"She did not just say that..."by Brendan Cavanagh
(loosely inspired by Mada's post yesterday)
On the sweltering afternoon of July 6th, 1776, in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, a crowd of men and women gather outside the building where earlier this week the Continental Congress convened. Only days before a group of politically-savvy men enthusiastically strolled through these doors to sign their names on the infamous Declaration of Independence, which severed the thirteen colonies' ties to Great Britain. Now those men morosely drag their feet and hang down their heads as they accompany their excited wives inside to the Vagina Monologues, which their wives prepared over the last few weeks.
Just as the curtains on the makeshift stage spread apart and the show begins, Thomas Jefferson seats his wife in the chair beside his in the back row. He wipes the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief and finally turning to her, asks with a groan for the umpteenth time, "But why do I have to come to this?" He knows the answer, but he grows quite uncomfortable and swears he becomes physically ill when the topic of vaginas comes up at home. You see, Jefferson's wife came from a conversationally open family, so she's prone to flirt with delicate issues at home.
Mrs. Jefferson straightens herself up in her chair and gives her husband an angry glare, visibly offended. "Thomas Jefferson! I let you go out with your friends and discuss politics for hours on end every night this summer while I sat alone at home, and now the least you can do to make it up to me is support something I'm passionate about. Now hush! You've caused us to miss the opening monologue."
The Jeffersons cease their bickering and face the stage, where some poor fellow's wife struggles to provoke the sheepish male members of the audience to say the word "vagina" aloud.
"Come on, guys! It's just a word! Vagina. Say it- vagina."
A few brave souls halfheartedly repeat the word, while a portly man in the front row coughs violently. Ashamed to be put on the spot in front of all these laughing women, most of the men slump down in their chairs or mumble something that sounds like "vmmuh" behind their hand as they pretend to stifle a pending sneeze.
"Oh, I guess they're just a bunch of little girls, afraid of the word vagina," jokes the emcee. "In that case, they're going to have to contribute to the monologues later tonight, seeing as the women are the ones who perform in the show. Now come on, guys, if you don't want me to drag you by your ear up to the stage, repeat after me: vagina."
Terrified at the prospect of being forced into losing what shred of dignity they have left on the stage in front of some of the most brilliant minds of New England, the flush-faced men respond in mumbled unison, "Va-giiiiiina," followed by a nearly palpable wave of relieved exhalations.
The monologues then begin, and one by one, the wives of this country's founding fathers take the stage and read poems or soliloquize about a recently championed movement called "feminism," tell jokes, relate stories, to their husbands' collective chagrin about the first time they had sex, or speak frankly about their vaginas (at which point several uncomfortable gentlemen politely excuse themselves in order to share a pipe outside or express mutual disbelief in the bathroom).
"Is your wife going to make such a brazen spectacle of herself back in there, John?"
"Certainly not. I would never allow it."
What follows are some of the evening's highlights.
The first woman to do her piece is Martha Washington. She clears her throat nervously and proceeds:
"'If I Was a Man for One Week'
by Martha Washington
If I was a man for an entire week,
I'd be so upset that I couldn't speak.
I'd miss my long hair and delicate skivvies
But most of all I'd miss these titties."
George Washington guffaws noisily at this. It's not like he's going to run for President of the United States or anything, so what does he care what his modest wife says tonight.
"But seriously, folks, let's think about it-
When it comes to politics, I don't give a shit.
As a woman, I'm meant to be seen but not heard-
At least what they told me when I was a girl.
So if, as a man, I joined the administration
that sets the rules for this fledgling nation,
I'd make a few changes to your declaration
and give the ladies some representation.
Now take your talk of taxes and get it out of your head,
as I tell you why you come home each night to a cold bed."
"Oh shit," thinks George, as his wife gives details of the couple's arid sex life and expresses the discontent of most of the women there.
Mrs. Jefferson eventually takes her turn. To Thomas' shock and dismay, his wife relates what she purports to be a fictional soliloquy she wrote about a woman who grapples with the possibility that her husband is having an affair with another woman.
"How could she know?" Thomas wonders. He thought he had eliminated any possible clue that would evidence his clandestine relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. The room grows silent quickly while Mrs. Jefferson muses realistically on the subject, as if talking to herself:
"...I figured he seemed distant lately because his time and his thoughts have been consumed by work. I didn't even presume he could be having an affair until I saw him with her....What does she have that I don't have? Am I nothing more to him than the hapless bearer of his progeny, the docile keeper of his home?....Which could be less desirable: the wife, who is less preferable and lied to by her husband, or the mistress, with whom the husband is more honest, but is used solely for sex? To ask such a question is like asking if I should prefer death by hanging in the gallows or ingesting arsenic. Frankly, the latter has never seemed so tantalizing..."
When Mrs. Jefferson finishes her confessional spiel, she passes a sea of staring faces and sits back down next to her husband who awkwardly kisses her on the cheek and anxiously chuckles, muttering through a pained smile, "Really great job, honey...really great."
"I hope you find that new divan we just bought most agreeable, Tom, for you shall spend your nights on't indefinitely."
Later that evening, the time has come for the final monologue, a song written and sung by Benjamin Franklin's wife. Halfway through her moving ballad about the first time she had sex with her husband, the subject of her song and object of her affection, who snuck in a flask of whiskey and proceeded to overdo it as the show wore on, appears beside her. Swaying back and forth with his arm outstretched in an attempt to stop her singing, Benjamin slurs loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Honey, I...I got this. Don't worry. You can sit down now. I- I got this."
He goes on to tell a rather raunchy joke about two call girls he befriended in France and a beaver-pelt hat he acquired whilst there, at which point a few of his friends approach him and kindly escort him home to get some sleep. The show obviously over now, the rest of the men jump up eagerly and practically throw their wives over their shoulder before high-tailing their way out the door.
Needless to say, women don't earn the "certain inalienable right" to vote in America until one hundred and forty-four years later. Ooooooooh.