Way back when my husband and I first married, I decided to buy a dining room table. Up to that point we’d used the floor or a wobbly card table for our evening feasts. This was back when we still ate dinner as a family; work obligations have made such dinners a thing of the past.
So I peregrinated to Port Richmond where a fly-by-night used furniture shop had set up business. A bunch of burly guys, sat round a cash register, greeted me heartily and I wandered the floor looking for just the right table. I discovered it tucked in a corner: dark wood, sturdy, and on clearance special.
I paid the burly guys $50 and inquired as to delivery.
“Well,” they said authoritatively, “Do you have a man in the house who can help us get it in the door?”
I hesitated, imagining my husband- comic book nerd extraordinaire- hauling weight with these guys. The image just didn’t gel.
“Uhh.. kind of.”
Well that was just too much for them. They broke out into barrels of laughter. “KIND OF!” they exclaimed, gasping through chortles. “She KIND OF has a man at home!”
I rolled my eyes and made my way back to the house, where I related the tale to my husband and warned he was conscripted into manual labor.
“Kinda man? You called me a kinda man?” And it stuck. For the next nearly two decades he jokingly, if snidely, referred to himself as “kinda man” whenever he failed at a manly task such as starting a dead lawn mower, or fixing an unhinged kitchen cabinet.
“What did you expect my dear? You married a kinda man.”
Until last weekend. Saturday night, with the baby and non-verbal three year old asleep, I decided now would be a good time to plant the Costco azalea I’d purchased that morning. I donned my boots, grabbed a shovel, dug a hole as deep as I could, and trundled across the lawn with the hefty azalea in a bear hug.
CRACK! My ankle twisted violently beneath me while the azalea went flying. The next thing I knew my face was in the lawn and my arms were splayed out. I realized, blinded by the azalea, I had stepped on the edge of a shallow but wide crater left from the above ground pool hauled away shortly after we moved to our home.
My ankle’s life flashed before my eyes. I relived that same ankle’s sprain as a teenager, and how dreadfully slow the healing process had been. Crutches, limping, pain: in fact I still felt pain from the initial sprain at age 41. And here I did it again! Heartsick, I somehow got back inside and collapsed into bed (but not before crawling to the azalea, to set it upright).
I woke in the middle of the night to agony. The ankle was grossly swollen and throbbing. I fumbled through my bureau for the percocet from my back surgery and swallowed a pill without water. The next morning- Easter Sunday- I crawled up the stairs and begged my husband to drive me to urgicare.
The facility was empty at 8am Sunday. I was ushered into an exam room where a doctor, whom I later learned was Pakistani (he offered up that information) looked at my ankle and glared ferociously at my husband.
“Did you do this to her?!”
It took both of us some moments to realize what exactly the doctor was asking. Now I was the one who burst out laughing.
“Him?” I said, not realizing I might be insulting his manhood. “Did HE do this to me??” I was laughing so hard, I briefly forgot the pain shooting from my foot.
The doctor calmed down as I explained this was a gardening accident. As it turned out he was a plant enthusiast himself, and he wanted to know exactly what kind of azalea, where did I buy it from, for how much, and he advised I collect tuberoses; he ordered them off the internet.
Three hours later (the physician reading x-rays was offsite), brace on my ankle, I hobbled behind my husband back to the car. “What the hell was that all about?” I asked. “Do I look like a battered wife?”
“I don’t know,” replied my husband. “But I think I’m officially no longer a kinda man!” He smiled broadly.
I have three theories as to the doctor’s inquiry. One, he was obligated to ask this of any woman showing up with an injury. Every time I’ve been pregnant, I’m asked repeatedly: do I feel safe at home? Am I the victim of domestic violence? I assume this is hospital policy, if not outright law.
My second theory is the doctor was trying to be funny, but if so he needs serious help in his comedic delivery.
The third theory is that we live in a culture where men are routinely villainized while women victimized, even if reality does not reflect said scenario.
Maybe it’s a combination of the three.