How to Be an American Woman, Part 2: At the Gym

"The Mirror," Mary Cassatt, 1906

“The Mirror,” Mary Cassatt, 1906

Did I ever tell you that I studied classics long ago because I wanted a 19th-century English gentleman’s education?

I loved Victorian writers, and I thought if I had their education, I would be able to think as clearly as they did.  I would combine the English gentleman’s education thing with the American woman thing.

Years have passed, and I still read Victorian novels and classical literature.

There is something very classical about living on the prairie, where we are left to our own imaginations and have little culture.  Willa Cather loved Virgil, as we know from a zillion readings of  The Professor’s House.

I will read anything.  Did I just say that?  Well, it’s true.

I am currently reading, and I am not exaggerating, though this list may look a little long:  Pliny’s letters (in Latin), Jo-Ann Mapson’s Bad Girl Creek, Anthony Powell’s A Question of Upbringing, D. J. Taylor’s Kept, William Gibson’s Zero History, Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

I look up from my book and am still in the Midwest, but my point of view is eclectic.

I think I read too much, though, and should be watching the Olympics instead.

Because yesterday I had a panic attack at the gym:  how can we American women cope with images of ourselves in the f—– mirror at the gym?

I was on the bicycle. Mirrors everywhere.  When I looked up, I was distressed by my uncombed hair and wrinkled hospital pants.  I thought,

Never let it be said I am not competitive.

So I rode off a record number of calories on the bicycle.  I was still riding when the others gave up.

Yeah, well, I also needed to ride off a lot more calories than they did.

I went home and combed my hair.

And today I thought, Go back and get on the damned bicycle, Kat.

After reading half of Jo-Ann Mapson’s Bad Girl Creek, I was ready to get out there again.

It’s good to have a female point of view.

So I went back today and was again the only woman without a ponytail.

4 thoughts on “How to Be an American Woman, Part 2: At the Gym

  1. Speaking of the midwest, have you read Stoner by John Williams? I’m also getting in a Willa Cather mood due to some of the blogs I read.


  2. I haven’t read Stoner! I did read his novel Augustus.

    Oh, Willa is so wonderful. Our blogger friend Kevin at Interpolations just wrote about One of Ours, but he didn’t like it much.


  3. I think I could definitely do with that bike if I had a gym close by…

    I picked up Stoner last weekend as it’s so highly recommended – everyone seems to love it, which makes me slightly nervous in case I don’t….


  4. The bicycle isn’t bad.:) I remember reading about the impact of Stoner in the UK last year. John Williams is a good writer, and he seems especially to have struck a chord in England. I liked Williams novel Augustus very much.


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