We Mead to talk about Margaret.Posted: September 4, 2013
MRG here. WELCOME TO PART TWO OF SIBLINGS WEEK!!!!!!!!!1 Below you’ll find a post by my little sister AMG, who studies linguistics at a small East Coast liberal arts college and has been my parents’ favorite child for about the last 17 years or so but I Am Not Bitter About It. Ours is a relationship largely built on Harry Potter, Leslie Knope, and pizza, though, so naturally we’re ride or die bitches. We’ve got a lot in common, so I kind of can’t believe it took two and a half blogyears (that’s 18.5 in people years) for me to realize an AMG post would be a pretty great addition to the For Shame! canon. And thus, Sibling Week was born. And it was good. (Unless you don’t think she’s good in which case it wasn’t my idea it was LHB’s). Take it away, AMG! And don’t mess up my blog. Seriously. I’ll tell Mom.
“Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”
I know that title pun was weak, and I’m not proud, but in my defense, as soon as I started explaining Margaret Mead’s scandalous life story to my equally smart and sometimes slightly cooler older sister MRG she said “You should call the post Margaret Meat. It would be funny”, and, when I continued talking, she quietly repeated “Margaret Meat” and laughed a little at her own joke. With the best-case scenario pun gone, I didn’t have much to work with.
Margaret Mead is best known for Coming of Age in Samoa, the book made from her PhD research. Coincidentally, and I may be derailing a little here, this is only one letter off from my sitcom idea about a troop of college girls who are still involved in Scout life (Coming of Age in Samoas) which I had to scrap when Samoas were renamed ‘Caramel deLites’.
Anyway, I get why Coming of Age in Samoa is so important. It’s about a culture that’s pretty much the opposite of old-timey (and present-timey) USA, and it really delved into sexuality and the sturm und drang of adolescence and all that other stuff the kids are into. Also, a teen who was disappointed with a punishment or even just a rule from his or her parents could just move into a cool uncle’s house or something and no one would care, rendering my favorite courtroom drama completely obsolete. I get why that’s worth the attention and all, but I just think that Margaret Mead’s scandalous-for-the-1900s-book shouldn’t take away from her scandalous-for-the-1900s self.
Now, give me a second to set the stage for the beginning of Margaret Mead’s scandalous life. In 1923, M&M got married to her high school/college boy-next-door sweetheart Luther Cressman. Very quickly, I want you to remember that 1923 is three years after 1920, the year when Congress finally decided that our womanly hands are capable of gripping pens long enough to check off a ballot for voting.
Memory refreshed? Good. Because that will make it a lot more significant that she kept her own last name. Then again, this is the woman whose parents nicknamed her ‘Punk’.
Anyway, our girl Punk didn’t so much care for wifely duties, so she went off to Samoa to become one of, if I’m using the internet correctly, less than 15 female holders of anthro PhDs. Meanwhile, Cressman awkwardly sat at home until he eventually decided ‘screw it, I’m going to Hogwarts to reevaluate my decision to become a preacher’. (Fun fact: he eventually became ‘the father of Oregon anthropology’. Follow-up fun fact: Oregon anthropology is a thing). Already separated by the Atlantic Ocean, the couple decided to make it official and divorced in 1928. The split could probably be attributed to how Samoa ‘changed her’ or her inability to refuse to respect his space like a normal wife, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was maybe because of the prolonged affair she’d had with beautiful douchebag linguist Edward Sapir before she left to do her thesis?
I think it’s probably one of those, but my only real experience with ‘marriage’ and ‘relationships’ is reading Sister of the Bride in fifth grade. I mean, it could definitely be the affair thing, because I can see how your wife sleeping with her professor could be a bit damaging to one’s self-esteem. I can also see how it could be demeaning if that guy uses such eloquent language as “son-of-a-bitchiest” to describe the languages he studies for his job because he is a linguist who couldn’t think of a better descriptive word and also broke up with your wife by sending her a letter that pretty much just said ‘so now I’m married to a nice traditional woman who doesn’t make me think stuff UGH what a drag’. And it would also maybe be kind of bad if you heard that your wife, after reading the letter, calmly stood up, facing the scintillating, iridescent sunset bouncing off of Samoa’s beautiful waves, folded the letter over, and then calmly BURNED THE SHIT OUT OF THAT DEAR JOHN EPISTLE LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS, maybe you’d think to yourself, ‘Hm. Was she into that guy? Wait. Is that… bad for our marriage? Hmmmmmmmm.’
But really, who am I to speculate. Our girl Punk held that it was only natural that their union would fall apart, since they were married so young (She was married at 22. In 1923). She tended to refer to it as her ‘student marriage’ in a flippant, Daisy Buchanan-esque way. Cressman’s response to that moniker was to shout ‘You BITCH I LOVED YOU!’ while crying into the tub of ice cream he was eating in an attempt to make the pain go away, probably, maybe.
Margaret Mead waited the appropriate amount of time after divorce to get married again, which is to say she waited a Kardashian marriage‘s worth of time. The next lucky man who got to put a ring on it was the absurdly named ‘Reo Fortune’. He was an intelligent, brooding anthropologist from the Canada of Australia, so I’m about 95% certain that he was actually the love interest in a craptastic YA novel about some mysterious supernatural creature that young girls should not want to date.
They got along pretty well for a while; they even did field research together (anthropology dates! 2cute2deal). Of course, then Reo Fortune (seriously this is a name that could only be bestowed by a truly terrible writer I can’t get over it) decided to be the worst. They were studying the Mountain Arapesh in New Guinea – yeah, I don’t know who they are either, just go with it – and Mead observed and presented that these people were very peaceful- almost war-free. Then, without saying anything to his smart, powerful wife, Reo Fortune decided to wait a year and then tell everyone that actually, his research said that there was war all up in the Mountain Arapesh’s lives. Margaret Mead’s response was probably the classic ‘Yeah? Well my research says you’re a little bitch’ and then bam, divorce. This particular marriage lasted six years – one more than the last time! But there was so little Punk for such high demand – it was Maggie’s God-given duty to keep her marriage game strong. So, not wanting to keep anyone waiting, she married the one and only Gregory Batesman a bit more than a year after brushing Reo’s salty attitude off her shoulder.
Like most fantasy boyfriends, Gregory Batesman was a British man with a dark past – both of his brothers were dead by the mid-20s, one from World War I and the other from public suicide. This meant that proclaimed geneticist William Bateson, Gregory’s father, got to put all of his hopes and ambitions that he was unable to fulfill himself onto one person. Whatever those dreams were, Gregory probably fulfilled them – he got a degree in biology, lectured on linguistics, and practiced anthropology and cybernetics. I don’t even know what cybernetics is, and I paid attention in science class. So let’s just do a quick recap: tortured past, a doctor, British, highly interested in the ways of other cultures, hella genius, travelling with a woman who’s a bit out of place for her time, and really weird fashion sense…
I’m not saying he’s the Doctor, but I’m not not saying he’s the Doctor.
Anyway, he was Margaret Mead’s favorite husband, hands-down. She openly acknowledged that she loved him the most, which makes sense because Time Lords have double the amount of heart to love with. They had a beautiful genius baby together –Mary Catherine – and stayed together for fourteen years. However, Batesman made the decision to separate from her, which I will attribute to the TARDIS calling her Doctor home and if you give me any evidence to the contrary I will hum the Doctor Who theme as loud as is humanly possible. Mead was heartbroken, and stayed friends with him despite the fact that she was still in love with him, which is really sad and hurts me right in my heart bone.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘This can’t be right! When you catch a beautiful peacock like that, you don’t let her fly away!’ Well, my friend, sometimes you have to let your exotic pets free into the wild. One of those times is when that beautiful peacock has been having lesbian sex with another peacock.
Ruth Benedict was another anthropology professor Mead had studied under at Columbia (Oh hey, if I add ‘if you know what I mean’ to the end of that, it’s a pun! What a novel discovery). Clearly, our Punk had a type, and that type was ‘anthropology’, proving that really her only mistress was science.
Of course, Ruth Benedict’s sexual relationship with Mead was more implied than anything, but it was implied by Mead’s own daughter in a memoir, which is more or less conclusive. Furthermore, this wasn’t her only implied relationship with a beautiful, cultured anthropological mistress. Five years after her final divorce, Mead moved in with Rhoda Metraux while they had a ‘professional collaboration’.
hint: it was sex. Sex was the collaboration. Margaret had found something other than just anthropology to fill the hole Gregory left behind, and that little something’s name was Rhoda. Oh, by the way, MRG, remember when I was four and you told me Rhoda wasn’t a real name? Because I remember it, no matter how much you tell me that’s not how it went down. Oh, I remember it. Give me a minute while I cut you a fifteen-year-old slice of humble pie.
Anyway, in letters published with permission from Mead’s daughter, a romantic relationship between the two is very clearly expressed, and when Mead was confronted with the rumor that they had a sexual relationship, she never denied it. Furthermore, while Mead never identified as bisexual, in several instances Mead theorized that one’s sexual orientation evolved with experience, much like a Pokemon.
There’s not much else to say about Margaret – she and Rhoda stayed close until she died in her sleep in 1978 as an adorable old lady at Rhoda’s side, did a ton of really great things for anthropology as a whole, and just generally stayed a badass bitch her whole life. I mean, while she was a professor she held a walking stick and wore – this is not a joke – her “trademark cape” at all times. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking of another certain M.M. right now.
Just some food for thought.