Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
Reading into Penelope Trunk is like reading into Delia Day. Penelope Trunk, in case I ever reread today’s work and wonder, is a blogger and advice columnist. Her blog reads as though it’s a copy edited (and possibly, but not certainly, content edited) diary of her learning how to be in the world.
Reading bits and pieces of Penelope Trunk I want to shout “Contrarian is fine, but you are not acting in a productive way!” If the end result of a life is fabulous creation – well, she hasn’t done that. If it’s happiness, well she’s destroying her own. But that’s blaming her for her abuse.
What happens next in reading her, in noting the way she has bought into her own abuse, is that you remember Delia Day. Or I do.
Delia Day, again, in case I’ve forgotten, was the pseudonym of Susan Anton who blogged (under that name) about her life as a sex-slave. And then, one day, she shot and killed her husband and master.
The blog had been part of a pay-site where photos of her body modifications and the stuff she and her husband did sexually were available for sale. Also, if you subscribed you could read her entries about the modifications and her life.
And then she shot her husband, and, I believe (but I could be misremembering) she wasn’t even indicted. Because the happy sex-slave blog was written by him. Because her life, as she later re-constructed it was one of abuse and fear.
Penelope Trunk is the blog name of a woman whose husband periodically hits her, who home schools her children, so they’re learning that violence is acceptable, and who maybe, some day, will reclaim her birth name.
Maybe in a few years we’ll read of a second divorce, and the public bits of it will include a lot about fear or attempts to leave.
Because I want to believe that the personal aspects of her blog were written for her husband (if not by him). Because I want to believe that Adrienne wants to live a life with agency and joy. A life that doesn’t include beatings. A life that permits her children physical access to the world.
And then I remember the Keri Hulme book The Bone People, in which the boy’s father beat him horribly but really did love him. Well, in the magical thinking of the novel, really loved him. (And the narrator.)
You know novels aren’t reality, and often aren’t true. The wonderful artistic fabulous man who beats the boy might never beat the narrator, but after all, he doesn’t recognize that it just isn’t ok to hit people.
That’s what the character that Penelope Trunk writes about doesn’t know. Maybe some day Adrienne will be able to grow past cool chill girl-friend and wife Penelope. Adrienne would be happier if she weren’t trying to be Penelope.
Maybe she isn’t trying, that’s what is triggering myanxieties. Maybe she’s captive of the relationship she bought into and her sons held hostage.
Maybe it’s completely abuse and she knows it, but her “brave” public face is Penelope, who has rewritten the narrative of her life to embrace her own “responsibility” for abuse. To accept her own accountability.
Please understand: she isn’t responsible for her abuse. She’s responsible, sort of, for staying. But maybe not for that either.
But I keep thinking: what if she’s Hedda Nussbaum, what if she’s Susan Anton. That’s frightening and upsetting. Because then we, I, anyone reading her, we’ve all allowed ourselves to be lulled into voyeurism.
Somewhere, I hope that she is really Adrienne, and Penelope is her guise until she can spread her wings and get away.
Delia Day’s diary or blog detailed her circumcision (actual circumcision – removal of her clitoral hood), her labia rings, her tattoos.
I came on the site and the pictures through BME, where the pictures were kind of happy. I found them immensely erotic. I found her words disturbing. Even if she was a volunteer they read as disturbing.
I read and saw all this after the fact. Then I found out (through a “What happened to?” search) that her life wasn’t so happy after all. That she was abused.
Or maybe not. Maybe Travis’s family were correct and she was really an evil woman plotting all along to kill him cold bloodedly.
But maybe Penelope Trunk is Delia Day.