The summer I read Gone With the Wind, I won a second place medal in synchronized swimming. The morning I finished it, I went to practice and my eyes were already red for Rhett Butler. After practice I went home and read the last 50 pages again and cried some more.
We weren’t supposed to like Scarlett, which puzzled me. Why did Margaret Mitchell tell the story through the eyes of someone we weren’t supposed to like? I liked her anyway. I knew I should not like the way the simple slaves were so devoted to her, and I did side with them when I could, but the story pulled me into Scarlett’s eyes, green and lakelike. I knew I should not like rich Rhett and his dirty Southern money, but he was so charming. And he was nice to Mammy, in his way. That red petticoat.
Why did we in my liberal Democratic suburb decide to overlook the depiction of the slaves, and have Gone With the Wind watching parties when it showed on TV? This was the 70’s. None of our black friends were at these parties.
It felt good to get lost in a book 1174 pages long. And then go and swim to a song from John Lennon’s Imagine. “Oh my love for the first time in my life, /My-y-y-y eyes are wide open.”
And red from crying and chlorine.