Stellar Marriage

Total eclipses of the heart can sometimes get literal

I’ve been contemplating energy beings. Why is a tale for another time, but for the moment my thoughts fall upon Mrs. Whatsit (and her sisters, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who) in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. Mrs. Whatsit was a star.

Mrs. Whatsit is also, implicitly, married. Such is having a title that designates a woman’s marital status.

(This, by the way, is how my brain works. Borderlands Maya Head >> Energy Beings >> Stellar Organisms >> A Wrinkle In Time >> Marital Status of Stellar Organisms)

Mrs. didn’t always imply marital status. Miss, Mrs. and the Clotho of the group, Ms. are all abbreviations of Mistress and before the 17th century were interchangeable (literarian pro-tip: choose one and be consistent). Eventually someone came up with the bright idea of using different conventions to designate whether a particular mistress was still with her birth family or her husband’s. Heck, it might have been a personal code that just caught on among correspondents. Much to the chagrin of social butterflies everywhere, writing invitations suddenly required actually keeping up on the lives and goings-on of your friends and colleagues, and not just whether or not dancing is his scene.

So what’s the deal with Mrs. Whatsit? Maybe there is, or was, a Mr. Whatsit? Within the stories, it’s not known nor, really, relevant. There’s a popular trend right now to commandeer Ms. L’Engle’s religious enthusiasm towards certain interpretations of her stories, and some might imply marriage to the divine (e.g. the trinity) much the way Catholic nuns are. It’s a bit of a stretch.

The W sisters had angelic (or rather ambiguously demigodlike) qualities. They weren’t identified as angels, but nor was Proginoskes for that matter.* And the W sisters compare more closely to the Weird Sisters of yore. (More aptly the Wyrd Sisters or even the Weyward Sisters) They’re certainly cousins to the Erinyes (The Kindly Ones), the Moirai (The Sparing Ones) or the Gorgons (The Beautiful Ones). Fortunately, the Ws aren’t in need of a euphemistic nickname lest you incur their inexorable wrath.

That said, the backgrounds of the Mrs. Ws are not particularly relevant to their present duties. Often a transformative event can render inconsequential whatever happened before. Was Medusa married once? Maybe. It’s disputed among sources whether or not Medusa was once human or mortal. It makes little matter once she angered Olympians capable of turning her hair into serpents (Snakes-in-the-hair is like the first thing Olympians do to an insolent girl) and her entire town became overnight a courtyard gallery of post-modern grotesques. Similarly, good Mrs. Whatsit has the past of being a star, and the present of not being one anymore. Perhaps losing enough mass to make a brand new solar system can render issues like marital status less than relevant.

One explanation points to the 60’s era, in which married (or widowed) women raise fewer questions than unmarried ones. More accurately, spinsters and women who insisted on Ms. would raise questions that Mrs. did not. An appropriate title, thus, is part of Mrs. Whatsit’s form mortals can understand. Probably a suggestion by Mrs. Who. Given Mrs. Whatsit’s entrance attire we could expect that she is not exactly Paddy Ridsdale in her attention to details that complete the illusion of belonging.

Indeed, I would suspect Mrs. Who called all the shots when it came to tips on not distressing the locals.**

And still, three century’s convention starts and stops within an eye-blink to someone whose lifespan is billions of years. Recognizing the need for the post-agricultural fashion to don clothes was pretty astute. Getting the naming and title conventions for the mid-20th century was downright on-the-ball.

There’s also the matter of the 1960s. Ms. had been around since the 1900s but it had a very specific feminist-activist slant to it, suggesting that women who preferred Ms. were suffragettes who wore loose clothing and disapproved of drinking and smoking cigars (by men. Women got disapproval for free). It wouldn’t be until 1971 when Gloria Steinem launched her new magazine that the marriage-neutral title became popular. And in 1972 Ms. was accepted on US state documents. (I was hearing about teachers and moms getting flak for Ms. as late as the 80s.)

Meanwhile, our Mrs. Ws were only trying to blend in circa 1960ish, and most commonly adult women were known as Mrs. [Whosawhatsit], and they essentially split the difference.

Mrs. Which was obviously bit of a rebel.

* Proginoskes (Progo for short) was a cherubim — in this case singular yet not cherub — in A Wind In the Door. Progo looked as many angels of lore did, not like a winged human or an infant with wings (both also depictions of Eros / Cupid) but like some horrific Lovecraftian abomination if you replaced all the tentacles with feathery wings, yes, still blobby and specked with countless eyes.

** Our own Sun is so glorious that attempting to behold it unprotected would cook us rapidly even if we could survive the vacuum of space. Even with the protection of miles and miles of atmosphere we are advised against looking at it directly, or staying within its brilliance for too long without strong UV protection. These days, the local weather reports announce high UV days during which we should just stay indoors and wait until nightfall.

Beholding godlike beings directly is kinda like that. They’re so bright, or pretty or loud or confusing that they can actually do damage to those in their presence. There’s also the matter that they behave like a glitch in the matrix the universe has gone very, very wrong.

This isn’t a new problem, as seen in Isiah 41:10 “Woah dude, just chill. I’m on your side. No, don’t do the grovel thing. That’s not why I’m…OH FOR GOD’S SAKE, I’M HERE TO HELP YOU!”

Creating an avatar with which to interact with the locals is the obvious next step. In the case of our Mrs. Ws they’d do a higher-dimensional equivalent of poking their finger through the Flatland plane. Sock-puppets and projection technology even further reduce distress to locals caused by a chance encounter.

And then Mrs. Whatsit decides it’s Centaur Time.

Image courtesy (without permission) of The Daily Galaxy. Image is of 30 and 31 Cygni, a duel star. (The second star is the blue spot below the yellow star, in its corona, not the larger blue star to the upper right) Looks like TDG got it from here.

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