In The Company Of Women
I am still learning about men.
I was one of four daughters, attended all-girl catholic schools, never knew what a jersey looked like, had no idea how to change a tire and never did the wave amid the crazed fans at a pro football game. My father did put up a basketball hoop in our driveway once, short lived when the ball sailed through the glass pane of the garage door. There it stood neglected for years a sad testament to the son my mother never had.
Yet, my father who was Scottish reared, never once expressed regret at not having a son. Rather, he reveled in his four daughters and life among them. He loved his girls. Though there were times we tried his patience. I still hear in flashback, his screams of protest from the shower after being cut by a worn down razor blade used on one too many pair of female legs. Or his aversion to the smell of nail polish remover. He hated the smell of nail polish remover. He was equally content watching a rugby match as he was a cooking show. All the neighborhood women loved him.
During his daughter’s bridal showers, all four of them, rather than fleeing for the afternoon as most men might, my father would delight in being part of the celebration. He would sit center stage in his recliner, newspaper in hand (a ploy to feign disinterest though we knew better) among the squeals and chaos of thirty females. Every now and again as a new gift was unveiled he would lift his head up casually and remark “Ah what’s this one? Hold it up a little closer Kath…”
My sister Sheila too experienced the sometimes disadvantage of not having grown up with brothers. When she and my mother visited Lord and Taylor to buy her first boyfriend a birthday gift, the saleswoman paused in puzzlement as she inquired as to where she might find the men’s “blouses.”
In addition to my father there was in fact one other male in our family. A big, beautiful Irish wolfhound, brought back from a holiday in Ireland. I recall listening in on a now famous conversation in our family between my mother and the vet. “I need to bring Connell in to be spayed,” The vet’s reply: “You mean neutered Mrs. Dickinson.” My mother, “Oh, yes that is when they fix his vagina?” My sister and I stared at each other, and then burst into laughter. We thought that something must have gotten lost in translation as my mother, Irish born, often had her own interpretation of words. Looking back however, I think she simply believed Connell like the rest of us was female, at least in theory.
I married and ironically, have two sons. My husband has taught them the things his own father taught him; how to throw a ball, using common tools for simple jobs and most importantly, how to be kind and respectful. Although they do not have a sister, my sons are equally in touch with their feminine side and have as many female friends as male. They have five female cousins whom they see frequently, further adding to their comfort level with girls, not to mention the added bonus of always having a date for the prom.
And here I sit at present, among three men with whom I share my life, a sobering contrast from my childhood years embroiled in a world of three sisters and all things girl. I sigh as I place down the lid of the bathroom seat, for the second time today and the expression boys will be boys plays through my mind.
Our family dog however, a toy fox terrier named Anabel, is female. Score for my side.