Required Reading: Books For the Apocalypse and Survival Tampons
It's 2012. Are you ready for TEOTWAWKI?
If you haven't been paying attention, 2012 is the supposed last year of worldly existence, according to an ancient Mayan calendar. TEOTWAWKI is the 2012-er acronym for "the end of the world as we know it." Whether this end comes through nuclear collapse or magnetic pulses from space or a simple breakdown of social and financial systems, savvy survivalists are sharing their knowledge on panicky forums that sprout like radioactive mushrooms across the Internet. National Geographic's television series, Doomsday Preppers showcases the very best of the extreme, like Megan here, who stockpiles handguns, canned asparagus and—revealed in a shot apparently necessary to the trailer's narrative arc—a stripper pole.
Although women (with or without stripper poles) are somewhat underrepresented in survivalist culture and literature, there is a Ladies Section on Survivalistboards.com. And among the things I have discovered in exploring these communties is that you will need tampons. Everything, including blowdarts, DIY lamps, and deadfall traps, can be made with tampons.
TEOTWAWKI is a good thing for ladies. Okay, most doomsday dreams are spun out of macho fantasies involving camouflage, battles to the death, fathers and sons (that's why—spoiler alert!—Charlize Theron had to die in Cormac McCarthy's novel-now-movie, The Road) But underlying masculinist/masochist end-of-the-world ideals is the more fundamental fantasy of social restart—a new world order. This could be our chance!
Being the only one left could be kind of neat. That's the appeal of Robert O'Brien's Z for Zachariah, classic apocaliterature for the middle-school set. The hero, teenage Ann Burden, survives nuclear catastrophe in the protection of a hidden valley, somewhere in the United States. After living in isolation, Ann is surprised to see a single man in the distance, who approaches, gradually settles in, starts eating Ann's food, asking for her medical care, and planning the rest of their lives together. First, Ann is into it, and then suddenly, not at all, when she realizes that she is nothing but a physical resource for the new arrival, named Loomis.
(Spoiler alert for the next two paragraphs!) Loomis' imagination of the new world order is very much a women-as-chattel system, and the novel's wonderful turning point in a feminist reading comes when Ann is reading Pride and Prejudice aloud to Loomis. She realizes that Loomis has not been paying attention at all, and the seeds of doubt about his interest in her begin to sprout. Shit gets heavy from there, with some violence, hiding, and chase scenes, but Ann eventually does survive and reclaim her independence, a thrill for adolescent readers.
The last scene is unexpected (perhaps because this chapter was written after the author's death), but hopeful. Ann steals Loomis' biochemical protective suit and sets out on an adventure to find the rest of humanity. That's what's fun about TEOTWAWKI...you get to pick up and leave the parts of civilization that aren't working. Bossy guys with plans to fertilize everything—plant and human—won't make it the cut. (Tampons definitely will.)
For the real apocalypse, try Elizabeth Colbert's alarming investigation of climate change: Field Notes from a Catastrophe. What's on your end of days reading list?
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