I was talking with my sister, Mimi, and we inevitably get to our parents, or rather my parents, us sharing only a mother. It’s always sad. She has a harder time with it because she has all these memories of times before my dad showed up with his rage and his addictions. She remembers our mother acting like a mother, making dinner and helping with schoolwork. She rails against the mother that let a man pull her away from her children and into his dark world. The other day she told me the story about how they met. I knew some of the details, but she knew the whole sordid tale.
They were both serving jury duty, some medical case. At lunch one day, she was chatting with a friend she made. They were complaining about men.
I can hear my mother’s voice as she says “Men are such assholes.”
My dad overhears this, interrupts them at their table, and so elegantly says, “Not all men.”
Not all men. Oh my god. I nearly keeled over when my sister said that to me. I had followed the commentary closely back in March/April of this year, when the news and social media were such a flutter with that exact phrase. “Not all men” was the interruption men made to stop the nation from considering what might be happening in women’s everyday lives, violence, oppression. “Not all men,” was their contribution, making a statement loud and clear that it was more important to talk about innocent men then the real problems women face.
It is fitting that this is how my parents met. While promising to be the man of kindness, of compassion, of sensitivity, he brought with him like a Trojan horse more violence and despair than we can understand. Or imagine. There must be men in the world who respect women, but my father was never one of them. He broke her nose and cracked her ribs. He contributed to her drug addiction. He framed her for violent crimes. He pushed her away from her children. He ruined her life, her mind, her body.
When he said not all men are assholes, he wasn’t talking about himself.