The Wife of Bath's Prologue

image of Woodside cottage

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynough for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage

“The Wife of Bath’s Prologue” is a tale in itself. Alison, the Wife of Bath, relates the story of her five husbands. As she speaks, Allison stages a debate between two kinds of knowledge - experience and authority. How many times, she asks, can a woman get married? Is virginity really more valuable than wifehood? To answer these questions, Alison sets her own experiences and personal knowledge against the authority of Scripture and the Church Fathers.

The Truth about Tinder

Allison, Residential Advisor for Hall 7, Kerrey Hall, The New School

By Aine Carolan, Haverford ‘20

You want to know the truth about dating apps? I’ve had Tinder for a year now – I downloaded it with Bumble and Hinge. I haven’t gotten around to the others yet, but I think I’ve got enough experience – five hookups so far – to explain internet romance to you.

I can hear my parents screaming all the way from Michigan, “FIVE BOYFRIENDS! IN ONE YEAR!” But they don’t understand dating these days: for them, “boyfriend” is a label for the person I’ll marry once he’s far enough into his boring job to support me. That’s a little unfair, they know I have ambitions – they did pay for my fashion design degree after all. But they’re stuck in their ways. If you grow up thinking virginity is all a woman has to show for herself until she gets her one chance at marriage, you end up pushing it on your kids.

It’s people like my parents who give Tinder a bad rap because they’re so hypocritical, yapping about how women should act while pretending to be feminists. My mom will drop some crazy Bible verse about virginity and tell me the next day my biological clock is ticking. Which do they want – virginity or kids? And Jesus, hearing baby boomers talk about religion like they were at the last supper when they go to the shortened service on Christmas and, if it doesn’t conflict with their golf, Easter is so fucking rich. Who’s Mike Pence to tell me he’s a religious saint for refusing to be alone with women who aren’t his wife when he’s the underling of Donald Trump, 2-time divorcee and sexual harasser.

Well, my virginity is gone anyway and I’m being moral by taking the pill! I saw a sign up just last week telling me it’s irresponsible to have children these days because they’ll have a shit life when The Day After Tomorrow comes for them.

Allison, I don’t know if you’re the authority on ethical childbearing. You have sex because you like it. And I don’t know if you’re the best interpreter of religion, either. Just last week you told me a Mormon came to your door and you thought it was an actor advertising for the musical…

Fine! You’re right. I use Tinder because I like sex. Not all sex, only good sex, only when I enjoy it more than whatever lucky man I’m fucking. Who cares if I can’t recite the Bible front to back; everyone’s an atheist in 2019. We’ve got HBO to tell us what sex is all about, and I’ve seen enough Girls to know it’s about pleasure, my pleasure. But you’re getting me off topic. I’m trying to explain Tinder.

I said I’ve had five hookups, flings, romances in the past year. January feels like a decade ago. Dating so many men ages you – they’re all so immature it turns you into their mother. Let me start by saying this: it’s all about balance. You’re not going to find someone rich, nice, and good in bed on these apps. You’ve gotta figure out what each guy offers and make sure you’re okay with it.

The names of the first three tell you almost everything you need to know about them: Will, William, and – wait for it – Wilkin. I’m really not kidding, you can’t make this shit up. Old, rich, white, and bad in bed. The sex was so bad I insisted they get me off before I even considered them. There were pros, though. I fucked with them. I had the Wills on their knees apologizing for shit they didn’t even do. I got anything I wanted. When you’re a broke college student, you can deal with shit sex and libertarian musings about Planned Parenthood if it guarantees you an income. But once I got to Willy, I’d been to enough Michelin restaurants.

When I swiped right on the fourth guy, I didn’t realize he went to my college. We had to get over the awkwardness of being around people we knew, so we were drunk all the time. I would hook up with other guys at parties to make him jealous, but we always found ourselves in my room, plastered, at the end of the night. It fizzled out when we realized we cheated on each other with the same guy…

I’m still seeing the last one because the sex is sensational. I want you to know everything about Tinder, so I’ll tell you about him, but don’t follow in my footsteps.

His name is Jenkin, which is weird; I don’t think it’s been used since The Canterbury Tales. I met him at a party in October after I started my master’s, so I figured he was a grad student too, but he’s a freshman in the college. My mom always tells me boys don’t mature until they’re 25, so an 18-year old was probably a dumb choice.

Once I got rid of the fourth guy, I went back on Tinder and found Jenkin. We didn’t waste time DMing, we started fucking as soon as I swiped right. The sex is incredible, I think it’s because we have compatible zodiac signs. The problem? He’s abusive. He hits me, yells at me. He isn’t affectionate, but in some fucked up way, it all just makes me want him more. Also, he’s a misogynistic prick. One day, I was telling him how much I hate the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. He pulled it up on his computer; when he got to Kate Upton, he said she was “not even curvy, straight up fat.” I was furious. I grabbed the computer and snapped the screen right off the keyboard and threw it at him, hard. He picked it up and started hitting me with it; I fought right back. He grabbed me, shoved me up against a wall, and suddenly we were fucking. Afterward, he told me he was sorry for being abusive, said it would stop. So… I’m still hooking up with him…

Allison, we’re their RAs, we’re supposed to be advising them to stay off tinder. Our freshmen don’t need to hear about your abusive relationship and your sexscapades.

Okay, okay, I will. I’ll tell you a story I heard – pretty awful – about a guy who catfished a freshman at Barnard.

“Angie’s Tale” from Tales from the Women’s Ward

by Aurora Lewis, Haverford ‘19

“You want a man like that?” Angie means
that guy who modeled jeans to afford
Ciroc and Smirnoff, twenty-ninety
for Ten High. Can you blame the ladies?
Boy has gin-hollow cheeks, a Trent Reznor
stare, the same dark hair, the first muscled grin
they’ve seen in weeks. Laura wants to talk with
him. “I’ll walk right up and ask to see his
ass tattoo. You really think that rumour’s
true?” (Yet I keep thinking that yeah you’ve fucked
to “Closer,” but before Cash cashed in it
was NIN who warned how I will make you hurt.)
And here’s Angie’s lead-in: “Reminds me of
my last husband, something around the eyes.
Did you know I was married five times? I’ll
tell you how to catch a real tomcat like
that: let him talk to you, but ignore him,
feign boredom. Leave well before him, and
when he asks, “baby, will I see you
again?” give him a shrug and a smile
and a “maybe.”

She looks at me and says, “you’re young, you got
it easy honey. Me, my first fuck I
was jailbait and he was forty, owned a
Lexus and built half the town. Recently
divorced, with a daughter—could have been
my father, but he asked to drive me home,
to take me out for drinks—he’d pay. His
lips tasted of gin, of cigarettes and
marital regrets. He kept the condoms
and Klonopin in the nightstand drawer,
and after he screwed me sore he told me
“you should’ve fucked a man who loves you.”V I held him as he cried.
My first few husbands got old and died. They
were rich too, left me their money. But my
last hubbie, I married for love—he was
a law student, a real sweetie, until
he got drunk; then he’d yell and curse and start
to beat me. Sometimes I’d catch him watching
pornography, and then I’d scream myself
hoarse. Man had the gall to call me
abusive, and often said he wanted
a divorce.”
Laura cuts in then, around a mouthful
of chicken. We are sitting in the caf
with our dinosaur nuggets and fries. A
child’s diet, which suits us fine, but
break the coffee machine and you’ll cause a
riot. “Did he ever watch me? I was
thinner then, and my manager said I’d
be the next Sasha Grey. I was even
thinner than you,” (she is looking at me)
“but when they put me in, Doc hopped me on
Seroquel, and I ate and ate and gained
it all back.”
Angie shrugs and gets back on track, “I pranked
him once, after he beat me black and blue,
and nailed me too. I threatened to take him
to court, unless he could find the answer:
What is it all women want? I had the
man reading Cosmo, Elle and Vanity
, and after a month he told me the
question wasn’t fair. And anyhow, why
should he put up with an old hag like me?—
(It’s true, you know, once you hit thirty, they
all start banging their secretary.) I
told him, it’s not wealth, or diamonds, or gold,
or a plane to the UK–though I’ve heard
Canterbury is a sight to see. All
women want only one thing: mastery
over their men, so the bastard won’t
ever cheat, or beat her, or give her
orders again.”
The nurses round us up, and we walk
in sock feet single-file back to the
unit. Then Angie and I help neaten
the supply closet (the nurses are using
us, but cooperate and they might not
keep you in so long. At least, I think so,
and here’s to hoping I avoid getting
302’d). Angie sneaks a razor
under her shirt with a wink, saying she’ll
shave today. “Don’t tell anyone or the
nurses will come and watch you like you’re
five. They do it to keep us alive, in
case we’re actively trying to off
ourselves. Blades are too small though, unless you
swallow them, and anyhow I’m not a
cutter.” I say nothing, and ask her then,
How did the story you were telling end?
Her smile is wry and raw and sad. She
says, “When I checked in here that was it.
Guess the man never gave a shit.” I catch
a fleeting glimpse, a flicker in her eye.
I turn to look, but it is gone, I can
not put my finger on it. And then she
laughs and the comfortable numbness is back.
“Guess I’ll have to marry again,” she says.
And we speak no more of it.