I’ve been working on getting my word count up with Medusa again this weekend, but I keep getting lost in The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Shoo & Barbara Mor—every time I crack that sucker open, I read something else that helps me refine the more esoteric concepts I’ve been trying to nest like Easter eggs in the work. Today, I was reading a chapter, “The Moon Tree” which discusses the difference between matriarchal and patriarchal consciousnesses.
It is notoriously difficult for me to write male characters, as for twenty years now, I just naturally gravitate towards the narratives and voices of women. Despite being relatively close to my dad, maintaining strong friendships with men, and also having been partnered with the same man for almost ten years, I confess, I still don’t understand how they think. The closest I got was when, while still in grad school, I was assigned to a campus counselor after I passed my comps, because I’d burnt out on all of it and didn’t know if I’d finish. Dr. M explained the three layers of the brain starting with the R-complex, which is the first time I truly understood that what motivates someone's choices is primarily dependent upon their survival instincts. Now, how those instincts are informed over the course of their life is a whole ‘nother blog, but suffice it to say, it made me want to understand the intentions of the people in my life more efficiently and to not take their choices so personally if they did not go in my favor.
Now, because I’m working on a noncommittal male character who’s got demi-god sized Daddy issues, talking to my male friends about why they do or don’t put on the emergency brake in their careers and relationships still baffles me. I’m tearing through everything from Freud to The Twilight Zone to relationship coaches on Youtube to try and understand why men prioritize their lives in such specific ways. Even though I don’t completely agree with my character’s choices, it is my responsibility to represent his voice authentically, and cobbling together the experiences of my friends and past partners isn’t enough—his motives come through as hollow and then the plot just sags, to say nothing of the dialogue.
Last night, I was watching one of these Youtube-famous coaches, and he described how women’s EQ is like driving down the Autobahn and men’s is like driving down a two-lane road. I will set aside the J in my INFJ tendencies, and not harp too much on instead of focusing on how women need to shrink their lanes to accommodate a dinky little backroad, why don’t we just expand the backroad to make travel easier on everyone (duh)—for now. But I heard him out and I considered his analogy at length holding it up to the men currently in my life and those who’ve been excused from it.
Reading this chapter from TGCM this morning confirmed that there is definitely a battle going on—it’s not a battle of the sexes, though. This battle manifests most obviously through roles denoted by gender and sexuality, to be sure, but pretty much anyone can be restricted by a limiting belief, right? What I came up with is that patriarchal consciousness/matriarchal consciousness (terms used by Sjoo and Mor) is that patriarchal consciousness is either/or oriented while matriarchal consciousness is also/and oriented.
So, I’d like to submit a scenario as to how this can play out in a micro-setting. Today, I sat down to write, and next door, my neighbor’s riding mower roared to life. This mower is a monster that could probably mow down a highway median, but he gets his little half acre done in four minutes. A couple of weeks ago, this man (who I've heard is a judge), who hasn’t spoken but literally a sentence to me in nine months, comes up to my door, and asks if he can mow my front yard because he can tell my landlords aren’t helping me out. To me, I read that as noting how short-lived the expression of joy on his face was when he stopped tearing up his own lawn, and he wanted to keep playing with his new toy—the man likes his motors, let me tell you. Monster truck. Sports car. Luxury motorcycle. And now—bulky riding mower.
I said sure, and we got to talking. I told him I’m a professor and a writer, and right now, my head is wandering around the Parthenon all summer, and that yes, after nine months, I’m just now unpacking my place. So, he happily mows my front yard in seven minutes. All good. Mission accomplished. He mentioned in passing that my backyard was getting pretty bad too, and I remembered that he had been out of town in the spring when the dandelion tufts had gotten knee-high. So he hadn’t seen me let my backyard turn into something of a science experiment, which I eventually took my electric mower to and had a lot of fun, actually, pushing it around in sedate, uneven lines to mow until everything was trimmed. He said he’d mow the back if he could get the thing through the back fence, but I said, eh. It’s fine. I’ll get around to it sooner or later, but first—I had a date with the Acropolis.
He seems to be on vacation for a few weeks, and from my reading nook, I’ve seen him disassembling the Jumanji of his own backyard, and a couple of weeks after our conversation, upon noting that I’d still not mown, decided that today, he is going to just get 'er dun. When I realized why the mower sounded suddenly so close, I just chuckled, turned up the opera, and went back to writing, inspired. As if on cue, here was patriarchal consciousness quite literally in my own backyard, mowing my matriarchal consciousness down to the dirt.
My neighbor thinks like this: Either the lawn is of an acceptable length (according to his criteria) or it isn’t.
I think like this: I am fine with the length of my lawn at any state—I will get to it when I get to it.
I have to admit—maybe it’s what I’m reading, but the act, which I thanked him for two weeks ago and felt genuine when he offered, did feel slightly invasive today, because he didn’t knock this time. He’d clearly gotten annoyed with waiting for either me or my landlords to address the length of the lawn according to his standards, which he hasn’t cared about until literally now, almost a year since I’ve been in this house. He figured out a way to maneuver his mower on through the fence anyway—even though he has no vested interest in my lawn other than it’s there and appears to be “bad” (read: unruly, unkempt, wild, untamed, etc.). You see where I’m going with this?
At one point, he even walked very close to my reading nook window through which he could see me working, and waited for a few moments, like I should lift my head to acknowledge his act as favorably as the first time. I didn’t. Because that’s what I felt he wanted me to do. Apart from my own issues with authority, as a single Black woman in a rural town, I confess—my drawbridge is necessarily raised against unsolicited acts instigated by Anglo men. I’ve had too many run-ins with at-first gentlemanly neighbors who then get to acting out when you don’t give them whatever it is they feel entitled to that day.
So, now I feel like my peace of mind has been disturbed. This whole lawn business has now become a thing. I didn’t ask him to mow my lawn, but I’m also wired to believe he’s going to want something in return eventually, especially if he mows it again. Because either/or consciousness is dogged/assertive at best and relentless/aggressive at worst. I’m just hoping we can go back to studiously ignoring one another’s comings and goings. But for me, this scenario encapsulated everything that motivates patriarchal consciousness—it’s not just two lanes of emotions. It's two lanes of intellect. It's two lanes of motivation. It's two lanes of dominance. Everything is played out in terms of binaries. Either this will kill me or it will cure me. Matriarchal consciousness integrates—understands innately that you gotta add a little bit of whatever could kill you in order to get to what can cure you...eventually. And out of necessity, that process needn't be rushed—you might miss something important—like someone else's needs/desires/worldview not being less important than your own.