16 March 2015

The Man In A Case

March, as you probably know, is Women's History Month.  Does that mean that we don't have a history for the other 11 months of the year?  And what about Blacks?  Not only do they have only one month, but they got the shortest:  February.  So for 337 other days of the year (338 in a leap year), they don't have a story?

All right.  I'll stop ranting.  When I  think about WHM--or women's history or rights in general--I am reminded that in the early days of cycling, riding a bicycle was something a "proper" lady didn't do.  In some parts of the world, that's still the case:  One of my colleagues, who hails from Ethiopia and is in her sixties, has never learned how to ride.  And there are places, I understand, where a woman or girl on a bicycle is not only frowned upon, it's illegal.

From Women's History: About

But back to the early days of cycling:  During that time, Anton Chekhov wrote a short story,  The Man In A CaseDuring the 1970's, Wendy Wasserstein turned it into a one-act play (with the same title) about a marriage between Varinka, a "pretty girl of thirty" and Byelinkov, a much older Latin and Greek professor at a university near Moscow.

You can see how cautious and traditional he is in this exchange:

  VARINKA (takes his hands.) We will be very happy. I am very strong. (Pauses. ) It is time for tea.
  BYELINKOV. It is too early for tea. Tea is at half past the hour.
  VARINKA. Do you have heavy cream? It will be awfully nice with apricots.
  BYELINKOV. Heavy cream is too rich for teatime.
   VARINKA. But today is special. Today you placed a lilac in my hair. Write in your note pad. Every year we will celebrate with apricots and heavy cream. I will go to my brother's house and get some.
  BYELINKOV. But your brother's house is a mile from here.
  VARINKA. Today it is much shorter. Today my brother gave me his bicycle to ride. I will be back very soon.
  BYELINKOV. You rode to my house by bicycle! Did anyone see you!
   VARINKA. Of course. I had such fun. I told you I saw the grocery store lady with the son-in-law who is doing very well thank you in Moscow, and the headmaster's wife.
  BYELINKOV. You saw the headmaster's wife!
  VARINKA. She smiled at me.
  BYELINKOV. Did she laugh or smile?
   VARINKA. She laughed a little. She said, "My dear, you are very progressive to ride a bicycle." She said you and your fiance Byelinkov must ride together sometime. I wonder if he'll take off his galoshes when he rides a bicycle.
  BYELINKOV. She said that?
  VARINKA. She adores you, We had a good giggle.
   BYELINKOV. A woman can be arrested for riding a bicycle. That is not progressive, it is a premeditated revolutionary act. Your brother must be awfully, awfully careful on behalf of your behavior. He has been careless-oh so care-less-in giving you the bicycle.
  VARINKA. Dearest Byelinkov, you are wrapping yourself under curtains and quilts! I made friends on the bicycle.
  BYELINKOV. You saw more than the headmaster's wife and the idiot grocery woman.
  VARINKA. She is not an idiot.
  BYELINKOV. She is a potato-Vending, sausage-armed fool!
  VARINKA. Shhh! My school mouse. Shhh!
  BYELINKOV. What other friends did you make on this bicycle?
  VARINKA. I saw students from my brother' s classes. They waved and shouted, 0Anthropos in love! Anthropos in 'love!!"
  BYELINKOV. Where is that bicycle?
  VARINKA. I left it outside the gate. Where are you going?
  BYELINKOV (muttering as he exits.) Anthropos in love, an thropos in love.
  VARINKA. They were cheering me on. Careful, you'll trample the roses.
   BYELINKOV (returning with the bicycle.) Anthropos is the Greek singular for man. Anthropos in love translates as the Greek and Latin master in love. Of course they cheered you. Their instructor, who teaches them the discipline and contained beauty of the classics, is in love with a sprite on a bicycle. It is a good giggle, isn't it? A very good giggle! I am returning this bicycle to your brother.
  VARINKA. But it is teatime.
  BYELINKOV. Today we will not' have tea.
  VARINKA. But you will have to walk back a mile.
   BYELINKOV. I have my galoshes on. (Gets on the bicycle.), Varinka, we deserve not to be different. (Begins to pedal. The bicycle doesn't move. )
  VARINKA. Put the kickstand up.
  BYELINKOV. I beg your pardon.
  VARINKA (giggling.) Byelinkov, to make the bicycle move; you must put the kickstand up.
  (Byelinkov puts it up and awkwardly falls off the bicycle as it.moves. )
  (Laughing.) Ha ha ha. My little school mouse. You. look so funny! You are the sweetest dearest man in the world. Ha ha ha!,