A good friend of mine, born in the Midwest and living a successful life working for an investment company in New York City, recently returned to her hometown to marry her local sweetheart who gave up a shot at a Pro football career in Canada to work alongside her in New York.
On the day of her wedding a relative from the groom’s side of the family gave her an envelope. The fellow who gave it to her was a lifelong bachelor and a distant cousin without a lot of sophisticated polish — some call them “good country folk” — and he had worked on a farm his entire life and had never ventured more than 50 miles beyond the village of his birth. “I don’t have much money,” he told her, “so my gift is wisdom.”
My friend hugged the fellow and he sort of awkwardly “bowed” to her as he backed out of the room without looking her in the eye again. When my friend opened the envelope her heart fell and her blood pressure rose as she read the following hand-scribbled wisdom:
Keep your man happy as whore in the bedroom and angel on the street. Keep his balls empty and his belly full.
Tempted to tear the “wisdom” into pieces she instead controlled the rising boil of her blood and tucked the note into her bra and went on with the wedding. The ceremony was beautiful and memorable. When she later shared the “wisdom” gifted to her with her new husband, he laughed it off. “Oh, that’s just Kenny. He’s never had a woman his whole life.”
My friend tried to laugh it off, too, but her husband’s possessive view of “having” a woman threw her a bit. As a “modern woman” — forsaking motherhood for a career — and living in the ancient world of a testosterone-dominated workplace in New York, she can’t help but think that somewhere down deep many men share that “wisdom” — that women really are nothing more than a “wet hole” as one of her male conspirators at work called her in a moment of angry revenge — and that she really is nothing more than a cook and a provider of sexual release. She wonders if women have made any progress at all in the world or if it’s all a shell game where everything changes and everything stays the same.
She wonders if the sexual yoke and the chain of cooking are still invisibly wedded — but always felt — around the necks and ankles of women even in the modern world of New York City where she breathlessly ran to for understanding and opportunity and a worldly education in order to escape the choking, horizonless, alfalfa fields of the Midwest.