Monday, January 29, 2007

Interpreter of Maladies

A wonderful friend of mine sent me this picture yesterday. It was saved as "inappropriate Superman" on his computer.
I don't see the same thing here. I see this image as a modern pieta - Wonder Woman is comforting Superman after some tragedy.
This has me thinking about the role that women often play in the lives of men. To borrow the title from Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of short stories - that role is as the Interpreter of Maladies.
We feel their forehead when they aren't feeling well, we help them decompress after a stressful day, we listen to their darkest secrets and assure them they are still good people and still worthy of our love.
What is interesting to me is that we require them to be strong - especially in public. We want them to be dominant, hard-working, physically imposing, and maybe even to say things we wouldn't ever say. But when we are alone and vulnerable, we want them to be vulnerable too.
So this picture to me, isn't "inappropriate Superman" - it's the real Superman. It's the man that can risk his life to help save the world, but then worries that he hasn't done everything he can, it's the man that grieves those that have been lost, and the man that is concerned that occasionally and unintentionally, he wounds the people around him.
And in this act of vulnerability - we women are assured that he cares, that he loves, and that we are needed.

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