Shall I be… ?

Léon-François Comerre, The Blonde Woman

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Three Chapter 5

Shall I be a pristine blonde, forever young and innocent? Yes, a virgin under my father’s roof, free from original sin, I could be a guide to the enchanted garden. With my girl-child body stopped in time—free from need, invulnerable—I’d inspire to spiritual heights all the men whose gaze I’d capture. And I’d never die, I’d just fade away: To the end I’d be winsome…

Shall I be a perfect blonde, fueling with my intellect the fire of my ambition? After a spell as an armpiece to affluence, cold-hearted and unkind, I could pursue my mastery of abstract systems. No child-bearing hips, no milk-on-tap tits, with my lean look I’m already kitted out for the role. Skiing in winter, riding in summer, swimming all year round: Tall, tanned and beautiful, it would cost me nothing to play the perfect partner, perfectly unattainable. No, they wouldn’t smell sex on me, but nor would they have to sniff very hard to find it. I could even go as far as to have a relationship, if ever there were a good reason to do so. As for society, it would be from within, of course, that I’d climb to the top, but just because I’d buy into its tenets wouldn’t mean I couldn’t rise above it…

Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Marjorie Ferry, 1932

Paulus Moreelse, The Blonde Shepherdess, 1624

Shall I be a bountiful blonde, full of abundance and goodness? Babies one two three I’d bear, plump little buggers. For their birthdays I’d bake a cake; when they’re sick I’d make them soup. Patchwork quilt and pumpkin pie, a stint between the sheets: Husband, daughter, son I’d know how to satisfy. Yes, were I a bountiful blonde, I’d be the sun’s accomplice, making flowers grow, colours bright, and hearts wholesome…

Shall I be a perverse blonde, a destroyer with a death wish? Cool and unencumbered, no emotions to entangle me, I’d draw to their doom all the men I’d meet. Yes, under starlit skies I’d promenade my perfection, a conquering erotic dream machine, loving but never lingering. My ashen hair upswept, my red lips set in a deadly smile, I’d slink through evenings of opium yet remain as lucid as a diamond (a black diamond, of course). My womb would be barren, my bearing composed, my face inscrutable. Dangerous, mysterious, a frigid femme fatale, I’d nevertheless be a woman of refinement, taking pride in her independence.

Pierre Berronneau, Salomé