I remember when my daughter began to hate men. The river outside of the room she slept in was now choked with them; they floated downstream without struggling, their football jerseys or suits and ties or loose yoga clothing partly torn off and trailing behind them. Demolished, crushed, vanishing men. My daughter had been supplied, early in her life, with a narrow white cat that sat like an icicle in her doorframe, guarding her room, and this cat appeared to hate men, too, though it was itself male. It hissed and spat when my husband or any of his brothers or friends entered my daughter’s room.
The first time I noticed my daughter actively hating men she was six, and we were in a grocery store. It is important to know that earlier in the day a customer had smashed a bottle of rosemary and peppermint shampoo. A young man, a teenager, walked by wheeling a cart full of radishes. His blockish white smock and blockish white shoes appeared to have been constructed from the same material, and the front of his smock was stained with what must have been butcher’s blood, though my daughter openly speculated.
Passing by us the young man bared his teeth at my daughter in a lascivious way seconds before stepping on the shampoo puddle, slipping backwards and cracking his head on the concrete floor, his teeth vanishing back into his mouth, and the cart tipping backwards on top of him, hundreds of radishes rolling out and gradually covering his fallen body like petals.
The second time that my daughter’s true and everlasting hatred of men surfaced was at a museum, when she saw a sculpture of Penthesilea, the Amazon queen, disembowelling one of Odysseus’s men. My daughter, nine by now, started clapping when she glimpsed it from sixty feet, and clapped louder and faster the closer we got.
There were multiple instances of open man-hating during my daughter’s teenage years, but the one I recall with the greatest clarity happened in early fall after she had been taken by a friend to a lavender field that they had planned to pillage and use to stuff pillowettes. This friend, female of course, was treacherous: she outwardly sympathised with my daughter’s man-hating ways, while plotting against her in secret. They roamed the field for fewer than fifteen minutes before men began to pop out from behind trees – members of her co-ed volleyball team, the treacherous friend told my daughter.
Later, my daughter decided she didn’t want to attend college, but when subjected to an avalanche of criticism (mostly, I am sad to say, from me) she relented, and chose a school that admitted only women. Being my man-hating daughter she lasted one semester only and appeared home in December to tell me that there had been a mixer with the ‘sibling college’ several miles down the road. My daughter claimed to have miniaturised several hundred men from this mixer and smuggled them home in a jumbo bottle of Robaxacet. She did this, she told me, in order to observe their behaviour under stress.
I avoided checking in on the laboratory that her room gradually became, and I can only assume that those experimented-upon men are the same men currently clogging our river; that once my daughter has completed her tests she crushes them quietly, returns them to size, and places them (perhaps with unaccountable tenderness?) in the water, so that they may pass quietly to some other side, arms crossed, like many hundreds of Ladies of Shalott.