You are a woman. Not in the hypothetical sense, but you are in fact a woman. Now, hypothetically speaking, this is the only fact you know; most days this fact lacks evidence, yet some how this fact will take-up a large percentage of the space in your brain for the rest of your life.
When you were eight years old you heard your mother call a woman in the grocery store ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag. You were in the baking aisle which now, as an adult seems a funny coincidence, but at eight years old the logic of fitting ten pounds of sugar in a bag half its size seemed very, very difficult. You decide never to become this woman.
When you turn twenty, one of two things will happen: you will decide you are happy or you will decide you are unhappy. If it is the later of the two, you will decide that it is most definitely, without a doubt, because you are a woman.
Dream yourself a man. Make vulgar jokes and fuck women who remind you of yourself. Scratch yourself while you do this. Avoid girls that laugh out loud in bars and wear large quantities of pink. You will discover that six out of seven times they are an easy lay. Unfortunately they are also the lays that will call you in the middle of the night crying. When you ask what’s wrong they will tell you that some horrible disease has infiltrated their cat and their furry friend is dying a slow and miserable death. You say you are coming over and then turn your phone off. Scratch yourself while you do this. Roll over and change your number tomorrow. After you date six of these women avoid all women with cats. To be on the safe side, avoid all shades of pink.
Imagine yourself a bad girl. Wear leather. Take up smoking. Replace all adjectives you learned at your Ivy League school with curse words. Learn that they also can fill in for nouns and verbs. Use them here when appropriate. Show up to work in last night’s clothes. If you are truly dedicated, don’t show up at all. You will sleep with the bartender who serves shots of free whiskey to you when you let your breasts peak out of your meticulously ripped shirt. This is most nights of the week. The next night invite the girl from class over for beer. Kiss her on the counter next to the peppershaker and salami your roommate forgot to put away. Do not call this girl tomorrow. Do not call this girl ever.
Pretend to be a writer. Drink whiskey while you do this. Become socially paralyzed and feel physically ill when your phone rings. It will be a concerned friend inviting you out for drinks. You cannot do this. Seclusion is mandatory. Instead, read until your eyes burn. Drink whiskey while you do this. Write witty poems about inanimate objects in place of men and political figures. This will be a masterpiece. Read it to the ants on your windowsill but to no one else. They will not like it. You explain its genius to them. They leave you and do not come back. Not even when you leave candy wrappers littered on your desk. The ants are right. Start over. Drink whiskey while you do this.
Play the part of wife. You will be good at this for a while. You will enjoy making a house a home while your husband is at the office. You will not be able to give your husband a child. This will not bother you. Seclusion will set in. You will realize that seclusion and being a woman are constant companions of your life. Vacuum the living room while smoking the one cigarette you allow yourself daily, in the kitchen you have a chicken in the oven and potatoes boiling in a pot of water; this is called multi-tasking. You learn you are good at this, you wear a clay mask while mashing the potatoes for dinner, it appears you are making mashed potatoes however, you are also reducing the size of your pores. This makes you feel accomplished. Just before dinner wipe the clay mask off and replace it with foundation and subtly pink lips. The part of husband does not show. Allow yourself a second cigarette.
When you are yourself some years from now you bump into an old girlfriend at the coffee shop by your home. She was a girl you kissed when you were drunk at the Ivy League. You knew her when her mom died. She knew you before you were a wife before you were a divorcee. She had children. You did not. You are both somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-five. When you were somewhere between twenty-one and twenty-three you thought you would never fall out of love with her. Now, you think she is what your mother was describing when she called the woman at the grocery store ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag.
She tears up when she sees you and kisses your cheek. You think she smells like old milk and cigarettes. You quit years ago and find the scent repulsive. You think it is a sign of your willpower and her weakness. When she asks for your phone number you pretend to be excited for lunch next Thursday, “We have so much to catch up on, I’ve wondered about you for years,” you say. Give her the number you no longer use: the one from before the divorce. You decide she has turned into a woman you don’t want to be associated with.
About six months later you run into another acquaintance. She wears a pressed suit and make-up. Her body is toned and there is a ring on her most important finger. She also knew the girl from the coffee shop, you all went to the same Ivy League, however, the girl turned woman you now talk to was not a friend of yours at the time. You can’t remember why. She tells you that this woman you both knew (the one that smelt like old milk and cigarettes) had a six-year-old son. “Had?” you ask, thinking that the past tense is not fitting when talking of a small child. “Yes,” she says, and then informs you he died a few weeks ago of a malignant brain tumor. You think it is not appropriate to discuss children dying so early in the morning. You ask her about her most recent travels. She is the kind of woman you like to be associated with.
At home you drink a full tumbler of whiskey. You wonder about the women you’ve run into in the past six months. You are jealous that the one with a pressed suit and husband is leaving for Spain in less than two weeks, “part business, part pleasure, but more for pleasure,” she said. You think this is unfair. You wonder about your old friend from the coffee shop. You do not understand who she is. You try to imagine what kind of woman she was. You wonder why she, or any other woman, could leave the house smelling like old milk. You feel sorry for her. You wonder if she called.