It’s the time, it’s the season of copy room revelations. My first tax season was All About Mary M., my second tax season was book research mode and now, as I have just finished listening to Three Sisters, Three Queens (eeeeeh, not one of her best) and I’m listening to Wolf Hall (which I am enjoying immensely), I find my brain wandering back to medieval women. And Mad Men, for the same reason. Which is basically this: if women could survive the workplace in the mid 20th century and at court in the 1500s, I have a chance at survival in the workplace in the 21st century. So when it gets bad (and sometimes it gets v. bad), I remind myself of their stories, even if they didn’t get happy endings – Elizabeth Woodville, Joan Holloway, Catherine de’Medici, Peggy Olson, Margaret Beauforte, Dawn Chambers, Catherine of Aragon. . .the list marches ever onward.
And sometimes, when the days are long and dark and dreary, I tell myself a story and it is this.
Once upon a time, queens were often in exile, often due to a rival queen. A rival queen could even be your sister-in-law who would send your husband’s blood stained jacket to her husband to show that she could take care of things at home while he was “busy” “abroad”. She wanted to send his head, but was talked out of it and now there is no body for you to bury and no man to keep you safe. Or some variation of this. Power plays, battles, murder. Sometimes you would have sanctuary in crypts, sometimes you would flee the country. It’s never just once. It is always messy. There is never much time to plan. You can only snatch what you could carry on the run – furs, jewels, letters of safe conduct, documents with incriminating details, mementos, money. Sometimes, not even that.
What if you were a modern queen in exile now? You’ve lost most of your means that you once had – your power, your titles, your land, your goods. You have to start over. You have to live as a “regular” person, especially if you are trying to escape notice. What would your new life look like? What does exile really mean in a modern context? Does it mean being disempowered by the current government regime? Does it mean what traps us and keeps us? Does it mean the things we do to ourselves, to each other, the things we do to please the patriarchy? Does it mean doing what we have to do to survive? Would you be good at modern “feminine” things like doing your hair, your make up, having a tidy home now that you don’t have help? How would you adapt? Would you take up vices to cope? What would it be like to be in the workplace after previously being the decision maker? How would you cope with being disempowered while still having memories of a time where you commanded authority? What are the things that you remember of your time in power? What things were important enough to take with you? Are you constantly plotting to regain your throne or have you accepted your life as it is now?
I think about being a queen in exile, chained to the copy room, forced to act like a goddamn subservient princess to survive. I think about how lonely it is sometimes, I think about when once I could command, I think about all of the tasks I am forced to perform to keep from drowning. I think about how my boss isn’t required to smile and he is not required to be a prince at all in anything.
And I wonder how it looks for others.
How does it look to you?
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