‘The Metal Bowl’ by Miranda July

The Metal Bowl by Miranda July, 2017

The magic trick:

Taking a unique personal detail from the past and showing how it lingers in what is an otherwise very normal life for the protagonist

Probably half the stories we read for this website are about the way the past messes with the present. So it’s not an original thought here to praise this story for highlighting such an instance, but it still feels noteworthy.

“The Metal Bowl” takes something extremely dramatic – maybe even scandalous – in the form of a porn film the protagonist did for money when she was a young woman. And it shows how such a thing can have major implications years and years later. OK, fine. Again, nothing particular original there (though the oddball specifics of the film are classic Miranda July).

The interesting part lies in the way the dramatic reveal from the past bumps against what is an incredibly normal present. This protagonist’s concerns couldn’t be more middle-class suburban. Which oddly enough makes the lasting effects of the old video on her life all the more believable. And that’s quite a trick on July’s part.

The selection:

More and more women my age have given up on our men and are getting together with millennials, youngsters raised by women who were born in the sixties, rather than the forties. I hear it’s great. Not a lot of hangups. But that isn’t an option for me because I need a man with a historical perspective that encompasses my whole lifetime. If anything, I regret not having met Alex sooner. If we had met at my birth and I had been able to assess how narcissistic my parents were, I could have left the hospital with Alex and got started on our relationship immediately. He would have been eight years old—young, but not too young to keep me alive. I need that in a man.

Sometimes my love for him is so intense that I want to crawl inside his body. I want him to be pregnant with me and never give birth, just hold me in. At other times, I wonder, Who is that guy? And why is he in my house? When I get that look on my face, he sticks out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Alex. Your husband.”

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