Everything I do is an ode to women. I am very much a woman's woman. I love women, the shape and heft of them, their perseverance and sadness. I throw myself into being a woman. They matter to me, what they think, what they think of me, how they feel about themselves, how the ways they are feeling reflect on what I'm feeling about myself. I was born to have daughters. I was born to be too much of everything, to swell and push at what it means to be a woman, to come into womanhood with a gasp and a spray of watery diamonds. I was born to be a filthy goddess, to squat in the dirt and grow things, and to milk them. To drink them. I love women.
But, also, I love men.
Most of the time, I don't need men, because I had to learn how to grow up without needing a dad. If I had needed a dad, my life would have been a devastating, harrowing thing. I would have reached for him; I would have been lost in the darkness with tiny arms held wide, crying for him. I would have been disappointed, if I'd needed a daddy, so I just didn't. I got mad, instead. I opened my veins, instead. I lived with a needle in the bend of my arm, so delicately it fit there, I can feel the coldness, still. I have a little pocket of scarred tissue in the bend of my arm that is always cold. I didn't need a daddy. I slept with mean boys. I slammed the door on them, breaking my fingers biting through my tongue. I slammed the door, and then ran to the window that looked out on an alleyway. I threw open the curtains, pressed my body against the glass, pounded and cried for them not to go.
I didn't need a dad. I didn't need anything. I could die and my body would never wash up on anyone's shore. I could die now, amen.
It must be a very hard thing for me to love the institution of men. It must be very hard not to hate them, they way they create us; a pair of legs here, a straining top button there. (My father used to joke that if my mother ever got fat, he would tie her to the back of the car and make her run, like running could change the squirming, rotten thing in his heart.) It is hard for me to accept things about the world that men built.
We are women and we're afraid at the bus stop, we're afraid when we're walking, we're afraid with the lights on, we want the lights off, we want to please men, we climb over women, using hair like ropes we put our feet in the faces of women. We want men. We want them to fill us, to fill our houses, to fill our cars with gas before they come home for dinner. We want them to provide something. We are afraid of them, walking to our cars in the back of a parking lot after dark.
We are afraid of what we will find in the hearts of men.
It is hard for me to need him. My husband is a beautiful man. He has never disrespected me. ...I stopped for a moment after writing that sentence to think about it. I can say with absolutely honesty that my husband has never disrespected me. He has never asked for me to be a vodka ad, to be smaller and better behaved, to be a compilation of better parts, smoother and opened wider and with my face blacked out. He doesn't ask that of women. I am not afraid of what is in his heart. I have never had to reconcile something inside of myself to accommodate his leanings. I have never found something he left behind that stopped my heart. I have never looked through his things. He has never asked me to do the dishes or to clean up this mess, instead of writing and writing in my underwear; long, terrible letters to women, because I love all of them, women.
He has never asked me to be anything other than what I am. He has visions for me, when the girls are older. He has visions that I will disappear for long days and come home with mud on my hems and pink cheeks; with jars of water specimens and stories that spread and pollute everything beautifully like moss on a fallen tree.
It's still hard for me to need him, unabashedly.
When I am like this, though, coiled tightly around myself and lost inside a room of mirrors, when I am abandoned here with all the light bulbs cracking, about to burst, I suddenly need him like a child. I ask him politely if I can sit with him while we watch television in the evenings. I slide my hands inside his shirt, looking for the bones of him, for a place where I might fit inside his bones.
He doesn't say very much. Mostly, he isn't good at thinking of the right thing to say. Mostly, there isn't a right thing. I'm searching for something, pulling and pulling at the slackened rope to an anchor that's been set asunder. The rope is piling up around me. He is careful with me. He sits with his hands folded neatly in his lap, his eyes are so big and blue. I unravel, fall apart and, I do need him.
Something I love about men is thinking about them as children. I love finding that grain of hurt inside of them, the same one we all have lodged inside of us, finding how they needed something, too, and had to learn not to need it. How they needed a daddy or a sturdy, warm body, how they needed grace and softness and guidance, and all the world had to offer was an obscene picture of a woman's cleavage and an amputated pair of legs wearing red shoes. I love them, too, men.