MY COMMANDMENTS have been sewn into my skin: if I go a day without writing, the scar burns me; and if I write too easily it also burns me. Today, this worn exigency strikes me as clumsy and inflexible: like those solemn, prehistoric crabs which the sea washes up on the beaches of Long Island; like them it survives from times past.
— Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots, 1964
SEEING THE TERM “patriarchy” a few times recently has led me to think about the matriarchal clan systems that have defined my personal life, yet are seldom if ever discussed. It was just taken for granted that the family was built around the life-giving female, if only because the older males had mysteriously predeceased them due to various ill habits likely spurred on by endless stress. There was no ‘pater’ around which a patriarchal system could revolve. Matriarchy decided so much about you, in what way you would relate to God, what way you would celebrate, which foods were acceptable, how you carried yourself in public. You were just swimming in matriarchy, and it was deep all around you, like the ocean itself. This is not a critique, for one cannot critique the ocean. Still, one may attempt to size it up from time to time.