Cactus Tree

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

‘She has brought them to her senses; they have laughed inside her laughter.

Now she rallies her defences, for she fears that one will ask her for eternity.

And she’s so busy being free.’

I first heard Joni Mitchell’s ‘Cactus Tree’ when I was eighteen. Her wistful, doleful song about a woman whose ‘heart is full and hollow, like a cactus tree’ struck a chord with me. It told an unusual story in pop music, and in our culture, of a woman who is a ‘commitment-phobe’. We normally associate fear of settling down with men, especially young ones. But when I was eighteen years old, and about two years into my first ‘serious’ relationship with a man, I was absolutely terrified of the thought that I might be stuck with him, with anyone, ‘for eternity’. It was refreshing to me to hear a woman voicing my fears, and voicing them so beautifully and poetically as Joni did.

My relationship broke down. My boyfriend went straight into another relationship, with a woman who, I believe, twenty years later, is still his wife (and mother of his children). So, maybe my fears were not unfounded!

I don’t think I need to worry anymore about anyone asking me for eternity. I have rallied my defences so expertly that it is quite a challenge for any man to even get me to agree to go for a drink. Sometimes an evening can seem like an eternity.

But I am grateful to Joni for painting a picture of womanhood that wasn’t all about romantic illusions and the desire to meet prince charming and live happily ever after.

The Government, however, has other ideas. In the UK the Tories and the Liberals are considering proposals to make gay marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships legal. This will mean everyone would be able to settle down and live in monogamous coupledom ‘for eternity’.

Except for those of us who know that our lovers will lose us if they follow, those of us whose hearts are full, and hollow, like a cactus tree.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/17/civil-partnerships-marriage?INTCMP=SRCH

Comments
  1. nathan says:

    the gay marriage movement is a pickle, isn’t it? it’s easy to see how it continues a conservative narrative that doesn’t offer room for difference when it comes to relationships. on the other hand, there is the discrimination aspect that impacts a lot of people who do want to be married.

    i’m on the fence about marriage myself. i haven’t given up on the idea that i could meet someone who i’d love to stay with for the rest of my life. in fact, i don’t really feel that i am “built” to hop around, or have multiple relationships at the same time. it just doesn’t work for me. but at the same time, i’m also not interested in forcing something to occur. i don’t attach my self worth to finding a woman to marry and be with forever.

    beyond myself, though, i really feel that adults should be able to come to mutual decisions about the structures of their relationships. that as long as those involved agree to a certain way to have a relationship, without coercion or other kinds of force, then everyone else should chill out and let it be. this includes those who want to get married, whomever they are.

    • it is a pickle, Nathan! I can’t say much more than that!

      • elflojo84 says:

        I disagree, I think it’s fairly simple – marriage / civil partnership should not be banend from anyone, and should be equally available to everyone, as should the option of rejecting both, without any social or financial penalty. Your implication that the very existence of the institution of marriage is somehow unfair on you because you don’t like it is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

        Apologiers if I am misinterpretting your stance, but it comes across as very much “I don’t like this; therefore it should not be available to anyone”, no? Much like the Graun feminists you deride so much.

        “In the UK the Tories and the Liberals are considering proposals to make gay marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships legal. This will mean everyone would be able to settle down and live in monogamous coupledom ‘for eternity’.”

        Everyone would be able to; no-one would be forced to, what’s wrong with that? OK there is an argument that people are compelled to by the financial benefits adn that this is unfair (an viewpoint I subscribe to), but this doesn’t seem to be the point you’re making.

  2. I think marriage is unfair on everyone elflojo

    I am fine with you interrogating my position though.

    Some of my posts are very personal they aren’t just ‘debates’ and I hope you understand that.

  3. elissa says:

    If I were Queen, Quiet Girl, I’d ban both marriage and religion – though I’d force marriage on anyone who would have children, force that marriage for 16 years exactly from the birth of the child, followed by a forced divorce.

    Your story sure feels personal. It also feels melancholy. But it’s all about the timing sometimes. You could have been in a pink hotel, with a boutique, and a swinging hot spot – instead. Sometimes, it just depends on what songs you listen to when you’re 18 years old.

    • Ah but I listened to the one about the pink hotel too. But the message I got from that was ‘don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?’

      I think melancholy finds a way through if it needs to!

  4. nathan says:

    “Everyone would be able to; no-one would be forced to, what’s wrong with that? OK there is an argument that people are compelled to by the financial benefits adn that this is unfair (an viewpoint I subscribe to), but this doesn’t seem to be the point you’re making.”

    I agree with this, and as for banning religion, that’s one of the reasons I rarely identify as Buddhist amongst groups discussing feminism and other “left” political issues. Too much bloody hatred towards religion for my taste.

  5. I am keeping out of this debate here! I posted this in a moment of nostalgia/melancholy as elissa identified and don’t really have much more to say…

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