.m. to give me silence to write. I leave in the afternoon to give him solitude to paint. His friends knock on the door all morning looking for him. I ask him to tell them to stop by during his “studio hours.” One leaves me an anonymous nasty cartoon. How dare a woman try to have silence, a space of her own?

 

 

Star: We move to Sausalito into a bigger house. A. is extraverted, likes having friends drop by all day, music, talk, radio and TV always on. I ask for a few hours of silence in the morning. He promises he’ll protect my alembic, but doesn’t.

I ask A. to go to counseling with me. He doesn’t see the need, refuses.

I leave him, get involved with another man.

Now A. offers me whatever I want, silence in the morning, communication, counseling, anything. But it’s too late.

 

 

Star: I discover that this man I’m dating has a drug problem. I try to leave him. He says if I do, he’ll kill me.

Star:
 I live in hiding on the other side of the country for a year and a half, until he tracks me down by breaking into my parents’ home.


Star:
 Ten years later in Santa Fe, I become a traveling art dealer. I don’t pay enough attention to appearance, clothes, but in this job, with high-end buyers, I must refine my wardrobe and appearance. I borrow a gorgeous black cotton dress from a good friend, pair it with a concho belt my mother has given me, and looking my best, interview for the job, get it, and go to artists’ studios to look at their work.

 

 


One of the male painters says, “She’s too good-looking to be any good as an art agent” to a friend of mine, who tells me what he said.

In my first art-selling trip to Arizona, I snag three banks, am asked to fill them with art of my choosing, paintings and sculptures of the artists whose work I carry. I place no paintings by this artist in any of the banks. Another artist is able to put a down payment on his first home from the paintings that have sold.



Star: 
In Santa Fe I complete a vision quest of thirty years. What I discover at the center of the labyrinth is that the breakdown I experienced in my first year of college, post-loss of religious faith, post-boarding school structure, was not a merely personal drama.

The confusion about values, about my path and focus, was a refusal of an entire cultural construct: a patriarchal world in which nature is not honored, women are not revered, all is driven by the masculine values of progress, economics, power, domination. And the soul, being, relationships, love, the sacred, the earth, are lesser values or ignored altogether.

 

 


Long after I become clear about my own spiritual values, and work…

Long after the influence of Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Doris Lessing, Anais Nin, Ms. Magazine…

Long after the lessons of the ‘60s and ‘70s about equality between women and men have become a part of our cultural conversation…

 

 


I hear women denying they are feminists, or splitting hairs in defining it:

 

“Those early feminists were just so aggressive, so angry.”

“Poor men—it hurts their feelings.”

 
“Feminism needs to be more feminine.”

Or from women who’ve been getting by for years by being seductive: “I’ve never had any trouble as a woman getting what I want.”

 

And I’m amazed. Really, amazed. As if I’m hearing an African-American say,

 

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an abolitionist. I mean, those Civil Rights people were just so angry.”

 
“Poor white people. You wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, now would you?”

 “We just need to be more pliable, less demanding.”

This is just plain absurd. Nothing at all changes without the first revolutionary activists. It’s their very anger—that fire, that light—that blazes the trail, lights the way.

 

 


I have a few questions I’d like to ask you women who deny or negate feminism:

Have you ever been dissuaded from doing the work you wanted to do because you’re a woman?


Even if you proceeded with the work you wanted to do, have you ever had others in your life consider it secondary to matters of relationship, others’ expectations of you as wife, girlfriend, mother, friend? 

Has the work you are expected to do ever been dictated by the fact that you are a woman (stereotypes of what women’s work should be rather than what you’d like to do)?

 

 

Has your capacity for work ever been underestimated because you are a woman? 


Have you ever been punished for your looks—looking “too good,” or looking “not good enough?”

Have you ever had life decisions made for you, without being consulted, because you are a woman?

 

 

Have you ever felt threatened by—or experienced—abuse because you are a woman?


Have you ever feared for your life because a man wanted something from you that you didn’t want to give him? 

And lastly, a question for those of you who say you’re not feminists: Have you lost your mind? Is your memory really that brief?

 

I’m looking at all these stars laid out in the sky. They seem to form an island. Or is it a woman, in a long bell-shaped skirt? Wait—it’s both! It’s an island shaped like a goddess. It’s the island of Crete. This goddess—what is her name? Is it Hera? Aphrodite? Rhea? Or is it all of these? It is. It’s the ancient Great Goddess, reawakening now after a slumber of 3,000 years.


 
Street art by Salvador Dali
Saturday
Sep102011

Big Girls Do Cry

 

How in the name of Godot are we going to get fluent in French?

Richard’s about to return for his fall session at L’Alliance Francaise, and is not at all pleased with his progress to date. He's still in what he describes as the first-person pointing and grunting stage, although his pointing and grunting accent is superb.

I’m trying a different approach. Either an hour (minimum) a day of conversation in French, or an hour (minimum) of French film or TV show. You think getting into a French conversation is so easy? All the natives want to practice their English on me—English that is already fluent—but I bat them down, pretend not to understand English, or tell them they can practice their English on Americans who don’t want to learn French.

 

 

I’ve taken French classes, in high school. Madame Martineau was good for the grammar, good for the accent.

I’ve tried learning French online. Forget it. E-mail and Facebook, not to mention writing, are plenty on the small screen.

A film or TV drama—that’s my favorite way. Because nothing is better than a story. Some things are as good, but nothing is better.

Next is news. If you watch for an hour, the same news repeats, and you can scoop up new words when the same stories loop around again.

And sometimes an educational program gives you intensive familiarity with the vocabulary of one realm, food, for instance. The other night I watched a French journalist go from one location to another in Switzerland, interviewing food producers. She began on a farm high in the Alps, then swooped down to a chocolate factory in Zurich.

She was a perfect interviewer/hostess, friendly and subtly attuned to each person she interviewed, not so beautiful that she intimidated her interviewees, but a comely companion for bopping all over from valley to mountain and city to lake.

 

 

She spoke to a cheese maker and his family high on a mountain farm, to a bonneted chocolate maker, to a fisherman on Lac Leman, to a cherry grower (the dark are the best), to a German-speaking sausage maker who included the cherry grower’s cherries in his sausages, to the head of a finishing school where women from around the world learned to set a table à la Francaise and à l’Anglais. (To do it à la Francaise you put the wine glass smack in the center above the head of the plate-- metaphor for the reign of the grape in France?) The women were taught how to measure equidistant between the plates and line them up precisely the same distance from the edge of the table. The kind of thing you don’t learn as a young maenad in Berkeley.

Then there was the Frenchman who looked like a much taller Roman Polanski. He took the journalist on a river cruise, and talked eloquently about the smells of plants along the river in that sensual French way (she seemed smitten), then they disembarked, hopped on his Harley and roared up to his hillside restaurant where he cooked up something tasty for her. I know it was tasty from the sounds she was making, though I’m not sure what it was—I was distracted by the chemistry between the two of them. The moral of the story? You can look like a rat but if you’re humming that sensual tune, who cares, there’s magic in the air. 

Then there was the two-hour history of feminism in France, from the ‘60s ‘til today. You think that women really haven’t come very far? Think again. This was an eye-opener. From the early image of a Frenchman opening a girlie magazine in the mid-‘60s (“Oh la vache! Oh, la pute!) to the ‘70s, which seems to have been the wake up call for Frenchwomen, when it seemed that every prominent Frenchwoman in the country signed a document insisting that women, and only women, should have a say in whether they have the right to choose an abortion. 

 

 

Every Frenchwoman whose name you’ve ever heard from that era was interviewed in period footage, and spoke out with great dignity and conviction—and charm! Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Bardot, Juliette Greco, Simone de Beauvoir, and many more.

 

Bardot by Jef Aerosol

 

Men were interviewed on the streets as well. The humorless, straight-jacketed types all said women should stay at home, they don’t belong in the workplace. The men you’d want to know, the ones with juice in them said, Why not, if they want to work?

 

 

(To control or not to control, that is the question. Which brings to mind that late medieval English story, Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell, about what women really want.

Those Celtic storytellers knew the answer to Freud’s question centuries before he posed it.) 

Slowly, women are shown entering government. Slowly, women are hired as news anchors. A few here and there, including a smart, sassy, dimpled, smiling young Anne Sinclair, now Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s wife. (You know, the one who gave the NYC hotel maid such a gracious thank-you tip?)

And then, a woman anchoring nearly every TV news hour, and then… two evening anchors, both women.

**

 

 

And lastly, to get my daily French language dose, I’ve descended to watching an occasional reality show, a level to which I was never tempted in the U.S. Okay, maybe this is a concept that has already been embraced in the U.S., too, but I doubt it. I watched a show called “Belle Toute Nue.”

Here’s the basic theme: a woman with a zaftig figure comes on the show ready for transformation. To lose weight? you ask.

Mais non!

To become “bien dans sa peau,” to fully embrace herself as she is.

 

 

Her transformative wizard is a delightful, stylish, warmhearted guy named William. If he isn’t gay, he’s a terrific actor. And if he weren’t gay, I doubt that a single woman would allow him to take the liberties he takes with them.

There is a formula here. I know because I’ve watched the show twice. A woman arrives at William’s dressing room studio. He has a heart-to-heart with her about her body image. She cries.

 

 

One was a 19-year-old blonde who’d gained 30 pounds in three months because of an illness, and kept gaining. Another is a woman in her early 40s who won’t let her husband get physically close to her.

The stages:

Stage one: Confession.

William gently, lovingly asks the woman about her body image. She weeps. He asks her questions. She answers. He asks her to strip down to panties and bra and stand in front of a big three-way mirror. She is to go down her body, feature by feature, describing how she feels about each part.

 

 

Here. And here. She points to her thighs, her stomach. Again, she weeps.

But one of the women has to concede that she likes her eyes.

And the other likes her calves, sort of.

Stage Two: Lineup/Cattle Call

William leads the blindfolded woman into a room where five buxom abundant-bodied women in fetching lingerie (lined up according to size) are dancing to festive music. When they stop, the woman is asked to “take her place” according to size. Is she bigger than this one? Smaller than that one? She has no idea. She chooses a spot, slides in between two women.

No, says William. That is not your place. Try again.

She studies the women, fascinated. Again, she picks the wrong spot between two even larger women.

At last William shows her that, actually, she is the smallest of these women. And they’re all beauties. So perhaps (she thinks) she’s not all that big, that bad.

 

 

Stage three:

This is the part I can’t imagine seeing on an American “reality” TV show. But maybe I’m wrong. Readers, you tell me.

One day, as the woman walks through Paris, wearing camouflage clothes well chosen to hide her body, she bumps—serendipitously!—into William. To the young woman who works in a farmers’ market, he says, I was just on my way to shop for veggies—maybe you’d come along and give me some shopping tips?

They chat among the vegetables, and suddenly her hand flies up to her mouth. She has spotted the photo card among the eggplants—a photo of her wearing nothing but panties and a bra! Oh my God! she exclaims. And then—another photo! And another! In every vegetable bin, there is a big photo of her nearly naked body. And at the end of the market: Oh no! A giant poster of her, the same image.

William stops passersby to point at the poster and ask what they think of this woman.

Jolie. Sympa. Belle poitrine. Etc.

She listens while young and old, male and female appraise her, and mostly praise her.

 

Hairspray

 

Stage four:

A clothes shopping trip, of course. William is the personal shopper of most women’s dreams. In ten minutes flat, he’s discovered her favorite colors, and whipped off the racks dresses, a trench coat, blouses, jeans, beautiful shoes, belts. And lingerie. French lingerie. A fitter comes to get that bra just right.

Do clothes make the man? I don’t know, but they THRILL the woman. Dessert is a many-petalled long red silk strapless dress (it looks like a Valentino) that is smashing, and she looks smashing in it.

 

 

Stage five:

Hair and makeup, Parisian stylists and makeup artist. One woman goes from a hairdo that looks like a limp brown mouse died on her head to electric white-blonde Sharon Stone short. Transformed!

Another from nondescript blondie to blonde China doll, straight bangs, long bob. Dazzling.

Stage six:

The show. The climax. The reveal.

Knowing that the 19-year-old is mesmerized by the Folies Bergère dancers, William takes her to the Folies Bergère, where she is trained by their choreographer and taken on stage looking like a Seventeen magazine cover girl movie star showgirl, and—husband and friends in the theater audience—does a strip tease fan dance with the Folies Bergère dancers cavorting around her.

 

 

The married 40-something-year-old poses nude (tastefully) with her Sharon Stone hair and new violet glasses for a photo session, and stage show for her husband and family and friends on a revolving stage with other zaftig women flanking her.

The show succeeds in giving these women the feeling of being “bien dans sa peau,” which is the very thing that is so striking about Parisian women. It’s really a question of attitude, isn’t it? Just watch her walk down the street.

 

 

It also succeeded in teaching me some essential new French phrases like: 

Il veut aider les femmes se débarrasser des complexes. (He wants to help women get rid of complexes.)

Vous ne sauriez croire combien un bon saucisson se marie avec quelques cerises. (You wouldn’t believe how good sausage and cherries are together.)

**

 P.S. I can’t believe we missed this event right at the end of our street.

 

 

 

 

Friday
May202011

Der Himmel ├╝ber Paris

 

Imagine that you are the two angels in Wim Wenders’ film, “Der Himmel über Berlin,” (“Wings of Desire,” in America, though himmel translates as both "sky" and "heaven"), but instead of Berlin, you are in Paris on the evening of May 17, 2011. You can fly anywhere in the city and overhear conversations inside apartments you pass, or linger and watch and listen to the thoughts of the humans.

You might feel compassion for every human in every dwelling place you pass, including the men and women who make their home on the streets.

But surely there would be certain scenes you'd find more compelling than others. Even angels have preferences.

Surely if you’d passed by the windows of a certain apartment on Boulevard Saint-Germain, and saw a queenly woman dressed in black, with a humorous, wry expression on her face, seated on a divan facing a gathering of men and women eager to hear her stories, you would perch on the windowsill to listen. For this was a woman who’d traveled widely, and interviewed many of the leading artists of our time.

She wore big red sunglasses, red lipstick, and a scarf with a design like black and white piano keys. She wore sandals like those Gertrude Stein wore. She wore a black and white turban on her head like the ones Simone de Beauvoir wore.

And her first story was about Simone de Beauvoir.

Edith Sorel was living in Cuba, married to a Haitian, earning a living as a translator for Fidel Castro of his speeches.  Since he paid by the word and discoursed at length, it was a good job.

 

 

Jean-Paul Sartre came to speak in Havana, accompanied by Simone de Beauvoir. The state newspaper, Revolución, wrote an article about the noted writer, Sartre, and his companion, de Beauvoir, without a word about de Beauvoir’s accomplishments.

Edith wrote her first-ever article and fired it off to Revolución, detailing Mme. de Beauvoir’s importance as both a writer and philosopher, whose 1954 book, The Second Sex, was a clarion call for a feminist awakening.

The article was published the next day, and voilà, she received a call the following day from Simone de Beauvoir herself, inviting her to visit them at their hotel in Havana.

Edith knocked at their door, and de Beauvoir opened. She was quite beautiful, with dark hair and blue eyes, yet her voice was shrill. Whereas Sartre, who was the ugliest man Edith had ever seen, had the most beautiful voice.

Edith arranged for the French couple to meet Che Guevara, who now had the post of director of the National Bank. The meeting occurred at 4 a.m. in the bank, and Edith said that because she served as translator among the three of them, she doesn’t remember a word of what was said.

So began her career as a journalist—all because Revolución had not understood the importance of de Beauvoir, but Edith had.


 

She was hired first by Revolución, then was swapped for a French journalist, and sent to work in Paris. Since she wasn’t paid much, the newspaper supplemented her pay with winters in Cuba.  Her first "major assignment" was covering the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial.

For years, Edith had lunch in Paris every six weeks with de Beauvoir. The writer liked to break from her work for lunch later than most, for exactly two hours, then return to her writing. She was very disciplined, Edith said.

And throughout the time she knew de Beauvoir and Sartre, they always looked at one another as if they’d just fallen in love, each alert for every word of the other, each acting as if they were seeing the other for the first time.

From Paris, she was sent to interview Pablo Picasso in Vallauris for his 80th birthday celebration.

 

 

She was immediately struck by his piercing eyes. Scorpio eyes, she said. Everyone brought him huge, extravagant gifts. Great bottles of champagne and massive quantities of food. Even a large painting painted by the children of the local potters.

Picasso got down on the floor with the children and discussed every detail of the painting: “This bull is very fine, but perhaps his ear could be changed like this…”

He was full of curiosity and excitement, said Edith, just like a child, always curious about everything.

Later, as she was walking in the street with her photographer, a long Lincoln Continental pulled up beside them.

Hola, chica,” came Picasso’s voice from the back seat. “Get in.”

They climbed in, went with him to a café, where he asked Edith, “Did you like my birthday exposition?”

The photographer kicked her under the table.

“I haven’t seen it,” she said (although she had).

“Then I will take you to see it right now!”

And so, just as the photographer knew would happen, the two of them were led through the show by Picasso, who told them all about each painting while the photographer snapped photos.

Henry Miller… Edith was assigned to interview Henry Miller in Pacific Palisades. He was close to 80 years old at the time, and his wife was nearly 50 years younger than he.

Before Edith could get to her first question, Miller said, "Sex.  Right?  You want me to talk about sex."

She was taken aback, but only for a heartbeat.  "No.  I want you to talk about love." 

 

 

Miller looked pleased.

“You married five times. Why did you marry so often?”

“Because you had to marry women then to sleep with them.” (Does this remind you of anyone else, say, Elizabeth Taylor?) “But my great love was a woman I didn’t marry. She was 20 years older. I was 19 at the time.”

(Although Miller may have married for sex each time, his last wife, it is reported, refused to sleep with him because, "You are an old man.")

Everywhere you looked there were paintings, Edith said. Covering all the walls, and even on the ceiling. Henry Miller painted a water color every single day.

 

 

Edith made an appointment three months in advance to interview Ingmar Bergman the director of famously angst-ridden films. He was directing a play in Munich, Germany. When she arrived, the Nazi-like guard at the playhouse stopped her. No, she did not have an appointment. No, she could not see Bergman. She asked to speak to his secretary. No, he did not have a secretary.

She raised her voice, in German. The guard made a phone call. Down came Bergman’s secretary, who was appalled; apparently she had forgotten to write the appointment in Bergman’s calendar. However, Bergman’s home was not far from the theater. Perhaps she’d be willing to meet him there? This was even better, Edith said. She always liked to meet people in their own homes; it was more revealing. When she arrived, he was not there, so she poked around, and even read one of his letters.  (Or so she told him, though perhaps she didn’t.)

Bergman was a man with big ears and a big nose, so in photos you couldn’t see how attractive he was.  His height and figure and face all together were quite arresting. He was in an anguish of apology with her. He offered her a drink. She had her usual Scotch, and so did he. Still anguished over the forgotten appointment, he apologized, and then as they talked, they laughed and laughed, and had a wonderful time. The master of Scandinavian angst was a man of tremendous humor and joie de vivre.

 

 

The interview with Bergman was in sharp contrast to her interview with the comedian-filmmaker Woody Allen ("He had flaming red hair, you know.") in his apartment in New York City. You would recognize it from “Annie Hall,” "Manhattan," and “Hannah and her Sisters.” All the familiar rooms.

She began by asking him about his prolific output, making a movie once a year.

“Yes,” he said.

She asked him various questions, to which he responded “Yes.” Or “No.”

He offered her a drink. It was only 11 a.m., but she needed a Scotch. It was apparent to her by now that she’d need the skills of both a dentist and a psychiatrist to get Woody to talk.

 

 

She asked him about the films of Ingmar Bergman.

“Bergman!” said Woody Allen. “He’s my god!”

“Have you met him?” Edith asked.

“No,” said Allen.

“Well, I have,” said Edith, and then, beginning with her stories of Bergman, the interview flowed.

 

 

We who were perched on the windowsill wanted more stories from Edith. But a documentary is being made about the ABCs of her great life, and perhaps we’ll hear more of her stories then.

Even angels have to wait for things to come forth in their own time. And we have all eternity to receive them.