Entries from Decatur
Serena Joy, what a stupid name. It’s like something you’d put on your hair, in the other time, the time before, to straighten it. Serena Joy, it would say on the bottle, with a woman’s head in cut-paper silhouette on a pink oval background with scalloped gold edges. With everything to choose from in the way of names, why did she pick that one? Serena Joy was never her real name, not even then. Her real name was Pam. I read that in a profile on her, in a news magazine, long after I’d first watched her singing while my mother slept in on Sunday mornings. By that time she was worthy of a profile: Time or Newsweek it was, it must have been. She wasn’t singing any more by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.
Around that time, someone tried to shoot her and missed; her secretary, who was standing right behind her, was killed instead. Someone else planted a bomb in her car but it went off too early. Though some people said she’d put the bomb in her own car, for sympathy. That’s how hot things were getting.
Luke and I would watch her sometimes on the late-night news. Bathrobes, nightcaps. We’d watch her sprayed hair and her hysteria, and the tears she could still produce at will, and the mascara blackening her cheeks. By that time she was wearing more makeup. We thought she was funny. Or Luke thought she was funny. I only pretended to think so. Really she was a little frightening. She was in earnest.
She doesn’t make speeches any more. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale