As I tucked my kids in and turned to leave the room I saw my husband standing in the doorway. He had a serenely weird smile on his face, something that is a mix of patriarchal benevolence and the kind of power that men usually enjoy because of their gender.
“I’m so glad you cut back on your hours. Doesn’t it feel great to be with your kids every night?”
I smiled because that’s what I do when my inner storm of feminine rage threatens to break through the cracks of my already broken soul. I don’t give in to the temptation of saying my mind. I gave up that privilege a long time ago in the name of keeping the peace.
I didn’t say that I don’t enjoy being home every night with my kids when I could’ve been home with them every other night and worked a job outside this house that I thoroughly enjoyed as a business analyst. I didn’t say that I went to one of the most prestigious business schools of my state just for a chance to be someone who could make waves as an economics savvy woman. I didn’t say that I never trained for a day in my life to be a consummate nester. I had always thought, against all gender roles that society taught me, that I’d be a hunter.
I didn’t want to say that he became a patriarch also. As much as I loved my father, when I grew up and really started looking for a man I didn’t want someone like my father. I didn’t want another heteronormative male with a heteronormative value system who would expect me to be the trophy that he felt he earned. I loved my father. Just shuddered at the idea of spending my life with someone like him.
While my husband was different during the time I was dating him, he was also so much like me that my walls of self-preservation against patriarchy started coming down.
“He’s different from them all”, I told myself.
“He’s the one who’ll write a new world order”, I was happy.
I’ve been married for many years now. I have conditioned myself into thinking and believing that breaking up fights between my kids should give me joy and contentment. That their homework is more important than all the tall ideas I ever cooked in my own head about how I’d change the world. I tell myself that building my kids’ self-worth is one of the biggest jobs that I’d do as their parent while my own self-worth has taken regular beatings by the men around me, one patriarch after another.
Why I didn’t want someone like my father isn’t because he wasn’t a good man. But in a world of bad men, he was the first bad man, the first patriarch, the first of most things male.
I worshipped him until I grew up and the tentacles of his patriarchy started suffocating me. I couldn’t ignore his reverence for the very phenomenon that was killing me and my purported self-worth.
My dad enjoyed patriarchy. While he said that he wasn’t a misogynist, I have realized that patriarchy can’t be without misogyny. Misogyny is needed to keep patriarchy honorable to its own self. When patriarchs fall in love with their women, they automatically default to the non-patriarch.
“Isn’t it so nice that we can be alone tonight and your mom could take the kids off of our hands for one night?”
My husband asked, stars in his eyes, a certain lilt to his voice, many sexual promises in the warmth of his body.
I smiled. I smiled because I’ve been raised to give a man pleasures in bed that would keep his patriarchy working in my favor. I also smile because it’s easier to appease a patriarch. The wrath of a patriarch isn’t for a woman to endure. Somewhere a thousand witches die a painful death each time I smile for patriarchy but smile I must, because my smile ensures my life. My smile is the center of this entire carefully balanced universe which tips against many women each day when they frown or grimace or cry.
But if truth be told, tonight I wanted to be with my mother and kids. In a little apartment that my mom has to her name after she divorced my father. Tonight I would’ve given anything to watch my kids dance before the fireplace as they watch Christmas movies and sappy Hallmark moments on TV acted out by brazen women from another planet. I would’ve loved sharing an assortment of nuts with my mom as she told me of women who smile when they like and let the storm out when it gets too much.
Instead, tonight I, a nice patriarchy-raised girl, gave sex without consent because my consent is implied. My mom watched my kids as her contribution to keeping patriarchy well and alive. My husband won again as many patriarchs have before him. And as a consolation prize for it all, he gave me a tiny orgasm, the force of which was so much feeble compared to the feminine storm within me that I didn’t even feel it.