My boyfriend at the time told me I was crazy to wait and let something that had already done so much damage to my body continue to linger. He told me that I was just scared and that letting my fear get the best of me was immature and foolish. He thought it was stupid to wait.
That I was being a coward.
I realize that some of his frustration was probably also out of fear and I won’t deny that part of the reason I wanted to wait was because I was afraid. But when he used the word coward one night over dinner I calmly put down my fork and looked at him coolly from across the table.
For me, of all the “C” words that you can call a woman I find “coward” the most offensive. I apologize to my gentleman readers who may not agree and do not mean to offend but women are tough. We command board rooms, bake cupcakes, run for president, balance the household budget, lead nations, change diapers, and sit on the supreme court. And we do it all in uncomfortable shoes with make-up on. When I lived in New York while working for State at the U.N. I was able to meet Condoleeza Rice while she was there in her official capacity as Secretary of State to vote on a resolution regarding violence against women being used as a combat tactic in the D.R.C. After the Security Council meeting was over I was walking through a corridor back to the U.S. mission when a bunch of men and one woman in suits and earpieces came sprinting through the hallway. They ran ahead of Condi to “clear” the hallway so that she never had to break stride while walking and talking to other important people. I was amazed to see that the woman on her security detail had on a skirt, panty hose, button down, blazer, and kitten heels as she ran through the hallway blocking exits so no one could come through while our diplomatic leader commuted back to her town car with tinted windows. Not only was this woman keeping up a break-neck pace while protecting the life of another, she did it while experiencing what I can only guess was an extreme amount of discomfort. I don’t enjoy sitting down at my desk in business formal attire. I can only imagine what it is like to run wind sprints in a Tahari blazer and Vince Camuto pumps. To sum up I guess I believe that women are tough because we have to deal with life’s challenges but we have to do it while also maintaining a certain air of femininity and poise.
One of the bravest women I know is my best friend who is a single mother with a two year old who also works during the day and takes law school classes at night in order to achieve a degree that will award her a higher paying job and a brighter future for her child. I’m not exactly sure when she sleeps or eats or finds time to relax. She leads an unbelievably difficult life but she endures. Something that makes her braver still is that she not only endures, but she does it with as much strength, beauty, and grace as she can muster. Anyone can stagger uphill through life’s battles but I have found that the many women I know and admire wear their pain like stiletto’s. You can’t help but admire their balance and poise in the face of a crisis. (I try to emulate this poise, with varying degrees of success. I can’t help it, when I’m on versed those stilettos turn into floppy clown shoes.)
So that night when he used the “C” word to describe my actions I was offended. I had been through a lot in the past few months and I wanted to take a breathe and get a second opinion before I went back up to Mayo for another round of fear and pain. Was that so much to ask? I wanted to yell at him, say mean things, throw something. But that would not have been very lady like. Instead I put down my napkin slowly, sat up two inches taller, and if I could have raised one eyebrow like Clair Huxtable I would have. I calmly inquired how many craniotomies he had had in his lifetime.
I smiled and leaned forward putting my elbows on the table, lacing my fingertips together and then resting my chin lightly on top of my hands. I said the next sentence with all the strength, beauty and grace that I could come up with and then let that mature façade slip and dipped it in a little bit of sass for good measure,
“I didn’t think you had ever had a craniotomy. When you have undergone the procedure, I will be more than happy to entertain your opinions on how I choose to conduct my healthcare decisions.”
And I blotted the corners of my mouth lightly with my napkin, gathered myself together and then glided out of the house. It was a grand exit. Sweeping. Dramatic. Like something from a movie. As I walked down his driveway into the night I had Bob Seger’s “Her Strut” playing in my head. I power-walked down that stretch of asphalt feeling strong and self-possessed. That is until I got to the end of the driveway and didn’t see my car…I stopped, puzzled and then remembered that I had not driven to his house that night, he had picked me up…so much for the grand exit. I knew he was probably sitting in the house chuckling, aware of the fact that I did not have a car.
As I “strutted” the 1.84 miles back to my house in three inch heels I decided that Karma was definitely a woman but maybe she was a different “C” word than the one I had been accused of being that evening.