I finished cleaning my uncle’s bathroom while he worked on paperwork. Together we changed the sheets on his bed. Then, we sat down to visit for a few minutes before I had to leave.
He gently complained about the government required paperwork surrounding death and taxes. He talked about his properties. He shared with me about our African ancestor. But then, being five months status post the death of his bride of 62 years, the conversation turned quickly to stories of her. He bragged about her love for the children of Mexico and how she sewed and cooked for them, pouring her heart into their lives for three to four months a year for nearly twenty years. His admiration for her is evident and drips from every syllable spoken about her.
Now, he is lonely. He expresses that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. She was his life, and his life has passed.
He is wealthy and, at 82, he is still extremely well built and works from 4:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. My aunt’s headstone had not even arrived, and women were already calling him with offers for shared meals. In spite of his loneliness he says he isn’t interested because he knows he could never replace my aunt. He said though there are good women out there, he doesn’t want to replace her. However, he said, “Of course, I still like to look at them. Women are the most beautiful things in the world.” There was nothing dirty in how he said it. It was said with purity, awe, and esteem.
As we talked one day last week he told me that he hated to say it, but my dad was a lot like their own dad. My dad had a good heart, and their dad didn’t. But, my dad struggled with his flesh and had a tendency to flounder in seasons of self-centeredness. Honestly, we all struggle with those issues from time to time. I think my dad’s biggest problem was that he caught his father’s misogyny.
I grew up hearing things like, “Women are only good for one thing, and most of them aren’t good at that.” Or, “If I could lick myself like that dog I wouldn’t need a woman at all.” And, “All women are either gold diggers or whores.”
My uncle ended his thoughts on my dad that day last week by saying, “He sure always loved the women.” My dad always had a flock of women, but I don’t think he loved any of them.
I saw my attorney on Friday. The man is widowed with young children and though part of me can’t stand him, part of me aches for him and his loneliness. He has one girlfriend after another, obviously desperate to not be alone. He seems so eager and excited over them, but I see the same quality I saw in my dad. It’s a conquest to get these creatures to fulfill his needs, whether it be physical, like in my dad’s case, or emotional, as in my attorney’s case. It isn’t ever because he sees them as the most beautiful things in the world to be held in high esteem.
As a child I absolutely hated my body for lacking a penis. I thought being a girl was the worst thing in the world, and I felt so unfortunate to have been born this way. I never heard that the female form is beautiful and moves with grace. I never heard that a woman’s face and expressions are something to behold. As a young woman I felt honored when any man would seem to want me. And, I felt a driving force within me compelling me to prove that I was not a gold digger, that I was not attempting to use a man for personal gain.
As a natural consequence to those things, I didn’t say no to bad men and I disproportionately gave to them, to the point of financially providing for both of my husbands. I have felt ugly, not good enough, and honored to have a man, even if I had to pay his way and take his beatings.
There was another side to my dad that demanded honor for the mother of his children, that could be very tender toward me, and absolutely adored his three granddaughters, giving to them and allowing them to walk on him. I don’t think his misogynistic words represented a deeply held conviction. I think he was just parroting the things he’d heard his degenerate father say. But, they damaged me nonetheless. I didn’t grow up knowing that I belonged to a special group, one of the most beautiful things in the world.
I want my uncle’s words to resonate with my female readers. I want you to take this idea and hold it as your own. Hear me now. Say it out loud to yourself very slowly. You are one of the most beautiful things in the world. You are something to behold. Know that. Feel that. Experience that.