Does your man
still date you?

by K. Danielle Edwards

It was eerie, the looming feeling that followed her like an apparition that refused to give up on this world – the feeling, the gnawing knowing, that she had married the right man but married into the wrong family.

It was the same way she felt about her daughter. She hated the means by which she was born, but loved the finished product with an affection that was determined and deep but sweetened with maternal confection.

She apologetically freed the fold of fabric that had burrowed itself in the flap of her belly flesh, which had made her look like she had a double-decker belly instead of one. She was accustomed to her main pouch, as it had been there before the change, but this new underbelly, as she called it, was something entirely new. It was difficult to conceal, to dress around, to find clothing to flatter – or flatten – it. The doctors had casually patted themselves on the back for mastering the bikini cut; strangely, this meant she probably couldn’t wear a bikini ever again without further surgical intervention.

She had had second thoughts about wearing the turquoise wrap dress; it didn’t fit like it used to, but the latest fleeting streak of optimism she felt seemed so novel and new, that she couldn’t resist. She didn’t know if – or when – she’d ever have the guts again to don the clothes she had strutted around in during her former, unbabied life. Unlike the jeans and zip-up clothes that chuckled whenever she tried them on, wrap dresses, she thought, were just as forgiving as elastic.

But, still, she couldn’t forgive him. Her husband.

And sometimes even God.

Her daughter, though, was completely innocent in the matter.

She struggled with feelings of robbery and rape, pillaging and grave robbing. She suffered with feeling less than a woman, somehow incomplete and fractured – androgynous. Her nightmares and daydreams that bordered on post-traumatic stress disorder followed her like a bitter Chicago wind, spawned from the chilly lake effect of her watery eyes. She felt like a failure – a failure who, according to the medical establishment, had “failed to progress,” the quintessential, medical excuse benignly delivered that belied the brunt of what was to come.

And now she was failing to process. Failing to process the charge that she had changed, become matronly instead of maidenly. She was now polyester housecoats, dusty terry-cloth house slippers and foggy glasses. She wore the robes of the roughened, the lady turned female – functional but not really functioning. Practical and pragmatic and pulled away from the promises of …

“And to this, I, thee, wed.”

Who had broken the vows first? She or her husband?

Her ashen palms were dried out from repeated hand washings and dish washings; her cheap dollar store lotion was as effective as saliva. Her hands had lost their feminine wiles, while her engagement diamond reflected more imperfections – visible inclusions she’d never before seen.

What did it all mean?

“Does your man still date you?” the counselor asked.

Neither she nor he spoke. It was so quiet, you could probably hear a flea hop. She looked down at the floor, her eyes shifting erratically, but her face expressionless and frozen. She stared at the floor beneath her feet and imagined the devil bursting out from the hardwoods, wrapping his reptilian limbs around her languid legs and returning to hell with her in tow. Her husband gazed out into the distance, looking beyond the window. His lips moved, then stalled, pursed and paused before speaking an answer that just could not materialize as anything other than lip service.

It wasn’t worth the wasted breath.

She thought of the promises he’d made – from years ago to last week. When she recalled each unmet vow, each violation to make good on his word, her chin trembled and she heard her jaw creak. Like an antique hinge maltreated, unoiled and forgotten, but once adored and begotten – she felt fooled, duped and rotten. Tears flowed, dotting her dress of cotton jersey like the random drops of a Florida afternoon rainfall.

She thought of all of his promises – grandiose and plain. She remembered how with each unmet one, her expectations and belief began to falter. Her heart went from a state of bliss akin to tachycardia to a saddened lumbering, lolling lull, barely palpable. These days, when it was bright and sunny outside, she dressed as if rain was in the forecast. She lost her pulse.

The woes of an emptying wife are impossible to contain. She still refrained from speaking. As her mind raced, she was sinking – thinking …

Of all the restaurants she mentioned that her never took her to, as if he was oblivious or had selective amnesia to the most obvious clues …

Of the other couples and things they did; how she manufactured a fantasy, lying to onlookers and listeners by omission, concealing the hum-drum yawn that was her life …

Of art exhibits come and gone, of all the inspiration she could have drawn …

Of sexless summer nights when the baby was away …

Of how she lived in otherness for 39 weeks and was butchered to birth their baby …

Of forgetting what the words impromptu, unplanned and surprise meant …

Of the spa day she was repeatedly promised but never scheduled and booked …

Of her boss’s husband who still picks her up for lunch and sends a maid to clean her house – and has gourmet cheesecake delivered to her outside state lines …

Of the women who get a token, a reprieve, for working 50-hour weeks, playing house, and still having the heart to breathe …

She kept on crying, looking for relief; she stared the counselor in the eye and said …

“No, my husband doesn’t date me anymore. Each day, I encounter at least five men who would if they could, making good on all my husband claimed he would do. But I only want him to.”

 

© K. Danielle Edwards

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem