THREE WOMEN

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THREE WOMEN

When I was very young, I knew two women who killed themselves.

The first was very beautiful, very intelligent, witty and educated and loved by a man who was just as smart, educated, witty and handsome as she. They were in college together and planned to be married as soon as they graduated. Everyone knew they would both be very successful in their chosen careers.

Karen was the sort that plain women, like myself, envied. The phrase that always came to mind was that her smile lit up the room. People gravitated to her and he gazed at her with obvious adoration. Who would not want a life as blessed and charmed as hers seemed to be?

And then one day she visited her parent’s home, broke into her father’s gun cabinet and, tying a length of string to her toe, managed to blow her beautiful face to pieces by putting the barrel of a shotgun under her chin and pulling the trigger.

A couple of years later, I went to live in New York City and, rents being out of reach, I lived in a women’s residence that catered to tall, skinny dancers who attended Julliard and tall, skinny models hoping for that one big break that would assure their success.

Her name was Mitzi and she was from Ohio or Idaho or maybe it was Colorado. She ate almost nothing and dreamed of seeing her face on the cover of one or another fashion magazine. One night she knocked on my apartment door but could not say why. She held a compact and mechanically brushed powder on her face. I invited her in but she said she was on her way out to an “important party.”

Later that same night I was awakened by sirens but it wasn’t until the next day that I learned that sometime during the night, she had jumped from her apartment window. I was terrified and beyond sad to see her shattered compact laying in the street near to where her body had been found.

The third young woman did not kill herself. But neither did she live.

Her earliest memories were of being hurt by the very people charged with her well being. From them, she learned she was homely and clumsy and slow witted and doomed to a life of lonely failure. She once overheard her mother lamenting to her aunt that her sisters had attributes that would stand them in good stead when the time came for husband hunting. One would make a good wife and have babies while the other was pretty and so neither would have any trouble attracting a decent breadwinner.

‘But, her mother whined, what could be done about the third daughter?’

As though it could fix what was wrong with her, she was beaten – physically and mentally, and deprived of the most basic caring that her siblings took for granted. From this she learned how to not love or be loved. She learned how to smile and lie and hide her scars. More than anything else she learned how to settle.

I wonder how many of us settle. How many of us don’t believe we deserve what we want and need and so we take what ever comes down the road? How many of us live ‘lives of quiet desperation’, making the best of it and never knowing how to live any other way?

I don’t think very often of those two perfect and beautiful young women whose private desperations drove them to end their lives. There is no way for me to ever be able to know or understand whether it takes more courage to go on, day after day, or more to say Bye, and fold it up.

I’m just very glad there is something inside most of us that makes it possible for us to wake up every morning and think, “I’ll try again today”.

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