I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

— Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice

I never liked my formal name. There was a time when I wished I was an Elizabeth, or a Samantha perhaps, or an Imogen, or an Anaïs or an Alexandra. Eventually, I learned to love the name given to me by my father—it was an allusion to the stars, and wasn’t I a dreamer, all along?

Still—to be Miss Elizabeth Bennet, with her books and her ideas, her wit and sense of humour—who wouldn’t want to be like her. I did. I was a child deeply obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and every Charles Dickens book I could get hold of, I was an explorer of soil and gutters before I ever became aware of the allure of my hair. Then a pocket of time dropped Pride and Prejudice on my lap one afternoon, and I was a goner.

“But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.”

— Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice

I’m a hopeless romantic, yes, and I will never turn down a happy ending, even at my age. Ironically enough though I was always averse to the idea of marriage—partly because I didn’t have a good model to look up to, and partly because I couldn’t bear to be tied down, when all I wanted to do was fly—inside my body, inside my mind, outside consciousness where everything else fades except for our basest desires.

I have so much to do, I always mutter to myself, so much to write, so much art to make. And what of men anyway—they who always lead society and almost always leave me with no agency to do what I want—what of them. I watched people around me with their crumbling relationships—shells of people who have once been people—and thought, no.

I’ll lead my life myself, carpé diem and all that—

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

— Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice

But being impervious to the appeal of a ring on my finger doesn’t mean life didn’t try to approach me another way. When I blossomed into my sexuality, there was never a day that passed where I didn’t think about a man between my thighs, emptying himself inside me or feeding from my wet pussy.

The little tomboy riding a red bicycle grew up to be a sensualist—oh, how I love the corners of a man’s mouth, a full shock of beard, the softness of his navel, the curve of his cock. Unapologetically submissive, I would love nothing more than to get down on my knees, my head bowed, waiting for your command.

Instead of a ring, I want a collar—your collar—wrapped around my throat, a memory of your hands. Instead of marriage, I long for ownership—where my gender is not treated as secondary and my surrender is considered precious, for I overcome my own strength and will, in order to give myself.

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

— Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice

If you’re about to read this book thinking it’s merely a love story, Ms. Austen has a surprise for you, all the way from 200 years ago. It is a story about love, but also of enduring humiliations, of self-possession, and of allowing yourself the space to change, and perhaps adapt your convictions to the truths of your life, and not merely the truths of the world.

Mr. Darcy is a catalyst of change as much as he is a symbol of one of the most aching acts of restraint I have ever come to know. To read Elizabeth think, and to sit and think with her, was exhilarating for me as a reader. And then to still arrive at indecision, well—confound it all, I say.

It is frustrating enough when one person refuses to fall in love, but when both refuse, we cannot rest until they kiss.

— Roger Ebert, in his review of the film Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)

And what to say of the film? It is lush, it makes me ache. It makes me think about how people yield, and what it means to lean into that vulnerability. What do you let go when you decide to take a chance, and what do you miss when you choose not to?

“I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”

— Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice

A will of her own, a good head on her shoulders—that’s what I always admired about Elizabeth. That’s what I’ve always wanted for myself, too. To live in an insufferable world surrounded by insufferable people, and yet survive—isn’t that enough? Must I love, too? Must I want, too?

And yet I do. And yet I do.

T. xx

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