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Like a Fish Needs a Donut

Posted by tothewire on January 31, 2009

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Like a Fish Needs a Donut

This Sunday found me having a very unpleasant conversation with two of my favorite men.

We were talking over donuts. In fact, we were alternately talking and fighting over the donuts – which I had not purchased in quantities satisfying to the dear men – and I was sitting with one hand curled protectively around my plate. The other hand was poised, rather ineffectually, to strike, should a raid be attempted on the remaining half of my vanilla glazed.

Both postures seriously limited my ability to gesticulate while speaking. And being unable to gesticulate, I learned recently, can put a serious damper on your rhetorical skills. Waving your hands around, experts have discovered, helps you think straight and speak properly.

This was a particularly unfortunate moment to be at a verbal disadvantage. For I was at the losing end of a conversational pile-up. Think Hillary in New Hampshire, up against the cool-as-a-cucumber team of Barack and John. Think of an elementary school girl, sputtering to fight off a verbal onslaught from a group of jeering boys. Think of those miserable twentysomethings you see in bars, speaking to mixed groups of friends and getting emotional over any number of deeply important things, then getting silenced as deeper voices prevail, and ultimately becoming very busy with their straws.

Just think of yourself, perhaps, faced with this:

The two men – both fathers, one at the beginning of middle age, one farther along, both married to smart, high-achieving women – were fantasizing about the kinds of women they’d go out with if they were single. You may or may not be surprised to learn that they both figured the women would be babes. You may or may not be surprised to learn that they both said they’d be younger. A lot younger. And childless.

The suggestion from me that men like themselves might actually prefer to date contemporaries, women who’d lived, matured, grown wiser and more human with the experience of parenting, and, at the very least, could recall the 1980s, was met with nothing but outraged looks and half-chewed-donut silence.

Why?” one of them finally said.

Why,” the second one swallowed to spurt, “would you want all those complications?

That is where the sputtering on my own part began. And this, perhaps, is the point where the raucous laughter on your part will begin, as you think of me there at the table, nattering on about “inherent value” and “friendship” and “being a human being.” Perhaps you’ve already laughed yourself into red-eyed delirium.

Or maybe you’re in the camp of my husband, Max, who ventured, “I don’t understand what you’re getting all worked up about,” when I took the topic up with him later that same day. He did not actually use the word “hysterical,” though I heard it anyway.

I had heard the phrase “burn your bra” thrown at me from the breakfast table as I made to leave it.

“No bras have ever been burned,” I threw back over my shoulder.

Which was so horribly, terribly, lame a thing to say.

I spent the following days nursing a sputtering sort of rage. The conversation marked the end of an illusion, you see. I’d thought that in our little bubble, a bubble, it should be said, that was defined not by class or money or education, but rather by goodness and decency and values and realness (even I am laughing now), the men were somehow different from the men Out There who dated women multiple decades younger than themselves, prized them for their looks and their fecundity and fell in love with the magical rejuvenating mirrors they found in the women’s adoring young eyes.

Now the scales had fallen from my own eyes. I began thinking all kinds of original thoughts like, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” and “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” (For bumper stickers, see here.)

I hypothesized that true happiness could only be achieved in a world devoid of men. I considered writing my non-existent voting members of Congress to propose legislation requiring that all men be sterilized once their wives enter menopause.

I nodded along vigorously, when I came across a screed by Robin Morgan, the former editor of Ms. Magazine in the “Cult Ritual Abuse Exists!” era, that placed the grosser manifestations of Hillary-hate (biographer Carl Bernstein’s horrified mention of Hillary’s “thick ankles,” sales of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker with saw-like teeth between her thighs, “murderous” t-shirt and bumper sticker slogans like “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!”) in the context of all the violence and indignities women have suffered throughout human history:

Women have endured sex/race/ethnic/religious hatred, rape and battery, invasion of spirit and flesh, forced pregnancy; being the majority of the poor, the illiterate, the disabled, of refugees, caregivers, the HIV/AIDS afflicted, the powerless. We have survived invisibility, ridicule, religious fundamentalisms, polygamy, teargas, forced feedings, jails, asylums, sati, purdah, female genital mutilation, witch burnings, stonings, and attempted gynocides. We have tried reason, persuasion, reassurances, and being extra-qualified, only to learn it never was about qualifications after all.

This perfectly suited my mood.

Reading Morgan’s article, I gnashed my teeth, rent my garments, and would, perhaps, have cut out my tongue had it not dawned upon me, midway through, that being reduced to the state of a silently raving crazy woman in rags was not really what the women’s movement was supposed to be all about. It was about getting the madwoman out of the attic so that she could, presumably, go on to create a saner world. But sometimes it just feels like the world will never change.

When I moved to Washington in my mid-30s, I used to wonder why the middle-aged women driving around in minivans, with their faux-fun dangly earrings and easy-care hair, looked so very angry.

Now I know, because (minus the minivan) I am one of them. I am one with them.

Human nutcrackers of the world, unite!

I need a Girls’ Night Out.

photo_warner1By Judith Warner

http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/like-a-fish-needs-a-donut/#more-108

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2 Responses to “Like a Fish Needs a Donut”

  1. Don’t rise to the smelly half chewed neanderthal bait, old thing. Let them have their little dreams, because if they were single they would spend their lives drowning in the disdain of the babes they drooled on, while all the spunky grown up women laughed up their sleeves at them……..I think they were actually fantasising about the kind of women they would look at ON THE INTERNET if they were single.
    heh heh heh

    Like

  2. Lawman2 said

    betty,nice touch there man! lol

    Like

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