I first heard the myth of the Crane Wife via The Decemberist’s album by the same name. The Decemberists’ create an evocative, brooding story of a bird trying to be a woman who gives and gives and gives to her husband until there is nothing left.
CJ Hauser’s essay “The Crane Wife,” published last month in the Paris Review, is just as moody. The opening is genius: thinking of loss while trying on new hiking shoes and hats, understanding that “Surely, a person who calls off a wedding is meant to be sitting sadly at home, reflecting on the enormity of what has transpired and not doing whatever it is I am about to be doing that requires a pair of plastic clogs with drainage holes.”
In it’s perfectly braided, fragmented, and vignette-filled way, Hauser’s “The Crane Wife,” digs at the heart of female giving: giving without receiving, giving without the thought of needing anything in return:
When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.
That I wanted someone to articulate that they loved me, that they saw me, was a personal failing and I tried to overcome it.