An Interesting Stretch Of Reality

Image by Capucine from Pixabay

I read Pooja’s review of “The Housemaid” by Freida Mcfadden and bought the book to read for myself. It’s an easy and fun read, which is about a maid Millie who is hired by the Winchester family as a nanny. Soon, Millie finds that things are weird in this Long Island mansion: Nina, the wife, has mental issues and often gives Millie a hard time; Andrew, the husband seems to be the only handsome and sane person; the daughter is not really Andrew’s daughter and she behaves like a brat; the gardener only speaks Italian and tries to warn Millie off many times; the maid room is a closet that can only be locked from outside. To revenge the mistreatment, Millie works her way to attract Andrew’s attention and eventually gets Andrew to throw Nina out. This ended the first half of the book.

However the second half is a complete reversal of the first half. And what you see is exactly the opposite of what you get in this mind twisting book. I was totally surprised that all the notions I had formed in the first half of the book was debunked and subverted in the second half. It is a little shocking, but it is not completely unreasonable.

I did perform my skip and jump while reading it, and finished the book in three hours. Although I don’t have any quotes from the book to share, I have to say the underlying theme of the book is quite interesting. To a certain degree, it is about how hard women have to try to look perfect, to tidy things perfectly, to say things perfectly, and to behave in a way that her environment sanctions and approves. If she varies just one iota from the narrow position she is allowed to perch, she will be punished. Of course the book, being a fiction and a thriller, is a stretch of life’s realities and an exaggeration of an observable everyday fact. Still it has certain truth in it.

I have observed real women who have lived through life trying so hard to get the approval of their family and the larger society that they practically become half crazed. I think I want to write about each woman in a short story later on.

Here I just want to relate a little bit of the story of Jasmin, who’s my acquaintance. Jasmin is a very capable woman. She’s not book smart, but she is a great gal with a lot of energy. She’s a good mother to her son, and a great cook. Her cooking skills enabled her to please her husband and her husband family. And as she reaches middle age, she starts to pay attention to cosmetics and plastic surgery. Whenever I meet her, she always talks about her cooking and her cosmetics. I often wonder why she’s the way she is. I mean I wonder if she has any real interest in life. Why does a clever girl like her spend all her time and energy on trivialities? In an ideal world, she should be a smart businesswoman, a capable manager, or something else. I mean she can contribute to the world a lot more than what she is allowing herself to do.

I just imagine that she was brought up to cook well and to look good. And she has done both with a passion. She treats the two things not as a burden, but as an aspiration. Her family gives her huge thanks (I imagine) and the community praises her cooking skills and her beauty effort. And such an acknowledgement fuels her more relentless pursuit. I mean such a vivacious girl doesn’t have any other outlet for her energy. Well, she seems happy. I am glad to see that. I hope she will never wake up to see … Sometimes there’s one or two stray words coming out of her mouth that indicate that she is a little discontent, but she quickly takes control of herself and changes the topic.

19 thoughts on “An Interesting Stretch Of Reality

  1. I’m glad you read the book. I really liked that it pitted the women against each other at first and you think Nina is a monster but eventually you realise that women aren’t the problem. They are doing what they have need to in order to survive. I also liked that these women didn’t really rely on men to save them and fought for themselves. There are some secondary male characters but in the end the women were sort of on their own. I hate the whole “damsel in distress” thing and I appreciate that the author didn’t do that. And thanks for linking my review.

    I really enjoyed the story you shared because I know a number of women like Jasmin. They believe that the only thing they have to offer the world is their looks and housekeeping skills. They make their whole lives about their family and being a housewife. And like Jasmin they are seen as the “right” type of women by society because they “know their place.” If living like that makes them happy that’s fine but from hat I’ve seen some of these women are deeply unhappy and take it out on everyone around them.

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    1. Soooo true. Women go crazy because they try so hard to survive their environment. Yes, often women feel that they have nobody to rely on. In real life, women often find that what they consider the savers of their life cannot really save them. Also the book described an enabler, I forgot her name, who was led into believe that Nina was crazy and tried to undermine her plan.

      Oh, sooo true. You can find Jasmine everywhere. They are very loud in the community. They are respected as the best spokeswoman for womanhood. They talk about triviality incessantly and they try to trivialize women’s life perpetually. And the real women who have real wisdom are often subdued and repressed. It is sooooo wrong. I want to tell stories of real women who fight the real fights, who have common sense as well as good conscience, who are intelligent and who are strong, who suffer a lot but still survive. I want to tell real women’s stories, against the backdrop of all these fake women who fake their happiness and trivialize their existence.

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      1. Yes, a lot of times the people women turn to for protection just make things worse. I think it was Nina’s friend who just told Andrew instead of helping her.

        I’m glad you want to share stories of strong, intelligent women. Too many times their stories are hidden and censored because society doesn’t want their stories out there.

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        1. Yes, I’ve witnessed women who misjudge a situation or a person. Sometimes it is because women’s life and relationships are more complicated, and less easy to be categorized by the world that is built up for men. Sometimes it is because most of women sacrifice themselves for their family and children, leaving very little for themselves. I know a woman who makes friends based on how well they can help her drive children to children’s activities. She has no choice. I guess she really doesn’t like the two friends she has, but what can she do? They have children of similar age and they can babysit and share driving responsibilities. Often women’s life are restricted by too many necessities that women’s own taste and preference and well being and even emotions have to take a back seat.

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        2. Wow, that’s so sad. I feel bad for her. But the truth is that there are so many women like her. Who revolve their lives around their kids and husband. It’s like they lose themselves when they marry. It’s heartbreaking.

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        3. I have to say being an immigrant adds to the hardship for women since there’s no help from extended family anymore, no friends or acquaintances growing up together. The social network that can help women raise children is not here anymore. Women have to count on whoever they can find. Often women have to settle with people they don’t really like as friends because they are the only one who can share chauffeur duty with you to transport your kids.

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        4. Whenever life brings a change, or a challenge, or something unexpected etc., I have to say women will have to endure more. I have seen this played out regularly in the immigrant community–there can be couple separation due to job locations, there can be a kid who needs more care, there can be a difficult in-law. I’ve seen them all. Thank you for inspiring me to write about them. I just hope I can present them in a readable form. LOL.

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        5. Yes, women somehow always seem to end up with he shorter end of the stick. They have to live with in-laws they hate. Do housework/childrearing. If people are laid off, it’s always women who are fired first.
          I really enjoy your descriptions of people and find your stories quite relatable.

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        6. So true. Women often end up getting into a rotten deal no matter what we do. I have many scheming female relatives, but no matter how much they scheme, they were and they are still bitter and angry and disappointed. Among all of them, probably 30 women or so, only one is completely satisfied with her marriage. She doesn’t speak much and I don’t know what she really thinks. Her husband does the cooking every day. I think that is a big part of her satisfaction with her marriage, although she would not admit it.

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        7. Yes, I have some relatives like that too. The reason they judge others is because they are so unhappy themselves.
          I think it’s only fair that the husband does some of the housework and childrearing. It’s a 24/7 job and women can’t be expected to do that alone.

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        8. Those unhappy ones are really little menaces to society. You know they can ruin a party with their petty spat with each other. And things they do or say is not about the things in question, but rather about their bitter conflicts behind it. These unhappy people are making people around them miserable too.

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  2. I would say I have a desire to please and say the right thing – to be agreeable and conciliatory – which are supposed to be female traits. (As a male of my age there is a limit to how good I can look (!) but I am quite fastidious and it would trouble me to be unsightly or fat.) I sometimes wonder whether it’s a way of keeping people at arm’s length. If you’re on good (but shallow) terms with everybody they are neatly in their place and you don’t have to think about them too much. What you describe is my idea of a well-bred American woman actually. I think middle class Brits are more slovenly.

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    1. Haha, I have to say some people really try to look perfect and behave perfect all the time. I know some in the community try so hard to look their best that it is almost a painful chore to talk with them. I know being an Asian and being an immigrant is not easy. And this is probably why we try so hard to be perfect and to be materialistic, just to justify our worthy existence. It is quite painful.

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