LETTERS: Women in conflict. copywriter
Dedicated to my daughters, honourable warriors both.
Women shrink from battle with each other, and I don't know why.
We're nonviolent, resourceful, and elegant. We skip
the kindergarten of ballistics and work on a subatomic level.
We go soul to soul.
If Shrub and Saddam had ever graduated to this point, Shrub would
have fucked Saddam's wife or sons, and Saddam would have got it
all on tape and sent the video to CNN, clearly showing (with subtitles)his
wife saying over and over, "Is it in yet?--I can't tell"
End of fucking story.
My family was under seige, once. I was the only reservist
on duty. The attack was on the husband's erectile tissue—as
we all know, the most vulnerable part of the nuclear family structure,
Achilles' Glans.™ Our incredible babies were four and
This particular mistress was single, childless, running low on
options while pushing 40,and thoroughly pragmatic: She
felt a bracing sense of possibility in perhaps making it to the
finals this time.
His previous ladies' auxiliary had been blowsy, hi-mileage girls
with troubled teen sons and big hair. What all had in common
was that they'd been reduced, for whatever reason, to trolling for
time-shared booty at the office. (Ah, the Famine principle,
in which a crumb has to act as starter and main.
And yes, we know men would fuck mud, and yes, woman are always
in charge—don't make me have to say Duh.)
So I wrote to this invader, not about Jimmy Choos and pore size
and what the U.N. should do about the Middle East, but to release
her from mud duty. (She and I will get back around to stilettos
and exfoliants some other day. )
Epilogue, up at the front: They're now married
["A man who marries his mistress leaves a vacancy in that position”--Wilde]
and I have a new family; everything is as wonderful as it could
be. Utterly swell. PInch-me swell.
Yet when I saw the vandal at the gate back then, when I heard my
babies crying in sorrow and fear and anger, my soul was at attention.
I was crystallized, precise, prepared from the DNA on up.
[Get used to the feeling of your own adrenaline, ladies, so it doesn't
shock you when you need it. It is life support. You
can't afford to be rattled by your own power.]
My woman friends think that good quality woman-to-woman conflict
is worth celebrating and even mentoring. Perhaps they're right.
How about a statue in a park of a woman on horseback, brandishing
a pen? Weapon of choice: .357
If you have a mig mouth, use it to shed light.
LETTER TO DISMISS MISTRESS
[This letter was faxed to the girl’s
out of town hotel room at midnight, after calling the concierge
to explain that the document was critical and must be delivered
immediately. It seemed the sudden need to buy Kaopectate™
could be a valuable bonding experience between she and I. I'd
already scheduled a full STD workup, as a result of the two educated
amantes being unable to cough up the price of a Trojan reservoir
Read and chuckle:
Dear Ms.F., [aside:
Ms. F is a nice girl who toils, then and still, for a manufacturer
of domestic cleaning products. Her husband, my ex, toils for a manufacturer
I’m writing to thank you for the help
you’ve given B. over the last few months. As you know,
he’s been under a great deal of stress since taking on projects
requiring him to be away from his family.
While I must speak bluntly, I trust you'll
be cognizant of an articulate and reasoned tone—although you
have, by your chosen actions, forfeited any claim to such a tone.
B. has enjoyed your company; you've
provided him with professional, semi-professional, and, apparently,
some rather amateur services.
You behaved as a fully independent adult,
and have made some grave errors in judgement. I assume that
you're no longer naïve about the consequences of your poor
judgement on your personal and professional life:
Your sexual liaisons took place under a set
of circumstances that put B. in the position of defrauding his employer.
B. falsified his duties and schedule to his superiors,
as well as his expense reports, to secure extra time and expenses
related to hotels, meals, and transportation, for an extra-marital
affair with you.
Your assumption of a naïveté equal
to your own, on the part of your colleagues, superiors, and myself,
is truly staggering. Have
you only just moved to the city?
Please take this correspondence as notice
that you're under no obligation to provide him with any further
services, professional or otherwise.
That you acted above and beyond the call of
duty, is noted.
B. has acknowledged the liability to his career
(and to your own) that your joint actions have created. As
I’m sure you agree with us that this matter should remain
confidential, I know we can count on your cooperation in respecting
this agreement. A single breach would be irrationally imprudent.
Any attempt to contact me would be equally
imprudent, for all of the reasons outlined above. I’m
a musician, a writer, and I play hardball in my spare time.
Good luck to you in your future affairs.
The good news is, it’s 10 years later and my ex and his
woman are together and blissfully happy. I think their commitment
is strenghtened by the certainty that if she discovers his stunts
again with *O.P., she'll run over him and leave town with the dog.
Men love those vacation packages that fly them straight from
the frying pan to the nice toasty fire. Bring your SPF, boys!
What Ann was drawing back then, at two.
LETTER # 2:
Two months later, faxed to the
girl's office after learning she was still in contact with the ex:
Dear Ms. F.:
I’m sorry that you chose for forego
my offer of confidentiality about your affair with my husband. You
blew it. (Habitually, Isuppose.) Your continued contact
was a poor decision, for reasons I'd explained to you fairly and
As a woman, I truly empathize with your inability
to find fulfillment in the company of unattached men. This
is your private emotional hurdle, and one that I wish you success
However, you've chosen to become a part of
the lives of four people, and you're now accountable to each one
Because of your craven position, safely insulated
from all but the company-funded hotel bed, you didn't see or feel
the pain that our daughter felt, when she heard B. and I discussing
how to handle you and our marriage.
Whether or not your experience of family has
been one that nourished you or wounded you, is of no interest to
me. There are those for whom family is a centre of passion;
a centre that you yourself are lacking, and seek with a desperation
that allows you to silence your own inner ethical voice.
You, Ms. F., have shared bodily fluids (it's
1994, do you know where your condoms are?)-- you have not shared
loyalty. You have not shared conception, birth, or even the
most fleeting passion that is family.
Acknowledge your struggle over this, have
the courage to grieve it, and try to provide yourself with a life
that is not sucked from the blood and tears, from the carnage
and leavings of others.
You'll never feel peace in the company of
someone you’ve “won” in the course of a petty
personal psychodrama. You’ve merely proven yourself
to be capable of reeking deception. FLASH: It's too late to
win the daddy away from the mommy. That was your soul's task
when you were five. Get over it. No Santa, no tooth
fairy, and yup, your daddy was a rat for never telling you you were
pretty. But this is news for your therapist, not a family
of four whom you've only had sex with one-quarter of, so far.
You spent a few weeks in bed with my husband
on the company tab . This does not constitute the foundation
of relationship. Reconsider now, while you have a slim chance
of retaining your dignity.
What Greer was drawing back then, at five.
[Faxed to her office after
she wrote a cease-and-desist to my ex, threatening him --and me--
with something or other should I continue to defend my family against
desperate-chick imperialism. Apparently, the whole "all's
fair" thing was starting to become a pesky two-way street...
“PLEASE GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY."
[Quoted from her cease-&-desist notice to my
Ironic choice of words, Ms. F.
You chose to use your workplace and professional
relationships as the context for the governance of your sexual ambitions.
You now decry the fact that the workplace continues to be
the site of the consequences of your actions. You
chose the arena, unaided by anyone’s judgement but your own.
You’re in a bind. Genuine advocacy
from your colleagues and employer is only available at the expense
of their instruction in your unique interpretation of ethics. Paid
advocacy, as distasteful as it is, may be your only resort.
But it’s no substitute for genuine advocacy, based on respect.
Again, you’ve forfeited that option.
If you’re under the impression that
my communication to you is inappropriate in a corporate context,
then you may want to review a few of the falsehoods you asked B.
to offer the corp, in order that he find the time to service you
at the expense of our family’s stability.
To be blunt, (and to give you something to
work with), you used your employer’s time and resources to
troll — and now you’re cloaking yourself in righteousness
and victimhood. It is, in fact, nothing I’m capable
of saying (being a straight description of events already on record),
but your own hindsight that’s truly plaguing you. You
made a serious error, and you know it.
Governing one's self accordingly is best done
at the time.
If you’re up to a few sentences of original
prose, let’s hear your thoughts. If all you have to
offer is some vintage, quill-pen legalise, then we’ll have
to settle for that.
Best of luck in your budding efforts to govern
The story ends with the man leaving his family shipwrecked in the
U.S. (where his employer had relocated us all from our original
home in Toronto). After his trailerpark performance with sundry
O.P., the company disavowed any responsibility for moving the rest
of us home.
He finally resigned his job, the girl supported him for a year,
they married with Christian vows, quit smoking, got a dog and treadmill.
I'm pretty sure they're mindbendingly happy, but I sometimes
don't hear very well over my own purring... or would that be the
sound of the universe unfolding as it should?
For not shirking the effort to defend my family, I apologize to
no one. Nor do I apologize for the juicy abundance that is
my family now. If my daughters ever have to defend the fort
because their man can't, they'll know what to do, intuitively.
Fear not, ladies! Do yourself proud, then move on, tempered by the
kind of fire that arms you with a permanent edge.
Greer, age seven