From the book of the same name, published in 1996. The authors were Beverley West and Nancy Peske. They asked “Why do all the great romances of literature end tragically – for the heroine? Surely there must be a way for love to flourish without some poor unfortunate woman throwing herself in front of a train, giving in to consumption, being dumped, or settling for Mr Not-so-right. Here is the title story from their book.
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful but men seldom realised it when caught by her charms, her keen intellect, her independent spirit, and her considerable depth of character, all of which men valued far more than a pretty face or a seventeen-inch waist. Scarlett could have had her pick of any of the young bucks in the county. Unfortunately, as a result of self-esteem issues, she set her sights on the tall, handsome, goldenhaired Ashley Wilkes, whose reserved demeanor was not really an indication of masculine strength but rather of a deep-seated fear of intimacy.
Ashley’s boundary issues and his reluctance to embrace change led him to marry his cousin Melanie. In a typical male projection, Ashley believed that his fiancee was a mere reflection of himself, not recognizing that she was a pillar of softspoken feminine power who represented the enduring ‘spirit of the conquered South – minus its racism, classism, and wholesale destruction and exploitation of innocent plant crops.
“She’s just like me, Scarlett, part of my blood, and we understand each other,” Ashley explained, attempting to rationalize his inability to bond with a woman who had a well-developed sense of self.
Scarlett, not one for avoidance behavior, replied, “Why don’t you say it, you coward? You’re afraid to marry me!” and punctuated her message non verbally with a sobering slap to Ashley’s cheek. Unfortunately, this did not jar loose Ashley’s innermost emotions, so mired was he in his masculist dysfunction.
Happily for Scarlett, this exchange was overheard by a rakish yet sensitive and supportive visitor from Charleston, Captain Rhett Butler. Rhett, despite the many years of immersion in a warring male culture dedicated to brutality and oppression, instantly recognized Scarlett for the fully realized, actuated, multifaceted woman that she was.
“You, my dear Ms. O’Hara, are a girl – excuse me, a woman – of rare spirit, and Mr. Wilkes should thank God on bended knee – without putting you on a sexist pedestal – for a woman with your passion for living,” said Rhett, clearly demonstrating that he was a man worthy of Scarlett’s indomitable inner strength because he shared her ability to confront difficult emotions and work through conflicts in a healthy manner.
The brokenhearted Scarlett did not immediately recognize her soulmate, sad to say. She was distracted by a couple of bad marriages, the fall of the South, the death of both of her parents, her only child, and her beloved Melanie, with whom she had bonded in their mutual struggle against patriarchy and the Yankees, and the near loss of her familial home, whose verdant acres meant more to her than life itself. Twelve years later, Scarlett realized that Rhett was her own true love and her life partner of choice, not because she needed a man to be a whole person, but because she saw the possibility for a mutually satisfying and fulfilling partnership between equals.
Allowing herself to be vulnerable, Scarlett confessed this epiphany to Rhett. “Rhett, tonight when I knew, I ran home every step of the way to tell you.”
Rhett, sensing her emotional discomfort without her having to express it, stepped in, willing to share the burden of this difficult confrontation.
“Scarlett, I realize that the confines of the antebellum South’s restricted vision of womanhood has been a tremendous obstacle in your path toward self-realization. Although it has taken you twelve years to appreciate me and how much I love you and value you as an individual, I’m here for you.”
“You mean you still love me after all of this?” Scarlett exclaimed, incredulous at the depth of his understanding, sensitivity, constancy, insightfulness, caring, gentleness, and masculine strength.
Frankly Scarlett, I do give a damn,” said Rhett. Scarlett collapsed into his arms, not because she was physically inferior, but because she had learned to surrender her illusion of control in the interests of establishing trust and intimacy with her life partner of choice.
After reaffirming their commitment to a loving, symbiotic, monogamous relationship, Scarlett and Rhett resolved to work on improving their communication skills in order to avoid future misunderstandings. They vowed to put the past behind them and start a new life.
“But where shall we go, what shall we do?” asked Scarlett, who had ideas of her own but was committed to more open lines of communication and a sharing of the burden of common decision making.
“Let’s go to your place,” said Rhett, knowing that Tara was a touchstone for her. “I’ll cook you a nice dinner, I’ll lay a fire, and, with your consent, we can make passionate love, during which I will be as concerned with your pleasure as my own. Then while you nap, I will wash the dishes and prepare a light, healthy snack to restore our expended energy.”
As they hugged in the light of the setting sun, the wind tousling their hair, Rhett added, “Just don’t let the uncertainty of our future as citizens of a post-Reconstruction Southern society muddy your enjoyment of the moment. After all, tomorrow is another day.”