It’s remarkable how many structures we have in place to pathologize female emotion. Take the word hysterical, which comes from hystera, the Greek word for uterus.
Oh, what a hysterical woman, they say, not oh, what a justifiably upset woman.
When I tell you that I was driving my car 103 miles per hour down the interstate because my husband bought me the wrong flavor cake for my birthday, I bet you’ll think I’m hysterical, won’t you?
It’s easy to dismiss an angry woman when we so often identify them as irrational, overly sensitive, or just plain crazy. You’re overacting. You’re being ridiculous. You’re this. You’re that. You’re everything but valid in the way you’re feeling.
I swear to God, if you had just been there, you would understand. I’ve been married to my husband for eleven years now, and every year I have asked him for a chocolate cake. It’s easily one of the quintessential flavors of cake, so basic that a child could walk into a bakery blindfolded and have a damn decent chance of pointing to a chocolate cake by accident.
I think the word “crazy” is disproportionally used for women. When a man is called crazy, it’s likely because he is a literal serial killer, and perhaps keeps severed body parts in his fridge. When a woman is called crazy, it’s likely because her partner came home two hours late, smelling of a new perfume, and demanding oral sex instead of asking about her day (it was a shitty day). Can you believe she got angry about that? She’s crazy.
When my husband pulled out the white box with that slight, suggestive smile, there was a moment I believed him. I believed that after ten disappointing birthday cakes, this year would be the year he would surprise me. That this would be the year I didn’t have to drive myself to the grocery store and buy myself a discount, day-old slice of chocolate cake. That I wouldn’t have to stand in the checkout line with that plastic box of cake, hazy eye makeup, and a pity glance from the cashier. That I wouldn’t have to eat said cake alone in the kitchen while my husband caught up with his VCR.
It’s not just women who get dismissed by a flick of the hand and suggestion of “craziness.” I think the word “crazy” allows perpetrators to skirt their responsibility – to avoid ownership of fault and excuse an utterly disappointing lack of effort. “Crazy” is a convenient alternative to having to give a damn about anyone else. I don’t understand why she’s so upset. She’s crazy.
When my husband opened the box, the white frosting was my first hint. But oh, I wanted to be wrong, I really wanted to be wrong. Some chocolate cakes have white frosting, right? Right? But when my husband licked his lips and plunged the knife into the cake, I saw the first of the yellow crumbs beading upwards out of the frosting and… I knew. Vanilla.
“I got you your favorite,” my husband smiled a leery, aren’t you proud of me smile.
It was not my favorite. I told him this. Repeatedly. Over the course of our eleven-year marriage.
“I’m pretty sure you told me vanilla was your favorite.” He insisted.
It has never been my favorite. I would have never said this.
“Geez woman, you don’t have to overact like this. It’s only cake.”
It’s only cake.
It’s only cake?
So as was my birthday tradition, we got into an argument, and I stormed out to drive to the grocery store to buy a discount slice of chocolate cake. But then instead of the grocery store, I ended up on the interstate. And then instead of going home, I just kept driving. And then I kept going faster. Like I could drive away from eleven years’ worth of disappointment. Like if I could just go fast enough and far enough, my Voyager could carry me to certain escape.
And I tried to stop in time. But I didn’t.
And I just wanted chocolate cake…
I’m sorry, you must think I’m crazy.
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