Saturday, October 14, 2006

Naked Emperors

I wrote on Father's Day about my unresolved, opaque feelings about my father and, ultimately, male authority:
But I grew up without the absolutist authority of the male in the household. As far as I am concerned, all the emperors have no clothes. They come and go, they are needed and not, they are good and bad, they fortify and decimate.
I like that my daughter has a father. Even when I feel left out of their moon-and-Earth orbit, I am happy that she has an Earth around which to revolve, at least for a while longer. But I wonder what her inner sense of male authority will be.

I grew up with men but not ruled by any domestically. My father left and made himself mostly scarce. My maternal grandfather was mellowed by age and a first grandchild, me, a girl—a man who’d said educating a girl was a waste (because she’d get married and just benefit somebody else’s family) pestered my mother about my education from the time I was 5 until he died, right after my high school graduation. He was relief from the household and not an emperor, at least not with me or not by the time I came along. All my uncles were younger than my parents, one only 7 years older than I. Male cousins were my first and best playmates. And until college—fuck, still—men are some of the friends I most value and most deeply enjoy, think most fondly of and pursue the most, whose loss I most intensely mourn. (Marriage has been a salve for and contributor to those losses. Men are bewilderingly-to-me reluctant to be friends with a married woman.) But I didn’t LIVE with any of them. I wasn’t girlfriend or wife or fiancée or cohabiter. I wasn’t the take-care-of-a-man type.

Then I did live with one of them. And culture kicked in and girl-training I didn’t even know I had oozed from all pores. I cleaned counters and did laundry and balanced accounts and cleaned litter boxes and bought food and cooked and washed dishes and found keys, socks, wallets, birth certificates and watered plants and and and. All that work was inherently different than what I had done or would do for myself. And that difference churned in my ribs, cracked in my knuckles and turned to metal on my tongue. I was the base on which others stood. No matter how grateful they were, I was still looking up at the soles of their shoes.

Even covered in girl-training ooze, I never completely submitted. I never bought all the way into anything, that gratitude was enough or any payment at all, that I could get to myself later or that this service was my Self.

I never believed that men or boys in general were superior. The emperor was always naked to me. Without an emperor in my childhood home and memory, I could flick off (at least most of) the girl-training ooze. Born in another time, if I hadn’t been killed by my clansmen for some intellectual, social and/or sexual transgression, I would have had to pass as a man or be a gender separatist—nun, Amazon, outlaw or isolate in the desert squinting into the horizon, sharpening her scythe.

3 Comments:

Blogger potlikker said...

Wow! I love your perspective -- that you just let it all hang out there. Wow!

Sat Oct 14, 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

I debated posting it at all. It began as paper-tearing bitterness until I realized there was a loss under the indignation, the loss of being equal in the way friendship creates, allows, nourishes; and of cross-gender friendship that is nothing like the whole sitcom/sexual-tension trope (one that is more often boring than intriguing, amusing or titillating). It's one of the few things that has kept me heterosexual.

Sun Oct 15, 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

I think you spoke everything I felt. However I never had the sense to see it when it was unfolding, only years later.

Thanks for writing.

Sun Oct 15, 04:53:00 PM  

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