An injury is much sooner
Than an insult.
My mother could remember every
insult she received since the day she was born. Her mind was a garden of
hurts she watered with sprays of righteous indignation until they blossomed into
rapiers she hurled at her offenders months, even years after the event. I
can still remember the conflagration we had the winter of my fifteenth
year. I pushed open the front door and called, ”What’s cooking,
My mother threw her spatula at
me and hissed, ”That is precisely the tone of voice you used when you were six
years old and interrupted my telephone conversation.”
I had experienced many attacks
like this one and each time I was baffled into silence. How can you defend
something you can’t remember? I had tried,” My God I’m sorry,” and got “It’s a
little late for that now, isn’t it?”
I attempted silence and
received,” How can you be so insensitive to others?”
I even attempted to meet fire
with fire: “WHAT telephone conversation?” and was pulverized with “You
know very well what telephone conversation, Lynn Ruth.”
Mother harbored actions even
longer than words. It must have been a year later that I walked into the
front hall and my mother stormed out of the kitchen with her cooking fork at the
ready. “You’re doing it again,” she roared.
”Doing what?” I
“Don’t pretend you don’t know
what I mean,” my mother said. “You always do that when you
“Do WHAT?” I asked.
My mother turned her back and
stomped off into her stove. “I don’t want to discuss it,” she
When I approached my father for
some clue on how to handle this avalanche of unexpected rage, he said,
“Women are like that, Lynn Ruth.”
“Like WHAT?” I asked.
“Oh you know,” said my
father. “Sensitive. Things hurt them more than they do men.
You’ll be like that too when you get older.”
I shook my head. “I will
not,” I said. “I am a reasonable human being. I don’t rehash old
grievances. I am too intelligent.”
My father smiled and kissed the
top of my head. “Sure you are,” he said.
“YOU never get angry at people
for things they did a hundred years ago,” I said. “Why can’t I be like you
“Because you aren’t a man,” said
“I don’t believe you,” I
My father smiled once
more. “Yet,” he said. “You don’t believe me yet.”
It wasn’t until after I married
that I understood the truth in my father’s words. My husband and I
lived on the top floor in what was originally the master bedroom of a pre-Civil
War mansion. The stove had evidently been rescued from the original
kitchen and was fueled with coal. The oven was rusting and its door had to
be taped shut whenever I used it. The night that clarified the
endemic difference between men and women for me, I was attempting to bake a leg
of lamb. I had a terrible time getting the thing to stop bleeding when I tested
it for doneness and was stabbing it with belligerent fury when my husband walked
into the kitchen. “What smells?” he asked.
“Dinner,” I said. “What do
you THINK smells? ”
“For Gods sake, Lynn Ruth,” he
said. “I just said ‘what smells’ and you get in a huff.”
I dried my eyes on a
dishtowel. “That was the exact tone of voice you used when you told your
mother you hated spinach last spring.”
“Stop making a big thing out of
nothing,” said my husband. “You are acting like a child.”
“Oh no I am not,” I said and I
remembered my father’s psychology lesson . “I am acting like a woman
“WRONGED?” said my
husband, “Just what have I done that’s wrong?”
“You said you didn’t like
my cooking!” I said.
“But I LOVE your cooking,” he
protested. “Put your dinner on the table and I’ll prove it to you. Why do
you think I’ve gained forty pounds since we got married?”
I sniffled and readjusted my
apron. “That’s because you are sedentary,” I said.
I returned to my hemorrhaging
main course and tried to do something to make it look edible before I hauled it
to the table. I threw it on a platter, pricked holes in its hide and
stuffed in clusters of mint and parsley. The roasted potatoes were so hard the
fork buckled when I tried to pierce them. I pitched them onto the platter and
they circled the roast like magnetic billiard balls. I sprinkled them with
paprika and drizzled mint jelly over the entire arrangement. I
took off my apron, smoothed my hair and called, “Wash your hands,
honey. Dinner is ready!”
My husband sat down at the
table. He looked at the red and beige main course with quivering green
blobs of jelly and stalks of greenery poked into it and he shuddered.
“That looks like a war casualty,” he observed.
“What a cruel, insensitive
remark!” I said.
I handed him the carving knife.
”Slice the lamb while I serve the vegetables, please.”
My husband held the knife in his
hand and contemplated it for a very long moment. “I don’t know how to
carve lamb,” he said. “You do it.”
I smacked the platter of beans
almandine down on the buffet and hurled hatred across the table. “I have
spent all day cooking that damned hunk of flesh,” I said. “If you want to
eat it, you’ll have to cut it.”
“At MY house, my mother carved
the roast,” said my husband.
“Your mother was nothing but a
slave to your father’s commands,” I said. “I am a liberated human being and I
will not be reduced to a servant.”
“Oh yeah?” said my
husband. “Well, if you’re so liberated, you can slice that
I walked into the living room,
grabbed the telephone and called my father. “I want a divorce, ” I
said. “I am being abused.”
“Nonsense,” said my
father. “You sound just like your mother.”
“Would you let mother carve a
leg of lamb?” I asked.
“Of course not,” said my
father. “I’d take her to a restaurant instead.”
I looked deep into the telephone
receiver as if it held a secret I couldn’t figure out. “Why would you do that? I
“Male intuition, Lynn Ruth,”
explained my father.
“I suppose you’re going to tell
me that’s a guy thing,” I said.
“Not at all,” said my
father. “It’s self preservation. Forget that lamb and let Tom treat
you to dinner.”
“Are you going to tell me that’s
the girl thing to do?”
“No,” said my father. “Its
Conflicts have a natural
The trick is to know when to let them
LIBERATED LEG OF LAMB
Remove all fat from the roast
and make four deep pockets in the flesh. Stuff these cavities with cloves
of garlic, parsley flakes & rosemary. Rub with olive oil and surround
with raw, peeled potatoes. Roast, uncovered at 350 degrees until
fork-tender (depending on the state of your oven this can take from an hour to
several months.) Right before it is finished pour one-half cup dry wine
over the roast.