Concrete and Vinyl Siding

Several years ago there was a man in my neighborhood who raised eyebrows by cutting down all the trees in his yard and paving it over. (It was in the area between Camp St. and N. Main, to the best of my recollection.) His landscaping was legal, but weird. Like he had ordained that no blade of grass would enter his property. But that was his right.

He got into the ProJo for other reasons. He tried to cut his wife’s head off. If it were not for an Emergency Medical Technician with insomnia who heard her screams there might have been orphans. (Next time I have access to the Journal archives I will search for this story so I can give a link.) I hope this woman is now living with decent and peaceful people, and that the children are doing well.

An abusive husband does not usually see himself as a violent criminal. He sees himself as a disciplinarian. He deals out punishment and exerts control. Pave that yard, keep those kids quiet. The wife has to learn how not to make him mad. She’s so dumb. She’ll never get it right. He resents her incompetence. He’s only a poor, put-upon man who is trying to make things perfect.

Smarter men than the above-mentioned (who ended up dead) know that a cutting word will do the job, with no risk to liberty or reputation. Tell her she’s ugly. She’s heard other women called that. It’s the shadow side of beautiful. And best of all, she’ll never be good enough when the goal is perfection. She’s human, physical, mortal– the shadow side of our ideal image. You can always point out a flaw.

There’s a whole consumer industry that depends on our collective unease. Women are an especially profitable market for a whole range of improvements. It’s important to convince them that improvement is needed. Get them to internalize the fear of the natural. Get them to pay to be paved over. Any sense of confidence can only be temporary, if it’s based on self-hatred and the approval of men who do not like women.

So where is this leading? An article from BBC News says that the British National Health won’t pay for surgery to correct the appearance of women’s genitals, so women are paying with their own money. The National Health has deemed the surgery medically unnecessary and potentially harmful. The main reason women choose to go under the knife is that they feel ugly.

Any woman who got that intimate with a man who made her feel that way should do the obvious– dump him and find someone else. He’s not a lover, he’s an abuser. But maybe it’s not one man, but the thousand voices whispering every day that you are not good enough. Maybe it drives some women so mad that they will pay a doctor to take a knife to them. Subjugation is most efficient when the target is trained to degrade herself.

All the concrete and vinyl siding in the world cannot change the fact that the house cannot last forever, and the earth has her own way, and will prevail after the concrete has crumbled to dust.

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2 thoughts on “Concrete and Vinyl Siding

  1. Nancy, this actually reminds me of one of the most offensive comments I ever had made to me–and it was from a woman.
    I was walking with a friend in Boston and a guy started following me and making sexual comments. I mentioned to my friend that this happened a lot and she said, “Why don’t you get a breast reduction?”

    I can’t imagine what she would have suggested I do if his comments were directed at my legs. Have a double amputation, maybe?

    The implication was that I — not the creepy guys who made catcalls — was somehow at fault. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take an abusive man to make women feel shame about our bodies.

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