“The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality.
I like their completeness. I like their anonymity. ” ~ Virginia Woolf
But if you were a man, Virginia, or a more conventional, less complete, less complicated or anonymous woman you would probably be as baffled as one of my Facebook friends, who left the following comment on one of my posts, when trying to address one of our million-dollar questions:
“I’d like to know why, with women, there is always so much wrong…”
If you were him (or even yourself, at some point), you’d most likely try to quit women for good, at least once a week, every time they turn their back to you and say the N word—or just suggest, be subtle, let you assume… like any good poetry. And I do love you, Virginia.
So let’s start with the inconvenient, awkward, stereotyped Nothing.
With the power invested in me by womanhood, I hereby certify that the following translation is “deadly” accurate.
Being one of those women with the word “Nothing” tattooed on my back, I thought I’d help translate some of its thousand possible meanings.
Because when unabridged, Nothing seems to be an entire country. It has people living in it. It even has a legislation and a flag (la femme); a government (fatale), a language (silence)!
Don’t worry, you and half the people on this planet aren’t (will never be) fluent in it—not even we are, most of the time.
But you can at least try to get by, right? You know, be able to ask “Dónde está el baño?” and get an honest answer: end of the hallway, to the left… but we’re out of toilet paper.
The way I see it, there are four big regions in the country of Nothing and each one of them has countless subregions for you to get lost in. It’s one of the most elaborate labyrinths. No one could guess it wasn’t even planned.
But I don’t get paid to write so I must keep it general. And, since drama and not patience is one of the main “virtues” of our time, let’s start with the worst.
When Nothing means Everything
This is where I don’t want to be you and I can’t help being me and fed up with every possible food I haven’t yet digested. Watch out then. I wish the hurricane was just a summer storm and we owned an umbrella.
This means she’s been holding on to everything that she should have let out little by little, but because her + you = a missed equation, she now sees clearly she’s no mathematician. Neither are you, it seems.
Suggestion: at least have a nice funeral (candlelit dinner and wine should do for a decent goodbye).
If it’s not too late, this and a long conversation might save your life but you’ll still have to spend some time in the hospital—perhaps next to her, if you get help with math.
Or, if it’s terminal, alone.
When Nothing means Something
It’s not as bad as “everything” but you may still get splashed. This is not about what you did wrong but more about what you failed to do, what you didn’t do at all (right or wrong). There’s no missile to fire.
She’s giving you the benefit of the doubt. She knows she can’t hold you accountable for not living up to her expectations and she’s aware that, though they exist, maybe they oughtn’t. She should just let you be and let herself.
If school had only taught us how to live our life instead of how to fight for it…
But she can’t help the clouds on her forehead and you can’t help the rain. I don’t know what you should do here. Maybe just talk, don’t save your life for later. And once you’ve said it all, you keep on loving some.
When Nothing means I Have no Idea What You’re Talking About, But This is Fun, Where Did We Meet?
A tired person’s favorite game. The only kind of meaningful affair that has no feelings attached, no demands, no surplus of explanation—just fun, initial exchange of information—usually over email, SMS, Facebook or Skype, or any other 21st century soul extension (not phone, people don’t like to hear each other’s voice anymore); or, with a few exceptions, the more classic face-to-face café talk.
Don’t try to rush through this City. Enjoy the birth and growth of time and laugh out loud at a stranger’s occurrences or at your own forgotten wit, which —since nothing is at stake (yet?)— any given argument could be settled immediately by a spontaneous smiley.
Getting married over Skype is always a great idea.
When Nothing means Nothing
Hey, most days life is no queen. No answer, Nothing, really. And that’s more of a reply than perhaps all the above. Because at least then you know she’s too busy. Don’t take it personal unless, wait… you’re a person.
No, it’s not that she just got kidnapped by rebels in Kazakhstan and now she’s trapped in a remote mountain cave with goats instead of guards, no cell reception and no wifi. She might find you oh-so-amazing, but that’s not Something. Still not so bad, you can’t lose what you haven’t got. Maybe someday…
And so our story goes, and time and life and wrinkles.
Perhaps this attempt to explain Nothingness is worth another big nothing. Maybe our weathered feminine hearts are not really hearts but question marks. And that’s that, and it’ll always be that, and you should just accept your own mysteries and stop treating yourself (or her) like a code to be deciphered.
And yet, on second thoughts…
It’s not that I object to what I’ve said so far, your honor. But it feels like just another layer of lipstick over our silenced lips. I try not to get annoyed when I hear: Don’t try to understand women. Just love them. (Never mind the feminist devil in me rising with every wave; you get her that daily cup of blood and she’ll chill.)
No, your honor, love is not “all” we need. We are rational creatures, in the same measure in which we are emotional.
Perhaps the very fact that we’ve been tagged as mostly emotional all over history’s timeline has managed to discourage us from explaining our “nothing” to our partners or possible lovers; or from trying to communicate the reasonable “something” building up in our chest, to any other than our co-femmes in femme crime.
Yes, history’s always been a bipolar bitch, if you will: one century we’re witches, another, men-slaughterers… Did anyone say balance, s’il vous plait? Can Mind and Heart go out to dinner just tonight, if not every other night?
My dead grandma (bless her crazy heart) knew things I have yet to figure out and get tattooed on my back, next to the word Nothing—or instead of it.
She said to me, smiling with false, perfect teeth: “The best way to get rid of the nothingness is to fill it up with something.” In this case we’d stop referring to it as such and there’d be no more need for clumsy interpreters like myself.
I thought I was bilingual but it turns out I am just some girl.
Yet I get a few things. I get that Nothing is a false, invented country, inasmuch as Something is, at least, a real one. I also get that each one of us is an issue to be understood before it is loved. Mystery makes the journey more interesting, but you don’t go on a trip to not know the place or not see the surroundings.
On a good trip you take a guide with you, you meet the locals, you ask, observe, you smell the air, taste the food. You don’t just take plastic-smile-pcitures in front of all the famous monuments without even bothering to read, only to say you were there. You try to be where you go.
The fog is interesting precisely because you know it’s gonna’ lift; otherwise it’s just white’n'nasty, sticky cloud-stuff. Ambiguity is a good thing only when it temporarily veils the better thing.
How can you love something (someone) you don’t know or don’t get? It intrigues you at first, if anything, but your intrigue will soon be replaced by fatigue, unless the thought turns into flesh.
So no, whoever said that love-thy-woman stuff, listen to me instead: you understand us first, and only then you love us, if you must.
I don’t believe that men and women speak a different language. I’ve never even been to Mars or Venus. I tried to build a spaceship once but I couldn’t get it to fly.
I think we’re way beyond language here. I think each one of us is a different country by itself—a country of Something—and though we all speak our individual dialects at home (inside our chest, everything goes), when in community—even a community of two—we relate to each other through only one, human, universal language.
The problem I see with the curious us is not that of Mars vs. Venus or a language vs. another; but of me vs. you. And the solution could be as simple (but oh so difficult) as replacing “vs.” with “&”.
To quote another Facebook friend who commented on the same post:
“Wouldn’t it be swell if every woman answered that question starting with ‘I’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong…’ and every man answered the sister question starting with ‘I‘ll tell you exactly what I’m feeling…’ I could wake up every morning with a smile on my face in that world”.
So if we drop the battle from our tired, gibberish battlefield our Story will remain a field—do cover it with grass since you’re at it, so we can take off our shoes. It’ll be one of those long & epic tales about Mars & Venus & Earth & different & rational & emotional & Something more tasteful & mindful than Nothing.
How does that sound, Virginia?