Posted in musings


I have only watched Barbra Streisand’s film Yentl once in my life – as a teenager, actually! – but it made such a deep impression on me that I still think about it regularly. I believe it was the first time I saw anything explore gender expression and identity with such emotional depth, and I recall feeling simultaneously deeply uncomfortable and deeply resonant with the story and main character (who, for those unfamiliar with the story, is a Jewish girl who creates a male persona (Anshel), so that she can study Talmud, and finds herself entangled in a love triangle of sorts with a fellow student (Avigdor) and the woman he hopes to marry (Hadass)).

In the scenes that have stayed with me most powerfully, Anshel sits at a dining table with Hadass, sometimes alone and sometimes with Avigdor and Hadass’s parents, watching the other woman and pondering her femininity. There’s almost a disgust for it, at times – for the lack of intellectual conversation, for the trivial concerns of cooking and making oneself attractive – and yet also an envy: a two-fold desire both to be the object of this womanly attention and to be able to win the love of another by playing this feminine role. The camera focuses on the beauty and delicacy of Hadass’s face and clothing, on her submissive care for the man she loves, on the softness of her hands as she hands him something. This happens three times in the movie, and while you can find clips of the first two on YouTube, the final brief reprise which has always been the most meaningful to me is apparently stringently protected. In it, Streisand sings of Hadass:

She’s mother, she’s sister
She’s lover
She’s the wonder of wonders
No man can deny
So why would he change her?
She’s loving-she’s tender-
She’s woman-
So am I.

In that moment, caught up in the emotional sweep of the film, I may have wept. “So am I.”

Continue reading “identity”
Posted in family life

Rondel and role play

Rondel decided a few days ago that we are all different characters from Pixar’s Cars movie, and assigned us specific roles.

He, of course, is Lightning McQueen. Sometimes he will run through the house revving his engine, screeching his brakes, or crashing into things…

Limerick is Red the fire truck, at least in Rondel’s head – he doesn’t really get it.

My husband is Sally, I am Doc Hudson, and Rondel’s grandma, grandpa, and uncle are the Sheriff, The King, and Mater respectively.

It’s kind of funny because he won’t refer to us by any other names, and he’ll correct us rather emphatically if we refer to someone in the family by another name.

I was beginning to worry about this kind of imaginative play, wondering if the influence of the movie made his pretend play more rigid and less his own, when I remembered that I did exactly the same thing with the Cinderella movie when I was his age. My pretend play probably had even less complexity than his, since I didn’t have quite so many roles to assign and since I didn’t really ever deviate from the movie’s plot like Rondel will – and it didn’t hurt my creativity in the least. I was still wildly creating my own stories all through childhood (and indeed into adulthood).

So for now I will just enjoy being Doc Hudson and race with my Lightning all through the house!