11 Monologues for Women
(free for students & auditions)

"B. J. Learns About Normal-cy"
From Intercourse, Ohio

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2000 Geralyn Horton

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18; a coed from Gray Center, Ohio, matriculates at State Normal c. 1959 under the impression that it is an Ivory Tower where she will contemplate and emulate the Great Minds.   Mrs. Cartwright, 50ish, Taft Dorm Mother at State Normal, tries to set B.J. straight: as do Rachel Levine, 26, a professor's wife; and Dr. Clara Ohloff, 50ish, the school psychiatrist.

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

I'm packing up to go off to State Normal, and my family and their friends keep cracking the same stupid joke: "So, you're off to college to get your MRS.! Nobody around here good enough for you?" How could they say that?  To a bookworm like me? It's 1959, more than halfway through the 20th century. Sure, I know that GrayCenter is a backwater: social life is organized around drag racing and the Future Farmers of America.  But out of a populationtion of 1304, shouldn't there be one or two who understand that a girl can be a serious person? I want an education for its own sake. I want to broaden my mind and deepen my spirit. Nothing to do with "snagging a meal ticket", or "catching the gold ring"! The only marriage that appeals to me is the "marriage of true minds".  Where minds tell each other the truth. Sure, I'd like to be intimate with a somebody brilliant: a Shelley or an Einstein. But courtship? Dating? -- to me, they're poisonous. Boys out to impress and manipulate, girls faking it with padded bras and pin curls. Why can't we be naked to each other, body and soul? Why can't a flesh and blood human male share his thoughts with me, the way my friend Madge does? Or the authors of my favorite books?  Of course, first he'd have to HAVE thoughts. That lets out everybody around here. Gray Center, Ohio. Where there's not a soul worth talking to except Madge.

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

Dr. Traversson actually spoke to me!  Being to being!  Of course, most of what he said was prof to student stuff, good advice, blah blah: but underneath the curlicues of irony-- I think he respects me.  And thanks to him, I'm invited. To Professor Levine's--what? Salon? Salon conjures up harpsichords and snuff. Not likely in 1959 Ohio. What, then? "Brilliant young men" "Bohemian faculty-" and -- "chicks". Certainly Traversson's not a beatnik! If he writes, I bet it's scholarship or criticism. God. This may be the most important two hours of my entire life, and I don't know what to wear. In Britain they all have academic gowns, I hear. Long black gowns. Good idea, what? No marks of class or fashion to distract; simply mind to mind. Well, I look sort of like a photo I saw once of intellectuals on the Left Bank. At least no one will take me for Betty Coed.

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

This is so wonderful: as if being hidden and naked together means we can tell each other the truth -- Truth that will set me free. Not stuck in 1959, or Ohio, or a girl's body, or a white skin. Free from the inside out. The closest I've come to this before is poetry, or Shakespeare.  Inside another mind, looking out at the world: I felt I was Othello, or Shylock. I played Shylock, in eighth grade.  But the most intense is with Hamlet: I mean, Hamlet is more real to me than my own experience. Come to think of it, some of Shakespeare's women are pretty convincing. I wonder if Shakespeare ever played women's parts? Cleopatra, Beatrice, -- I recognize them.  They're me, or Madge. But all around me, even in books, I'm surrounded by girls who are always saying what they think they're supposed to say. Trying to believe in it. Even in Shakespeare! Miranda, Perdita: who ARE these girls? These innocents? Our First Parents, they say, lived in Paradise, without knowledge. For Adam, his disobedience is a Fortunate Fall, a fall into freedom. But Eve's is sin and degradation. Painful pregnancies, a partner who is her master. Well, "they" can say it all they want: I just refuse to accept it.

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

Remember what I told Madge about giving up art? How painful that was?  Every Saturday from second grade on I took the bus to the Museum School. After classes, I just stayed the whole day, scooting around the galleries on my little stool. When I was sure the guards were out of sight, the Museum was my playground.  I'd fondle the white buttocks of a Greek athlete, or dance the Seven Veils under his marble gaze. The empty galleries were perfect, cool and quiet; but there were whispers from the walls, where color and form called to me. Not just to me, of course -- the Greats were hanging there for anybody. But I knew that to most of the odd tourists who trotted reverently from frame to frame, those images were dead. Nothing but relics. It was my eyes, my potency, eyes of a ten year old drunk with godlike power, that answered the painters' prayers and made them live again. I thought then that one day I, too, would make images that called across the ages. When I realized I couldn't, the magic disappeared. That thousand-year artistic conversation, that intercourse that once drew me in, took on an edge of mockery. I wasn't at home there any more. Only an eavesdropper. Coincidentally, this happened at the same time that one of my Instructors noticed I wasn't a butter ball kid, and invited me to join his adult class. As a subject, a model. I was tempted. If that's the only way to be in on it--     

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

A poem.  About me.  Me, immortalized as Stefan's Coy Mistress, or La Belle Dame Sans Merci. How does that feel? To be one of the "bitches" Dylan Thomas is "dying of"? A poet invites his reader into his mind: but what he sees his woman as, is far more a description of what he is than of what she is. How could I walk up to Old Possum Eliot, chatting with Dr. Taversson and sipping tea in Taft Lounge, without offending Prufrock, or tempting Sweeney to do me in? As for Stefan--?  Stefan is not a good idea.  If he really can write, he could turn me into whatever he wants.  And if Betty discovered us, or Philip -- . I'm afraid Philip is watching me. Hanging around the coffee shop and the library to catch me coming in.  Philip doesn't make demands, not in words, but he feels me drawing back, and the unhappiness is rolling off of him in waves.

B.J. (Belinda Jean) Northrup, 18, a coed-- circa 1959

So I'm going to be a mother, about the time I turn nineteen.

Ironic, isn't it? I used to say that by the time a girl's mature enough to raise a baby, she'll have better sense than to want one!  But -- to tell the truth, I love pregnancy.  I haven't been sick, just peaceful and sleepy.

Yesterday a painter stopped me on my way across campus and asked if I'd pose for him. He said I looked like a Madonna.  Imagine!  Not Mary Magdalene, but a Madonna. Well, why not?  I'm expanding to fill the Universe!  For once my appetites seem appropriate. I mean, I have these cravings, for pickles or ice cream or hugs. But they are for the baby. I believe that she's asking me to get her what she needs to grow strong.

Yes, I'm sure it's a "she".  I call her "my darling girl" when I say poems to her, and I can't wait to tell her everything.  About Intercourse, for instance. And the long, intergenerational  conversation. And about the woman she may have the courage to grow up to be, the woman who finds her own life, and is something quite new.

MRS. CARTWRIGHT: 50ish, Taft Dorm Mother at State Normal.

Now girls, your Alma Mater stands here "in loco parentis", which means, in the place of your parents.  Your copy of the parietals and the dress code should be like your Bible.  Any girl accumulating 10 demerits will be grounded: confined to the dorm. Nopasses, no dates, not even a trip to the library! Male visitors are restricted to the front lobby, and must all be out of the building by nine p.m.  Fathers and brothers may visit briefly,with your door left open. Sign them in and announce it good and loud by shouting "Man on the floor"! -- you don't want to catch a girl in her curlers! Be considerate of your roomies at all times. Those girls are your best friends. Your roomies have been selected carefully, so that you will have a lot in common.

MRS. CARTWRIGHT: 50ish, Taft Dorm Mother at State Normal.

Belinda Jean, your roommates are like sisters, trying to help you get along in our dorm family. Now, I hear that you are sleeping through Psychology-- and telling your roommate, who is naturally concerned, to mind her own business because you'll get an A anyway because you "know the material". Setting aside the issue of disrespect to your professor, do you really think it is wise to read psychology on your own? Young people are attracted to psychology, oftentimes, when they realize they don't fit in.  But rather than seeking help, what they are really doing is theory mongering, looking to rationalize their behavior. Especially sexual behavior.

Wouldn't you agree that to be mature is to be responsible for the effect we have on others? Now, Belinda, from all your reading of psychology, you must be aware that men of college age are subject to the animal urge. The rules may sound silly-- I know the girls laugh at the one about keeping both feet on the floor--, but it's all too easy to get carried away.

Now, we know that adolescent males are so constructed that once aroused, their desire becomes a source of actual physical pain.  Their school work suffers. They may begin to drink, or become prey to depression and even to disease. We're talking about moral responsibility, here.

A clever young woman with all your so-called intelligence may try to argue that it's perfectly all right to tease and flaunt herself, as long as she manages, just barely, to draw the line. But if one of these young men snaps, I can tell you it won't be his fault!

Your behavior is inappropriate! French kissing in front of the dorm, goodnight embraces that are bound to give all the men ideas. And announcing in English class that you approve of premarital sex! Scandal gets around, Belinda Northrup, so you needn't curse ME for it! Now I suggest to you very strongly, and I'll put it in writing to the dean, that if you don't want to become a matter for the dorm council, you take yourself over to Dr. Ohloff at the campus psychiatric service, and get yourself straightened out.

DR. OHLOFF: 50, college psychiatrist.

Come in, sit down. I have here the results of your tests.  As I expect,they show that you are normal.  No, let me rephrase. Of sound mind.At the lower end of the scale on femininity, but in my opinion that is to be considered an asset. So, to answer your questions: no, you aren't crazy; and yes, many of the people who make the rules are probably what you would call full of bull crap.

I suppose you will consider this good news.

Although another way of looking is regret, as it is much easier to change one person than to change the world. Nevertheless, the conclusion is that our conversation is at an end.

No, do not protest.

Do not confuse mental illness with ordinary unhappiness.

Pushing against limits hurts. It is to be expected.

But dealing with such hurts, ordinary or extraordinary, is not my job. To earn my salary here, I must devote myself to the clinically depressed and the suicidal. You are not suicidal?

Good. Go out and have a good life.

From time to time you will be getting in trouble.

But that is good! Trouble is a sign of life. Stir them up, the foolish and the small minded. But try to do it with some tact, no?

You look amazed. Why is that? Because I am Authority? With degrees? So, then, perhaps even as you learn, but not precisely what it is "they" want you to learn, perhaps I also advise with a difference. I tell you to choose your battles carefully. You live strongly, you will make enemies. The Bible says, "fear is the beginning of wisdom." But only the beginning: after that, courage.  So-- we are running out of time.

You feel a little bit rejected, yes?  I could take you on as a private patient. We could spend years-- analyzing your dreams, your lover's nightmares, talking philosophy.  Would your parents be willing to pay for that? No?

Then take with you my oracle: all I can give you without "shrinking". You see, I do know you. Maybe I have even been you. You have it in you to be someone extraordinary. I don't say that  you should-- extraordinary people are ruthless, those who care for them get hurt. But if you do, and then some man says you are the cause of his problems: beware. Most likely that is melodrama. Old stuff. A woman who finds her own life is something quite new.

RACHEL: late 20's- 30, faculty wife.

Don't worry, B.J., I'll take care of it. (RACHEL dials phone)

Rank has its privileges.  Listen to this.

Hello?  Is this the proctor?  I'm Rachel Levine--

Prof. Levine's wife, from the English Department. I have one of your residents, B. J. Northrup, baby sitting for me. --

B. J. Belinda? -- Uh, yes. Yes, well, I'd like to keep her for a little past curfew, if I may. One of the twins is showing flu symptoms, and I want Belinda to stay here with the children while I run down to the all night drugstore and refill my prescription--

Oh, no more than half an hour.

Thank you so much, Mrs.--? -- Cartwright. I'll be sure to send along a note with her. Goodbye. (hangs up)

Applause, please.

Don't look at me as if I'm totally without scruples.

I have scruples. Never lie to a friend, never give a tyrant the truth.  Next week you can sign out for an overnight, B.J.  I'm respectable. Married to an Ass. Prof.


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