Mistress of the Metaphor

If I think too hard on what actually might be the point of all this, I’m pitched headfirst into the Slough of Despond, but that’s kinda what happens whenever I think too hard about anything that has to do with writing. Your — the reader’s — entertainment is certainly higher priority than my — the writer’s — edification, but all the same, I’m learning things, and I hope my readers don’t feel ill-used by being part of this grand experiment.

First things first — being artfully artless, one of the chief goals of any good blog, is a hell of a lot harder than it looks. As I’m seldom artfully artless in Real Life (I was never a good flirt, and as far as my life goes, things that are difficult also generally look difficult) it would stand to reason that I’d find this a challenge in my blog-life as well.

More interestingly, though, (at least from a writerly perspective, this insight and 4 bucks’ll buy you a cup of coffee in the Real World) I’ve also noticed that the more unappealing I find some aspect of parenthood, the more apt I am to use metaphors to describe it. Thus, Younger Girleen’s preschool has appeared in the same sentences as allusions to:

a soap opera
the Jonestown Massacre
A soulless corporation
Wonderland, as in where Alice Ended Up
the royal court of Marie Antoinette

My sense that XXXX Preschool gives me the opportunity to experience a world (I always wanted to time-travel, I just didn’t know having children would make it possible!) full of political intrigue, Machiavellian plots, and character assassinations has, if anything, grown in the past few weeks. And in fact, I’ve realized that I actually like thinking of XXXX Preschool this way.

Once upon a time, way back in those days of peasant blouses and bellbottoms known as the early ’70s, a well-meaning hippy-ish couple sent their first born off to the world of public school in small-town Georgia clutching a brown-paper sack lunch. At noon, when she sat down to lunch in the cafeteria redolent with the smell of overcooked collard greens and unpacked a Roman Meal bread sandwich wrapped in waxed paper (less plastic in landfills) and a bruised Red Delicious apple, she looked at the Twinkies, the SnakPak puddings, the lovely pillowy Wonder Bread bologna sandwiches of her peers with the first real envy of her young life. That is, until she met the only other third-grader forced by her parents to eat sandwiches made on whole wheat bread. They became inseparable, inventing games that got them through the school day: they were spies, they were detectives, the school rotunda was haunted by the ghost of the man the school was named after… And everyday at lunchtime, they unwrapped the waxed paper from around the sandwiches made from peanut butter purchased at the town’s only health food store (less sugar), closed their eyes and said to each other fervently: maybe if we pretend real hard that we’re actually eating pizza, these sandwiches will start tasting good.

Metaphor enlarges our lives. This might be why “it is what it is” is such a frightening buzzword. If you extrapolate from “it is what it is,” a good many of the tasks we are forced to undertake in parenthood (this is probably true of life, too, but we don’t take on that weighty subject here) are — let’s face it — just plain tedious and unnecessary. Given that alternative, wouldn’t you rather see yourself as a a cloak-and-dagger courtier skulking in a dark corner of the royal palace? Or an anthropologist taking notes out in the field? Or a clandestine operative working undercover?

Plus, I have to say I enjoyed giving this entry the header “The Mistress of the Metaphor” — as if I were some sulky dominatrix.

Metaphor. I did it again. I wonder what kind of inappropriate search engine tag will come from using that one.


  1. Metaphor enlarges our lives.


    And, as my father always says to me, it’s all grist for the mill.

  2. p.s. the Jonestown Massacre is my favorite, though as an extended metaphor, the court of Marie A has more potential.

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