Monday, March 19, 2012

A Post-Menopausal 13-Year-Old

I know little about Marcel Proust, and when I say that, I am not exaggerating. When I hear the name Proust, my memory immediately flashes back to my early twenties when I shared an apartment with a friend determined to read all the works of the French novelist. 
When tasked with this week’s topic, I had to look up the questionnaire. That’s how in the Proust dark I am. I found it interesting that he answered similar questions at the ages of 13 and 20. But this week I am only concerned with the questionnaire he answered when he was 13. When  filling it out for myself, I wondered if I should answer it as I would have at the age of 13 or as I am now at age 59. Much to my surprise, some of our answers aren’t that different in spirit. Does that mean I think like a 13-year-old or that Proust thought like a middle-aged, post-menopausal woman? Proust’s answers are in brackets:
  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Hopelessness [To be separated from Mama]
  • Where would you like to live? Some place peaceful near water, either the ocean or a lake. [In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal] 
  • What is your idea of earthly happiness? Having peace of mind. [To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater]
  • To what faults do you feel most indulgent? Laziness.[To a life deprived of the works of genius]
  • Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? The Count of Monte Cristo, Indiana Jones, Oliver Twist [Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real] 
  • Who are your favorite characters in history? Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Earheart [A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry]
  • Who are your favorite heroines in real life? Single mothers. [A woman of genius leading an ordinary life]
  • Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Scout Finch and Odelia Grey (sorry, had to say that!) [Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful]  
  • Your favorite painter? Mary Cassatt [Meissonier]
  • Your favorite musician? Yo Yo Ma [Mozart]
  • The quality you most admire in a man? Confidence, kindness and integrity [Intelligence, moral sense]
  • The quality you most admire in a woman? Confidence, kindness and integrity [Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence]
  • Your favorite virtue? Kindness [All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues]
  • Your favorite occupation? Writing and reading [Reading, dreaming, and writing verse]
  • Who would you have liked to be? Not sure I want to be anyone else, but I’d like the success of Janet Evanovich, the looks of Padma Lakshmi, and the intelligence of Hilary Clinton. [Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.]


gregkshipman said...

An interesting set of questions... I have led a long and interesting life and if I had my life to do over... I would gladly do it... but would likely change nothing (except maybe that damn math test in the third grade!). I would do it over 'cause I'd get to live twice as long (greedy Baltimorean that I am!).

Most of my answers(at 13) may be similar to my answers today(62). But at the same time my (62) answers would reflect a life experienced. What I knew at 13 is a drop in the bucket (admittedly a small bucket) compared to what I know now. And then, at 13 my core values should have been formed; but I'm from Baltimore, and even more, East Baltimore... at 13 the only thing I had fully formed was my jump shot.

Gabi said...

A pre-menopausal teenager? That would explain so much and justify an entire chapter in the Manual of Abnormal Psychology.