The Others

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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Why do women seem so normal at the workplace or in a board meeting or in evening classes, but then when you get to know them, you find out that they’re just so damn unreasonable and complicated?  I like your column, but I bet you’re obnoxious, too. Just like the rest of them.
— Ray

I think you’re trying to be funny, Ray, but let me set you straight: The question you asked reflects only one side of a two-sided coin. Some women can sometimes seem unreasonable to men, just as some men can sometimes seem unreasonable to women. I think guys can be total weirdos, too, at least the ones who don’t have anything in common with me. Most of my male friends are other poets and writers, and my husband is an amateur artist, so we have a similar nature and a lot in common, and most times these men seem perfectly reasonable to me. I know many men who have more in common with women, and vice versa, sexual preference not applicable. But when I think about it, something about my male companions makes them kind of weird; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just don’t understand them as well as I do my girlfriends. That’s because, to me, males are the other, and my ego is healthy enough to label their thoughts and actions as aberrations when I don’t agree with them.  The same is true for you: You think women are unreasonable and complicated because your ego is healthy and they are doing something that is an aberration to you, and perhaps to other males just like you, who would also confirm that women are unreasonable and complicated and assure you that you are perfectly reasonable and uncomplicated to think this way. You may even find a woman who agrees that women are unreasonable and complicated because, as everybody knows, females are the other in our patriarchal society and our thoughts and actions are dictated by male rules and norms. When a woman transgresses these boundaries, she becomes aberrant, or obnoxious, sometimes even to a woman, sometimes even to herself…

Well, anyway, my advice is to recognize that there are differences between males and females — accept them and find a way to compromise, rather than name-calling or feeling resentful.

And we are the masters
of hearing & saying
at the double edge of body &
breath
We the lovers & the eyes
All over, inside her
when the wedding
is over, & the Park “lies cold &
lifeless”
I the people, whatever is said
by the first
one along, Angel-Agate. I wear
your colors
I hear what we say & what
we
say . . . (and I
the people am still parted in
two & would cry)

(from Alice Notley’s “I the People”)

And you’re right, sometimes I am obnoxious. I mean, some people might think I’m obnoxious, but that’s not my problem, is it? • 15 February 2010

 

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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