|Image from Canberra Times
“And,” Hazel wrote,” my three brothers are all closet misogynists
in liberal clothing.”
email hit me like a fist in the face; I froze on the word misogynist.
had been in a short email exchange about some news regarding her sister, and buried
in the correspondence, she had – almost blithely - tucked in this parting shot
about her brothers. Not that I knew two of her brothers all that well, it had
been years since I had participated in anything remotely familial with her
family. But I’d known one of her brothers very well. He was my ex-husband.
is not a misogynist,” I wrote back. “I think I need to take a step back from
and I had one of those marriages that had just petered out after thirty years
as a couple. There had never been a single incident of misogyny – ever. If
anything, Jamie had been overly affirming of everyone, including women. Even
with our two girls, he couldn’t raise his voice without becoming wracked with
closed the lid to my laptop and stared out the window. I felt the flutter of
anxiety deep in my chest, like moths bumping up against a porch light. My mind
raced in a non-stop loop of scenarios, one no more satisfying than the other. Hazel
and I had been in a causal relationship since my divorce, and by casual, I mean
Christmas cards, Facebook birthday posts and the odd email update.
use of the word misogyny felt as though she had crossed a line. But I
she didn’t mean that word …maybe I should have asked why she said that! Maybe my
final line was too snippy. Was there a nicer way I should have ended the email?
… the word misogyny is a pejorative that describes someone who “despises”
women. Other definitions include “hatred of women,” (typically shown by men
but not exclusively) or having an “aversion” to women.
wondered at the casualness as to how some people use the word misogyny,
as if it were a close cousin to the word chauvinist. I’d heard it used to
describe an opinionated co-worker, an ornery husband or difficult salesclerk. At
the very worst, these people were guilty of being disagreeable, not women
experience, not mine,” Hazel emailed back, not backing down from her accusation
had been estranged from her siblings for a while now and her grievances had
been piling up. The falling out in the family had been triggered by the burial
of her mother or rather the re-positioning of her mother, whose ashes had been on
other siblings decided mom needed to be interned, yet again, alongside their
father in a non-denominational cemetery. Everyone was in favour of the plan except
Hazel who saw this as her hill to die on, and no, I’m not making this stuff up.
and age-old grievances erupted, and Hazel found herself alone. No one in
families are spared in these sorts of falling-outs, except those few who prefer
to let sleeping dogs lie and share holidays behind wooden smiles and careful
across from me on the couch, holding his thermos of morning coffee, my partner considered
have you landed in regard to the whole Hazel email?” he asked.
not used to crazy,” he said.
considered the comment. It was true. My upbringing was the furthest thing from crazy,
my partner’s experience was very different. His mother had all the right
instincts but little of the maturity needed to understand herself or her growing
children. His father was irresponsible and prone to drink.
household was more chaotic than calm. My partner’s early years were marked with
running feral and unrestrained through his boyhood town, collecting friends for
their nighttime prowls. He was fortunate to have a sharp and curious mind along
with a healthy dose of self-reliance to weather a more hostile environment. They
were “that family.”
I’m not used to crazy,” I said. But I’ve processed this. I’m just unsettled.”
you’re not processed. My take is you’re not seeing the situation clearly.”
are you talking about?” I said, now annoyed.
was looking to co-opt you into her grievance,” he explained. “I’ve lived this”.
felt like smacking my forehead. Of course.
hadn’t been paying attention. My correspondence with Hazel was never an easy
back and forth. Her emails inevitably slipped into a slow bleed of discontent
that I tried to either ignore or steer in another direction. My stock answer
was always “that must have been hard,” a vague response that says, “I’m
listening” with a pretense of empathy.
was looking for a partner to bear witness to the perceived horribleness of her family
and I was to be the co-conspirator to her narrative, the confidant to her
indignation. Her complaint was deep and twisted. She was telling me that it was
all their fault, and her malice was seeping through.
my three brothers are all closet misogynists,” she had said.
I thought, they weren’t. And it was time for me to step back from my
relationship with Hazel.
Barbara Crompton is a retired
business owner, yoga enthusiast, backcountry explorer and mother of two beautiful intrepid daughters. Her passion
is travelling the wilderness of Canada with her partner Ian and gathering
stories from those experiences and the people she meets. Barbara lives in
Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend
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