Escape Artists
December 10, 2017, 07:24:22 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
Author Topic: PC409: The Husband Stitch  (Read 3601 times)
Talia
Moderator
*****
Posts: 2679


Muahahahaha


« on: March 29, 2016, 01:54:54 PM »

PodCastle 409: The Husband Stitch

by Carmen Maria Machado

read by Gabrielle de Cuir


First appeared in Granta. A Nebula and Shirley Jackson Award nominee. Read it here!

I have always been a teller of stories. When I was a young girl, my mother carried me out of a grocery store as I screamed about toes in the produce aisle. Concerned women turned and watched as I kicked the air and pounded my mother’s slender back.

– Potatoes! she corrected when we got back to the house. Not toes!

She told me to sit in my chair – a child-sized thing, only built for me – until my father returned. But no, I had seen the toes, pale and bloody stumps, mixed in among those russet tubers. One of them, the one that I had poked with the tip of my index finger, was cold as ice, and yielded beneath my touch the way a blister did. When I repeated this detail to my mother, the liquid of her eyes shifted quick as a startled cat.


Rated R.

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in Fall 2017. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Calvino Prize, and nominated for a Nebula Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.

Gabrielle de Cuir has narrated over 400 hundred titles specializing in fantasy, humor, and titles requiring extensive foreign language and accent skills.  Her “velvet touch” as an actors’ director has earned her a special place in the audiobook world as the foremost choice for best-selling authors and celebrities. Short list of those directed: Anne Hathaway, Emilio Estevez, Wil Wheaton, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, Elijah Wood, Deepak Chopra, Eric Idle, Nancy Cartwright, Michael York, Ed Herrmann, and Joe Mantegna.  She is the writer and director of the Award winning short film THE DELIVERY, which deals with an Alice-in-Wonderland version of audio books.  She spent her childhood in Rome growing up with her wildly artistic and cinematic father, John de Cuir, four-time Academy Award winning Production Designer, an upbringing that enabled her to be fluent in Romance languages and to have an unusual appetite for visual delights.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 08:09:31 AM by Talia » Logged
Wilson Fowlie
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1466


WWW
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2016, 04:41:20 PM »

I've been meaning to say something about this for a while, now:

If you're going to have story ratings, I think it's important that they be included at the beginning of the audio. I suspect more people listen to the story before (or even without!) reading the post than otherwise, which makes a print-only rating less useful than it might otherwise be.
Logged

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham
Varda
Rebound
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2709


Definitely not an android.


« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2016, 06:06:21 PM »

I've been meaning to say something about this for a while, now:

If you're going to have story ratings, I think it's important that they be included at the beginning of the audio. I suspect more people listen to the story before (or even without!) reading the post than otherwise, which makes a print-only rating less useful than it might otherwise be.

The rating's always included right at the start of the audio, after the episode title and number. Did we miss one somewhere? I just checked this file, and it did include the rating, so I'm not sure I understand the complaint.
Logged

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com
Wilson Fowlie
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1466


WWW
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2016, 06:34:52 PM »

I've been meaning to say something about this for a while, now:

If you're going to have story ratings, I think it's important that they be included at the beginning of the audio. I suspect more people listen to the story before (or even without!) reading the post than otherwise, which makes a print-only rating less useful than it might otherwise be.

The rating's always included right at the start of the audio, after the episode title and number. Did we miss one somewhere? I just checked this file, and it did include the rating, so I'm not sure I understand the complaint.

My mistake. I abjectly apologize. It went right by without me noticing it at all.

I guess I got used to the more specific (and often humorous) ratings that Dave used to do, e.g. "Rated R for violence and strong language" or "Contains violence and an anthropomorphic house" or whatever, because there have been a few episodes recently where I thought (e.g.), Wow, that was unexpectedly extreme.

Once again, my apologies for missing it.  Embarrassed
Logged

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham
Varda
Rebound
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2709


Definitely not an android.


« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2016, 08:26:45 PM »

No worries! I'm just glad nothing was missing. Smiley And I'm sorry you got some unexpected surprise from some of the recent stories, and weren't prepared for that. Maybe we'd do better to highlight the rating a bit more, if it's an issue.
Logged

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com
leaveomelas
Extern
*
Posts: 2


« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2016, 10:23:50 AM »

Very mixed feelings about this story.  The reading was great, very well done.  The story itself was too long for my taste, especially considering you knew the ribbon was coming off at the end.  If it had ended differently or at least been some sort of twist I would have felt better about it.  About half way through I started using the 30 second advance.

Also, please don't sell a story so much!  After the great preview I was expecting a masterpiece, and that probably left me more disappointed.

I understood the story to be about the capacity of women to give of herself, the way society might force her too, and maybe also how we all might have secrets or personal spaces we want for itself.  If that was it, then it has already been done many times before.  Plus the ribbon in the end confused me.  All the woman have ribbons it seems?  But in different parts of their bodies?  Only women then?  Is it so simple as representing the discrimination women suffer and how they cant even hold a little part of themselves away from others?  I don't know if I understood it.

And I did not like to parts in the story.  When she mentions casually that she was "easy".  I hate it when sexually active women are called easy.  I understand that is how society sees it, but I did not like that the protagonist also thought herself as such.

And did not like when she mentions she could have met any type of potential husband and her life would have been different.  Isn't her life under her own control?  Doesn't she define how it turns out?  At the start of the story she appeared totally under control.
Logged
Maxilu
Palmer
**
Posts: 50



« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2016, 12:00:30 PM »

This story, hmmm.

I spent the whole time screaming at the husband for his genre-blindness. Of course her head is going to come off when the ribbon is removed. How can he not know this, especially in a world where it seems that all the urban legends are true.

Like the husband, I had a fascination with the ribbons. Do all women and girls have them? Do only women and girls have them? Are those who have them born with them? My impression is that they're relatively rare, in the twenty or so years that the narrator is describing, she only mentions two other women with ribbons, and frankly, the woman with the ribbon on her finger seemed insignificant enough to not warrant mention if half the population possess ribbons My impression of the birth scene was that the narrator was relieved that her son didn't have a ribbon in the same way a person with a congenital defect might be relieved that they didn't pass it on to their child.

The thing that really struck me, though, was at the end. The narrator muses that her husband is a good man. My gut reaction was "No, he's not. He's a rapist, at the very least. He CAN'T be a good man." but then, I remembered, humans are complicated. There's an uncomfortableness in realizing that everybody has their light and dark, and that villains who attack the princess only because she's beautiful, or want to destroy the world simply because they can live only in fairy tales and comic books. Given that this story takes place in a world where all the stories are true, it's an especially hard punch in the gut.
Logged
Tango Alpha Delta
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1757



WWW
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2016, 08:20:41 PM »

This story, hmmm.

I spent the whole time screaming at the husband for his genre-blindness. Of course her head is going to come off when the ribbon is removed. How can he not know this, especially in a world where it seems that all the urban legends are true.


That is funny - I didn't see it that way while listening to the story, but yes, that is a valid point! Of course, I also felt like that was a thematic strength here.

Part of my willingness to take the narrator at face value came from thinking that in her world, like in ours, there is a blurring between what is "true" and what is just story. None of the stories she tells are "urban legends" at all, from her perspective. And we don't really have anyone else's perspective to compare, so we only have her word for it - and a lot of implications - that any of these stories really happened, even in her world. Framing them as stories the way she does, these could just be her way of dealing with these life events.


The thing that really struck me, though, was at the end. The narrator muses that her husband is a good man. My gut reaction was "No, he's not. He's a rapist, at the very least. He CAN'T be a good man." but then, I remembered, humans are complicated. There's an uncomfortableness in realizing that everybody has their light and dark, and that villains who attack the princess only because she's beautiful, or want to destroy the world simply because they can live only in fairy tales and comic books. Given that this story takes place in a world where all the stories are true, it's an especially hard punch in the gut.

Again, I wouldn't necessarily go with the interpretation that the stories are true in this world - and that brilliant section where the narrator walks her son through the progression from "toothless" nursery rhymes back through to the "real" versions (red in tooth and claw) really mimics the way we sell our own children on these kinds of stories. We tell them stories (cautionary tales, morality plays, and even urban legends) because life IS complicated, and we want them to learn the lessons ...hopefully without the painful firsthand experiences that go with them. The stories we tell in our world are the "cans full of pennies" - we dumb them down so the pattern of the story gets familiar, and then we re-introduce just enough horror to (hopefully) teach them not to wander the woods alone at night.

Teaching consent this way is tricky. In my childhood, I wasn't taught about the importance of consent - I was taught to observe prescribed boundaries. The fiction there is that our appetites will be curbed if we stay within the boundaries; but we all learn, eventually, that those appetites are only enflamed by the blind adherence to external rules. If we're lucky, we see the danger in that before we get caught in the pattern of, "Oh, breaking THAT taboo felt awesome... how far does THIS road go?" and ignore someone else's boundaries as if it is just another artificial taboo.

That's why so many people don't get what consent is, or why it's so important. (Like empathy... but now I'm getting into the theme from the Escape Pod story this week!)

Logged

This Wiki Won't Wrangle Itself!

I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!
velocity
Palmer
**
Posts: 26



« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2016, 02:58:03 PM »

I liked the stories that are told within the story.  I didn't understand how the main character went from being in control to having none. 

But, it was captivating in its use of language.
Logged
Kaa
Lochage
*****
Posts: 598


Trusst in me, jusst in me.


WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2016, 09:03:41 PM »

Part of me loved the slow, almost languorous pace at which this story was read. The narrator did a truly fantastic job with it.

The other part of me, the part that listens to these stories during my commute, had a hard time keeping up with the plot after hearing part of it last night, part this morning, and part this evening on three separate drives. I had forgotten the ribbon, etc.

But as soon as I saw the ribbon mentioned and that it was around her throat and that she didn't want anyone touching it, I knew it was holding her head on. "Surely not!" I admonished myself. "That's too obvious."

And then at the end...it was holding her head on. Leaving so very many unanswered questions. Or perhaps they were unanswered because I simply forgot hearing the answers? I even went back to the beginning after hearing the end, thinking I'd missed something obvious.

Either I didn't and it's just not in there, or I did, and I'm obtuse enough not to see it. Smiley

I enjoyed the story, but I agree with whomever said earlier that it went on for a lot longer than it needed to, IMHO.
Logged

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else
EFBQ
Extern
*
Posts: 14


« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2016, 09:23:41 AM »

I don't see the story as being about consent at all.  Certainly not about consent to sexual activity.

The narrator owns her own sexuality from the very beginning.  She tells us very clearly that she made her own desires known (although she says she's not supposed to).   She doesn't just consent to sexual encounters with her boyfriend/fiance/husband, she seeks them out, sets boundaries, and is takes responsibility for her own satisfaction.  She seems to use the language of passivity because she doesn't believe women should take active part in sex, so she hides behind the fiction that only her husband has desire, while at the same time making it very clear that her own desire is strong and healthy.

Not that the world of the story is at all egalitarian.  Men make the money and hold positions of authority.  Her husband and the doctor make extremely uncomfortable jokes about her sexuality while she is recovering from childbirth.  The narrator has a very strong sense that she will be a wife and mother, she never considers another life path. That, along with the single statement that she 'drives herself' pretty much narrows the setting of this story down to the mid twentieth century - 1950s or early 1960s most likely.  The fact that it seems so specific a time is rather jarring, given the 'lady with the green ribbon' story.

At the beginning of the story, when her father is scolding her about the potaTOES, she says that, were she a grown up, sh would have told him that what she saw was real.  Of course when she IS  a grown up, she does no such thing, and that leads to her downfall.    It's also interesting how her father finds a way to control her perceived misbehavior which is less traumatic than how she later disciplines her son.  That's the first clue that this story has more to it than a complaint against the patriarchy.

Her husband is confused by the ribbon at the beginning (which becomes as the story progresses as all women seem to have them).  She tells her husband not to touch the ribbon, because it is hers, at the same time she tells him how they are to have sex.  He respects that boundary for years.  Occasionally he pushes it, during sex and sex play.  It's no wonder he comes to sexualize it.  She never corrects him. 

Her flirtation with the model is interesting.  It leads to her husband's second transgression against her (the conversation with the doctor being the first), and he has no way of realizing that he's wronged her.  He knows that she is aroused by something, and (quite reasonably) he asks her to share.  Then he uses the image during their own sex, and she is bothered, but she never tells him.  Remember that, earlier in their relationship, she managed to let him know what aroused her while staying within what she saw as the bounds of propriety. 

At the end of the story, as she objects to him messing with her ribbon again, he asks her what is beneath it.  When I first heard this part I thought it was absolutely horrible of her to give him permission to take it off rather than simply telling him. He asked her for answers, she gave him control.  Upon reflection, it's not completely clear that she knew exactly what was underneath, but even so she could certainly have let him know that she was afraid, not playing coy.  It's possible that he would have pushed the point anyway, but still...

The men in the story all seem a little simple.  Not stupid, but lacking depth.  I think that's more a product of the narrator's point of view than the author's.

I see this as a story about the importance of communication, not consent.
Logged
Scuba Man
Peltast
***
Posts: 132


Drabblecast, Pseudopod, Escapepod, Podcastle


« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2016, 09:33:38 PM »

This was one squirrely & weird tale. I felt as though I was listening to an unreliable narrator. The narrator's dispassionate tone was chilling. I was creeped out. Nice.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 09:48:40 PM by Scuba Man » Logged

"What can do that to a man?  Lightning... napalm? No, some people just explode [sic]. Natural causes".  Source: Repo Man.
Sarcastro
Extern
*
Posts: 3


« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2016, 05:46:20 AM »

I wish there had been a male in the story who wasn't unthinkingly horrible.
Kind of the son, but he was whisked away the moment he became a man.
Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8657



WWW
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2016, 09:07:52 AM »

Very excited to see this story picked up in audio for Podcastle!  (I was a previous publisher of the story in the Long List Anthology but didn't raise enough funds in the Kickstarter to add all the stories to the audiobook version).


I see this as a story about the importance of communication, not consent.

The two are not unrelated.  I agree that much of it is about communication, but also to a large extent about consent. 

She opened herself to him in a variety of ways, sexually at least (if not generally emotionally, although I think she had feelings for him she also kept many of her emotions locked up from him).  But she drew the line at that one thing--he could do whatever else he wanted to do and she never complained, but that one thing she drew a clear line about.  And he picked at that boundary.  And picked at that boundary.  And he pressured her about it, tried to cross that boundary while she was sleeping or otherwise distracted, kept picking at it for years and years and years and years, even though she drew a crystal clear boundary across this one thing that she wanted to keep for herself.  And in the end she finally gave in, but at that point was it really consent, if she only gave in because she was constantly wearied by his picking and picking and picking and picking?  It was more of a surrender out of weariness than an agreement, IMO.  Maybe the difference isn't always easy to discern, but here since she had made it very very clear time and time again that this was a line she didn't care to cross and he kept poking at it, that this was surrender rather than agreement.  And that's all taken out of the context of the rest of his treatment toward her, which was more real-life and horrifying in most ways (I don't know anyone who actually has a ribbon holding their head on that draws the line there, but the "husband stitch" is a real thing and a horrible one).

This was the first time I'd heard of "the husband stitch".  Seriously, WTF is wrong with people.


Logged
FireTurtle
Hipparch
******
Posts: 898



« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2016, 06:09:16 PM »

I found this extremely uncomfortable to listen too. It brought back a lot of bad feelings from other times in my life and just issues in general.

I find it interesting that sex seems to be getting conflated with a sort of Universal Consent. Enjoying sex, even submissive sex, has nothing to do with bodily autonomy. If I enjoy dominant sex with a male, even in the context of marriage, I wouldn't assume that have me the right to do a prostate exam on him. So, there's that skeeviness.

Then there's the medical skeeviness. I gotta say, as a physician who puts people in a state where they can no longer consent, there is NOTHING more grotesque and offensive than that trust being violated. I know it was in the past, and even that consent itself is a relatively modern concept when it comes to human medicine. That in no way makes it ok.

There is no doubt in my mind that the "ribbon touching" was a violent act. Pressure in the form of threats or just persistence in the face of a clear "no" is a violation. What she did at the end, in my experience, was not a consensual act but just a suicide of the soul.

The interposition of the urban myths -where so many have women in peril because of their morality (or lack thereof)- was very chilling.

It was an interesting piece. All in all, I really wish I hadn't heard it though. Been there, done that and all.
Logged

“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin
Ariadnes-thread
Palmer
**
Posts: 32


« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2016, 06:44:09 PM »

  Occasionally he pushes it, during sex and sex play.  It's no wonder he comes to sexualize it.  She never corrects him.


But she does correct him. Every time he pushes the boundary, she tells him to stop. The first time, she has to literally beg him to stop. And he doesn't listen to her. He just keeps on going, keeps on doing the thing she's asked him to stop. Subsequently, her asking him to just leave the ribbon alone always results in either him ignoring her or him sulking and complaining. I'm not sure what else she could have done to correct him.

(Also, I know I'm going to regret saying this because I don't want to start a whole debate about feminism, but I'm also going to regret not saying it: I'm pretty disturbed by your implication that it's somehow more ok for the husband to push this clear established boundary, just because he only pushes it during sex. Sex is the time we should least expect to have clear boundaries pushed; it's an extremely vulnerable situation and also, if everyone's doing it right, should be a positive, pleasurable experience. Pushing boundaries like this during sex exploits this vulnerability, and makes the whole experience of sex traumatic rather than positive.)

More generally: I loved this story. Unlike others here, I enjoyed the story all the more because I knew that the ribbon, in the end, would be keeping her head on. It just upped all of the creepiness of the husband's behavior for me, and I appreciate that the author was able to take what I've always experienced as an extremely silly "scary" story told by kids around campfires, and making it genuinely terrifying, all the more so because its realistically terrifying-- I don't think I've met a single woman who doesn't have some story of this type of boundary pushing happening to them. Also, looking back, the campfire version of the story was always told from the husband's perspective, and the scary part was the head falling off. I really appreciated the switch, here, to the wife's perspective.


Logged
adrianh
Hipparch
******
Posts: 737



WWW
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2016, 03:54:41 AM »

Seriously disturbing, but excellent story.

I'd not come across the ribbon fairy tale before (or at least I didn't remember it at the time of listening — some post-story googling rang some vague bells in my memory). So while I was kinda of guessing at holding-the-head on I wasn't certain, especially after the ankle ribbon on the life model.

From my POV the consent theme seemed pretty darn strong. I really liked that it was disassociated from the sexuality of the MC. The contrast in the tale between the positive ownership the protagonist had of her sexuality with the inability of the husband to not own and control every part of her life.

Making it crystal clear (to my ears anyway) that it's all about power and the denial of autonomy — not the fucking.

Like FireTurtle though — not entirely sure I actually enjoyed it. Cut a little too close to the bone.
Logged
Kaa
Lochage
*****
Posts: 598


Trusst in me, jusst in me.


WWW
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2016, 05:05:49 PM »

I was totally unaware of the campfire ghost story. Knowing now about that, this story requires another listen.
Logged

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

About writing || About Atheism and Skepticism (mostly) || About Everything Else
XY1981Ca
Extern
*
Posts: 1


« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2016, 12:20:23 PM »

What a great episode, very powerful. The format was great, narration was great and handled a delicate topic in a telling but classy way.

I think this story is totally about consent & surrender. Since consent is a subjective concept and we are so ingrained to think of consent with sex these days, it was very effective to tell the story from a sexually confident woman's perspective. This already sets up the fact that her boundaries are beyond sex and reminds us that consent is not only about the act of sex itself, but something other entirely (like the husband stitch).

Wish there were more provoking stories like these across escapepod.
Logged
Dwango
Matross
****
Posts: 164



« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2016, 12:24:27 PM »

I'm surprised no one mentions the lady with the Red Ribbon.  It appears she became aroused by this woman, but did not pursue it because she had to be so honest to the husband.  I'm wondering if the ribbons are a means of control and that she could actually be gay, but trapped in a straight marriage that follows the scripts of the story she is in.  It does seem that the ribbon affects the life path of the women involved, that they should follow a specific stereotype true to the "story" they are in.  She also is completely obedient and her excitement may not be actually her natural proclivities, but it was hard to tell.

It does seem that the point is that the ribbon being there is a constant temptation to pull.   I found it interesting that her ribbon was green, not red like in the classic story.  The other lady has the red ribbon around the leg, so it intrigues me.  But I could not make sense of it, why the other girl has the red ribbon, almost like they were not the complete story, just parts of it.  

It was a long one and I got a little bored waiting for the final ending, only to see the ending I expected.  It is sad the husband didn't flinch for once when he finally got the chance.  You wonder if he was only interested in her for the ribbon in the end.  Its also sad that the men are all written as not so great or sensitive to the women's need.  I was surprised that the husband didn't flinch for at least a moment when he got the opportunity to take of the ribbon off.  Wouldn't there be guilt or self-doubt after all the years together.  No, there is only the excitement at finally getting the relief of knowing.  I think this was so drawn out to reproduce the affect on the reader, so that we would have that desire to see the ribbon removed.  Also, to see if we could feel the guilt of knowing she doesn't want to remove it, as it only satisfies the husband and our curiosity.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!