I haven’t been getting along very well with women lately. I don’t like admitting this. To admit this is, I have been told, is to admit that I don’t like myself. That I have a problem with myself.
What’s wrong with you? Why do you hate yourself so much?
Most days, I like myself, and most days, I try very hard to get along with people, but I can’t deny that my relationships with women are much more complicated than they are with men. They are, honestly, so much more frequently unpleasant. I have left groups of women disliking myself, feeling sad and upset, in a way I have never felt leaving a group of men. A man wants to sleep with you or he doesn’t. If he wants to sleep with you, and you reject him, things can become tricky, though this is usually easily solved. He will want to be your friend, despite your disinterest in him, or he won’t, and he’ll make this clear.
I am friends with a number of men that I’ve turned down sexually, and these relationships are easy. I go to their homes and eat dinner. We go out drinking and they pass out on my couch and do not stumble into my room on accident. (Are the women in the audience thinking how full of myself I am? Do I need to say that men want to sleep with everyone, all of the time, and I’m nothing special?)
Oh, women. I am having such a hard time with you right now.
I am having such a hard time with myself.
I should mention that it’s five o’clock on a Friday and I’ve been drinking since noon. I had a bad time with a woman today. This has been brewing for some time. But, really, I just felt like drinking.
With men, there is no subtext beyond sex. I can sit and talk with a man and not wonder whether he thinks I’m aiming to steal his lover, whether he thinks I’m smarter or more talented or more capable than he is. Whether he is more popular, younger. And, perhaps, more importantly, I don’t wonder about the path he has chosen, and how it differs from mine. Many of my friends in Mississippi married early, had children, joined country clubs and the Junior League. They have fake breasts and gigantic houses. They have husbands who ask me, every time, without fail, whether I am dating someone. I drink their beer and hate myself and feel like a loser because no matter what I tell them, they will think I’m a loser. My friends, their wives, dye their hair platinum and spend their days buying things and working out. When I go to their dinner parties, I hate them, and I hate myself, and I hate myself for hating them and I hate myself for not being what other people wanted me to be. And I wonder if I have failed or succeeded and I just don’t know. I have no idea.
There are so many ways in which I have failed to be what other people wanted.
Most days, I don’t think about it. We make choices. This is my choice and I wouldn’t change it and I’m okay with it, but then I talk to my mother and feel like a failure all over again.
I am attractive and unmarried. My looks could have bought me something I’m not cashing in on and looks don’t last forever. I am a bigger failure because I am divorced, and it was my decision to leave. I had everything a woman should want—money, a kind and attractive husband, a comfortable house—and none of it was enough. Not nearly enough.
I should add that I grew up in Mississippi, earned a BA in Psychology, and got married at twenty-two, which is to say I had no context, was unemployable, was a baby.
We were married on April Fools’ Day.
Perhaps this is simply a personality issue, or I am mentally unstable.
I’m a writer.
Have you seen the statistics? Fucking brutal.
What do you want, woman?
I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.
God, I’m so frequently sorry.
Are the women in the audience doubting my attractiveness? Perhaps they’ve seen photos on Facebook and would like to disagree?
I’m not gorgeous or anything.
I am sorry, women.
This isn’t really about you.
And I swear if I read another essay about how your life is hard because you’re female and men yell at you out their car windows and honk their horns and you feel objectified and silenced and marginalized, I am going to feel very, very violent. I don’t want to write one of those essays. I don’t want to talk about these things because I want to pretend they don’t exist. I want them all to go away. I want to insist that life has been good to me, that men have been good to me, that no one has ever hurt me.
But here I am writing one. Or a variation of one: why it sucks to be female. Why females have it so hard. How we hate each other and make our lives harder.
This is what I want to tell myself: GO FUCK YOURSELF.
It is true, then.
At a reading recently, my boyfriend had this conversation with multiple people:
Person at reading: So, you’re dating Mary Miller?
Person: Have you read her stories?
Person: [Walks away shaking head, feeling very sorry for boyfriend.]
People are uncomfortable with people like me, those who want to tell everything. Those who can’t keep quiet. You can do these things, and you can feel them and talk about them, but you can’t write them down. Just don’t write them down.
I don’t know what this essay is about anymore.
I am sorry.
Rumpus original art by Rachael Schafer.