Letters

A letter to the mother of three at the airport after Thanksgiving:

We were all just trying to get home. Me with my husband, you with yours, and your three kids — one girl and two boys. We all piled in to the rental car return shuttle bus. Your husband had a quaint accent that made me think he was smarter and more trustworthy than one should assume, and your older son was trying to lecture you on abortion in language I too used at his age and just as loudly. You were trying to explain that his reading of an article about late term abortion lacked nuance, and in fact that he had not fully read the article, and likely that he hadn’t read anything but the headline and maybe the top comment. He was chiding you, your pre-pubescent son, for being emotional. You are in your late thirties and tired of men, I could see in your face, and beyond exasperated with this boy who enlisted his father’s ignorant support. 

“They just passed a law,” he said. They said. They both believed someone passed a law to allow abortion up to the last minute. Literally to stab a baby in the skull as it exited its mother alive and thriving. Your son believed last minute baby brain stabbing would be used in gender selective cases, and I wondered why he cared since it would not be his gender selected. Your husband affirmed his misinformation, and I could not stay silent. 

I said, “I don’t think that’s true.”

“I’m sorry?” He said. 

“I don’t think that’s true,” I almost whispered wishing I hadn’t. 

“Well, it is. I’ve just read it,” he said. 

I cringed and tried to disengage. “Actually, let’s not talk about it. I shouldn’t have said anything. I should not speak to you.”

I didn’t mean to concede so easily, but I didn’t want the whole shuttle bus getting involved in your family spat. Sorry about that. 

I rolled my eyes and whispered oh my god at the ceiling. I wore my heartache on my sleeve as I was still recovering from a different but related argument with my brother the night before in which my entire point was undermined and sidelined because he detected emotion in my voice. It was painful, but that’s not your fault. 

Actually, I’m writing to thank you. Because I too have been told by men who lack the perspective to judge me that I am too emotional. Men who interrupt me will tell me I am wrong for being angry at the interruption. Men who think they love me will chide me for being more subtle than they can grasp, more complex than they can ask. They shave their faces with Occam’s rusty razor and call it a triumph to bleed to a clean looking death. And there you are on the shuttle bus fighting with your son, fighting for your son, fighting to make him more than that —  to be better, to be subtle, to understand and to read the damn article before coming to a conclusion. 

Bless you. You are a stronger woman than I. Bless your emotions and your opinions and your anger and your love for your son. Bless you for holding him to a higher standard. When you grabbed the cell phone on which the boys were passing around this article and read the damn thing yourself and pointed out the exact sentence in which they were proven wrong, I wanted to sing and scream and hug you and also eat your child. Sorry about that.

If it had been just men traveling together and talking about rules for women’s bodies, I’d like to think I would have leapt on them like Jenny Green Teeth trapping men in her bog. It was only your love that saved them. Let them know if you like. They won’t care, of course, about the stranger on the bus even though your husband told me he liked my blue hair. Most men do. It gives them a reason to talk to me. It gives me an opportunity. Perhaps they will remember me. Perhaps if I say just the right thing they will think about that one time a woman with blue hair on an airport shuttle bus told them they were wrong and then their wife proved it. We are on the same team you and I. 

Thank you for chastising them for not reading the article and perpetuating intellectual laziness. Thank you for demanding more of them. Thank you for loving them enough to believe they can get better. Thank you for engaging in the argument even though it was Thanksgiving weekend and you were tired, and everyone just wanted to go home. It is awful sometimes and hard. Thank you for not giving up as I did when I jumped off the bus, grabbed my suitcase, and ran to the ticket counter. 

I apologize for my poor manners along the way. 

Yours truly,

 a fellow passenger