Kage Baker was a firm believer in the old adage: Choose your battleground.
She had no idea, initially, that this was a truism from the rediscovered General Sun Tzu and his Art of War. She rather scorned the hipster/corporate/would-be warriors who began espousing Sun Tzu in the late 20th century. She figured most of them for the men a little younger than our male playmates; those who had not gone to Vietnam but sure as hell wished they had!
No, she learned it as a child from her mother. Now, I am quite sure that Mrs. Baker was not a devotee of Sun Tzu; I suspect her experience came from the age-old wisdom of womanhood, that has traditionally had little choice about being on the battlefield, but could occasionally pick which one she stood on. It may also have been family wisdom handed down from all those South Carolinian ancestors; whom, I hardly need say, wore grey and learned the truth of the saying the hardest way possible …
Given her druthers, though, Kage would have preferred to never have to choose a battleground at all. She didn’t want to fight anyone, anywhere, over anything. She hated losing, but she would rather have won because no one was paying attention to the contest; subterfuge was all right, too, as long as no one saw it. She did not, she averred, want to meet anyone’s eyes in a contest – just let her alone to do her own thing, and all would be well. She rarely wanted something anybody else wanted, anyway.
It must be said, though, that was only true for a given value of “What anybody else wanted.” She did want to be published, and there are only so many slots for that going around: but that’s why she had an agent. and wrote a gazillion times faster than most other people. There is usually only 1 red popsicle in a pack of Popsicles, too; she got those by sheer force of personality and by being – until puberty hit the boys – the biggest kid in the house.
She’d have been at a real disadvantage had spaces on an annual publications list been decided by single combat – Kage was inept with swords, and used to make me come do the fencing bits in her beloved pirate RPG’s. Mind you, if they’d let her use a cannon, she’d have won: she was a hell of a gunner … but it’s just as well her agent did the bloody parts.
I too would prefer not to have to fight for what I want. However, that was not an option open to a young woman of character in the latter half of the 20th century. We had to learn to fight, having only recently identified the enemy command structure in the first place. The first half of the 21st century isn’t looking too good for our freedoms, either, but at least we are presently spoiled for choice in selecting battlegrounds. Man, they’re everywhere right now! And likely to remain so for a while.
At my age, of course, I am not so much a woman of character as just – a character. A woman who lives past menopause – remember, Dear Readers, that’s only recently become common! – is just a weird old lady. Dearie me, what to do? What to choose? How to survive it all? Social media is a Rat King, the news has lost its communal mind, religion is a nest of snakes – all of them biting their own tails. The only alternative to living long is dying. You have to make your stand while you still can, no matter how peculiar you become. Lear pleads, “I am a very foolish fond old man”, but he’s just feeling sorry for himself.
Lady Macbeth dosen’t live long enough to know her entreaties to the spirits were not necessary: soon enough, Time would have done for her all she required of them. “Come, you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,. And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full, Of direst cruelty.” She got to choose her battleground, though. Of course, she then lost her mind and flubbed the follow-through … but we’re all victims of our upbringing, and growing up to be a Queen puts different burdens on a young woman of any character.
And why do I maunder on so, in vitriol and self-pity, Dear Readers? I am tired. T-I-R-E-D. I chose a few battlegrounds, this latter half of the waning year, and they have all turned out to be deep in mud and rich in caltrops. I am sick of it – sick of it all. I can’t even depend on my health, those damned spirits that attend on mortal thoughts having robbed me of the vigor that was the birthright of my X chromosomes. Hell, I’m so creaky and pitiful and useless, I may as well be a man.
I’m not, though. I’m still a woman. It’s a mess out there, but if I can’t choose my battleground, I can still to choose to stand where I am embattled. Somewhere with the odd rock to rest my old arse on, or send flying at the enemy with my stick. So, I’m not choosing the Tearoom, the garden, the solar and the knitting basket and the cushioned chair. It’s a freaking war out there, kids, and no one has the right to walk away without making a stand.
The Crone is my sigil, now …