We have all been Annie D

Since I was quite little I have liked movies a lot. slasher. In them, a bloodthirsty murderer, usually in a shabby costume and with his face hidden, pursues a group of unsuspecting teenagers who have gone to a place where a similar tragedy occurred, the anniversary of which is being celebrated on that day. In almost all of them, the personalities of the members of the group of friends tend to be very similar, as well as flat and overused: if there are four of them, there are usually two boys and two girls. One of them is athletic, a sportsman, the typical arrogant handsome man. The other one is dirty, disgusting, talks about the sexual attributes of every woman he comes across and makes nasty jokes about making out with his friends, even at the most inopportune times when everyone is about to get killed. Basically, his personality is to be a slimy macho. As for the girls, one of them is blonde, she has what in these types of movies they would call a heart attack body either of scandal and she always wears tight T-shirts and impractical necklines when going camping or running from a psychopath. This girl usually accepts the sexual jokes of the macho (as if any woman in the world could like those comments) and she is open talking about her experiences in bed. The missing girl, although just as pretty and with a very similar body, dresses modestly, or at least in long-sleeved, high-necked sweaters, although suitably tight. this girl is usually a virgin (for some reason, everyone knows this detail about her), she feels uncomfortable when others talk about sex, and, both for her two male partners and for her female friend, she is the butt of all jokes for narrowby puritanical.

Normally, this last girl is the one that survives, giving the film a grim moralizing character: only if you are chaste and pure can you be saved. But before, for this, he has had to endure that everyone talks about the fact that he has not had sexual relations as if it were a matter of public domain, that his so-called friends mess with his clothes, with his choices and with the way in which he who decides to live his life (which, of course, includes that in the end he falls for, at least, the handsome footballer). It seems that we girls have to choose, therefore, between being insulted and ridiculed by puritanical or be killed by a maniac with a face deformed by flimsy.

This was surely my first contact with these two images of the female figure, which I would later begin to see reflected in the conversations of boys my age and with whom I meet again now that I have decided to read annie ernaux after the recent awarding of his Nobel Prize. In this case, I discover how these two images, both harmful to any woman, can in many cases meet in a violent way, rub against each other, cause unpleasant tensions in the image that the members of a group have of a girl whom in actually just met.

In girl memory (Cabaret Voltaire), Ernaux goes back to the age of seventeen, when he was still called Annie Duchesse and when, in a summer colony where she went as a monitor, she experienced what at the time she considered a kind of sexual awakening, as well as the prejudices of the group to which she was desperate to belong. As the adult Annie explains, the young Duchesse will believe for years that this summer camp was her place in the world, the place where she had been happiest, even though with time she realizes that there she was only ridiculed, rejected and severely judged by others.

Annie D, as she calls herself on many occasions, at first felt left out of the group for being an innocent girl from the provinces, for being the only one who came from a Catholic boarding school instead of having gone to a normal institute, because she never he had done such normal things for the rest like taking a bath. She considered all the girls she had spoken to at least once friends, like little boys in the park, until one of them tells her in disgust that they are not friends, that they “have never eaten from the same plate.” She is eager to live a summer love story like in the movies. Here, therefore, she fulfills the stereotype of the prude from the horror movie: she has never even seen a man’s body, she does not relate to them (her boarding school is female), and her ideas of love and sex surely come from sugary fictions and romantic novels, in which these two terms are always linked, are indissoluble.

However, there is one night when the head monitor notices Annie. He pays such attention to her that he leads her to his room, to his bed, and undresses her while she responds to everything that happens (and, above all, to what he does) passively, without fully understanding what is happening. , having only the slight sensation that she has to do what he wants, that her role in the sexual plane is to please the man. What is happening is light years away from Annie’s own image of a summer sweetheart, but still she feels like a step forward, a coming of age that she can be proud of. Her pleasure doesn’t even cross her mind, but she’s still jubilant with happiness the next morning, feeling like she’s become a new woman (a woman, in fact), and she begins to base her relationships on cologne. (and the image she has of herself) in it, in male approval, in the possibility of using her body to please her partners. However, she never gets to have penetrative sex with any of them, and that’s something they all know, it seems, because they start calling her a “half-slut.” Again, just like in the horror movie, her choices, her preferences and what she does with her body can be commented on by everyone. They have the right to do so, she as a “half whore” has given them reasons for it.

Annie D, however, continues to believe despite this that she is one of the group, that they value her. However, looking at him as a grown woman and writing about it, she realizes that she was below the other monitors by all, who believed that her sexual behavior was enough to demean her, to assume that they knew her and knew everything about her. . That they could humiliate her by posting on her bulletin board a personal letter from her that she wrote to a friend of hers and which she later tore up, in which she spoke of her mad love for him. hthe monitor with whom she had shared that uncomfortable night that she still considers romantic.

This seventeen-year-old girl arrives in a new group and feels on her own skin the friction between the two stereotypes in which women are corseted, who normally do not actually respond to either, or belong to both to some extent, depending of the moment, the situation, the person and a thousand other factors that determine someone’s sexual behavior and their choices in this matter. The puritanical palette collides with the “half whore”, and either of the two images seems to justify the fact of treating Annie badly, of disqualifying the poor girl who only wants to be one more.

All women have had to live at some point struggling with these images, or, even worse, having to fit in with them to join the group, just like Annie D, so that they talk about us and consider us one more, even if this supposed integration includes discussing your intimate issues in public and, above all, having to put on a smile, pretend that everything is a joke, that it doesn’t matter.

The most valuable thing about this book is, in my opinion, that Ernaux explores how something like this can affect your future. How being the girl with a reputation for being a libertine at a summer camp and having had consensual sex, at best, dubious, can lead you to mark the rest of your life, to end up in an abortion facility a few years later, to suffering from bulimia, to reject the one you went to that summer in which, in reality, you were just trying to fit in, like all adolescents everywhere in the world. As the author herself explains, speaking about the importance of everything that happened that summer, which has come to mark even the woman over sixty that she is now: «I wanted to forget that girl. To really forget her, that is to say, not wanting to write more about her. No more thinking that I must write about her, about her desire, her madness, her stupidity and her pride, her hunger and her cut blood. I have never succeeded.”

We often believe that things just pass and end, that childhood and adolescence are a watertight compartment that does not affect our future, that what we suffer then are the havoc of age, the cruelties of children that we later leave behind to become functional adults, apparently disconnected from those experiences. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, and for this reason you have to read Annie Ernaux: because she argues that writing about one’s life is a way of reliving, understanding, reconciling with the past, analyzing what had to suffer that distant girl for the fact of wanting to fit in, for having gone to bed with eight monitors for a summer, for having wanted to be older. for having sexexperiencedIn short, what we have all suffered at some point, in some group, in the eyes of someone who probably didn’t even really know us.

Sofia Guardiola
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We have all been Annie D – La Soga | Culture Magazine