August 19, 2013
I said to a friend (she observed that I had the knack of meeting widowers on my walks), that the chronicles will never talk about women; women don’t stop and talk—unless they’re with a man. Certainly, a woman wouldn’t invite a strange man into her house. So, of course, today I write about women. Gentle readers, anybody who says women aren’t better than men? is a man.
Three types of women walk or bike the Great River Road trail: tweens and teenagers, thirty-forty something’s and seniors. Guess who: stops and talks to a six-foot-one, tattooed, shave-headed, one hundred ninety-five pound man; says hello and perhaps says something about the weather; is scared of the above described male of the species. A. tweens and teenage girls. B. Seniors. C. 30-something’s.
The other day, a comely teen passed me on her bike, slowed down and started gabbing away with me. I let it go on for a few minutes then I said, “You don’t know me.” “Oh,” she replied, “you’re just like my dad.” She meant “kind.” I am kind, but she didn’t know that. Teenage girls talk to me all the time. I shoo them away. Someone is out there who won’t shoo them away. Parents, beware.
Senior women, out for exercise and endorphin rushes, walk sensibly in sensible shoes and always say good morning, and—if we pass again—small talk about the weather comes up, or a bird report. It happened this morning. “Summer’s coming back,” the pleasant lady said, as we re-passed one another. “Yep,” I said.
Thirty-something’s are preoccupied, do not want to talk to men like me, often have pets along for the walk/ride, and are nervous as hell.
Which is how, this morning, I came to meet Wide-hipped Woman and her Labrador retriever. She was at least a half mile ahead of me, but I was power walking and made up the distance in minutes. She had—surprise—wide hips and was clad in red short shorts; her blond hair was piled on top of her hair; her white tee shirt was sweat-soaked.
She walked slow and unevenly. The outing was for the dog, not for her. She kept glancing over her shoulder, so she saw the giant rapidly approaching her. The dog had been lazily sniffing the grass and pulling the leash toward the cliff. But the closer I got, the more Wide-hipped Woman tugged on the leash and urged the dog forward. She tried to get up some steam, but Rover wouldn’t go for it, and soon I was passing them.
The dog turned and came right for me, and I knelt and hugged the old hound, its eyes lined with white, its tongue pale and short. “Oh, Dancer,” Wide-hipped Woman said, her voice locked in trembling falsetto. “You’ve got a new friend.” She nearly cried those words, like Mary Tyler Moore’s famous, “Ohhhhh, Rob.” She was so scared—and so relieved. I sensed the tension and stood and walked past, and Wide-hipped Woman turned the dog around and headed in the opposite direction. I had frightened the woman and I felt badly.
I don’t have a theory on this. Tweens and teens are blessed by special angels, or they would all be carried away. Mature women don’t rattle but they don’t dance. 30-40 something’s read the Internet; they live in fear.
When I got my tattoos, when I shaved my head, I was sensitive to the old Jewish women who lived in my village of Skokie. My tattoos are tribute to Shawnee and Ogallala Sioux ancestors. I first shaved my head to support a student of mine who got bone cancer and lost her hair to chemo. I am not a skinhead. They don’t know that. Who am I? I don’t know that.
The rest of the living world sniff’s one another’s butts. We have no equivalent for this, we “plastic-hysterical-fraidy cats,” as a character in one of my stories remarks.
Somewhere, Wide-hipped Woman is loved, abused, abandoned, incapable of writing a declarative sentence, afraid of the dark and TV vampires and apocalypse mini series and old men and joblessness and books and newspapers and the Federal Reserve and Dancer the dog dying and that black president and let’s get high.
We grow ’em, in the Midwest. We farm them in the American Bottom. We over-fertilize and water and douse with pesticide-like words and add a dose from the nitric acid cloud rising up the giant chimney at the coal-fired plant across the river. We take the woman out of the woman, like leaching the good stuff and making white bread from whole wheat.
“Youth gets wasted on the young.” Or: Youth get wasted by their wasted youthful parents and ‘everybody, let’s get stoned.’ And shut the fuck up and turn on the next apocalypse.
Oh, and pass the ginberrybeersweet winecherryvodkaOldGrandad and cola.