If Eve gave up Eden for an apple, what would she have done for Nordstrom’s half-yearly sale? Fur-lined Uggs? A roomy mini-van? A ten-minute nap? These are things I think about when I should be focusing on more important things like did I pay the mortgage this month? Did I take the right kids home from school? Is that tightness in my chest my bra or a heart-attack? But musing on Eve is so much more fun. She’s constantly referenced as the first mother, but has anyone thought about the fact that she was the first housewife? And if she gave up Paradise for an apple, could it really have been Paradise for her?
Although I’ve always been fond of the biblical Eve, that story is told from a male perspective. Now John Milton’s Eve in Paradise Lost is a woman who speaks to me. True, Milton’s a man; however, he was a blind man whose daughters transcribed the story as he told it to them, and it’s my theory that they put a trace of their own seventeenth-century feminist spin on Eve’s marital situation.
There’s no doubt that Milton’s Eve is much more compelling and conflicted than the Eve of Genesis. Milton gives her language and through her voice we glimpse the domesticated Eve. Fed-up with hoeing with Adam in Eden, Eve tells Adam that she needs some alone-time and wants to go off on her own to explore Paradise. Adam, befuddled, can’t understand why she needs to go off on her own when she can till the land with him and revel in the beauty of his total naked creation. Besides, he wants to take another “nap” with her. Frustrated, Eve does a brilliant rhetorical dance that completely wears Adam down, and she manages to convince him that he’ll be all right without her for an hour or two. I can almost hear Adam saying, “You’re not taking my rib anywhere without me!” I can also see his sullen look as she runs naked away from him through leaves of grass in search of the Paradise of having a minute to herself.
We all know what happens next--she meets the serpent, eats the apple, and flushes Paradise down the proverbial biblical toilet bowl. But ladies, side with me here; the serpent was essentially offering to feed her something other than the same old manna from heaven; and he wasn’t expecting anything “else” in return, if you know what I mean. Truth be told, if I’m having a really bad day (or if the kid’s have a snow day) and a serpent slithered up to me and said, “Sit down, relax, take a load off; oh and by the way, here’s an apple for you to eat; however, if you take even one bite you’ll send civilization straight into hell,” there’s a really strong possibility that I’d eat that apple to the core with one hand while waving good-bye to civilization with the other.
Look, Eve faced it alone—no girlfriends to commiserate with; no mother to criticize Adam or compare him to Eve’s other boyfriends in an effort to completely emasculate him; no Oprah; no wine; no football games to distract Adam. True, she didn’t have a mother-in-law, a fact which may outweigh all the others, but she did have a father-in-law who gave her the monthly curse! Imagine, too, that all day long she had to sit and listen while Adam reminded her that were it not for his rib, she would not be. It wasn’t like she went to Arby’s and said, “I’ll have the Adam’s rib special; oh, and give me a side of Eden to go.” Has anyone ever stopped to think that perhaps she preferred salad instead?
If I could have dinner party and invite anyone from history, Eve would definitely be among the chosen guests. I’d love to hear the scoop on Paradise from her over a bottle or two of Pinot Noir.
“Ann, Adam wears that same faded fig leaf every day! Oh, and don’t get me started on those kids; it’s like they’re trying to kill each other!”