Small Hands


by Nina Szarka



I wonder what they did to you, to make you like this. Nobody is just like this. People transform into this. People are made this way.

Maybe it was the same thing that drove your brother to drink himself to death. The same thing that caused you to bully the other kids at school. Bullies are made. Created in the image of the bullies that came before them, like a succession of soaking wet gremlins.

I wonder what things Fred said to you, to make you feel such a desperation. He probably told you that Real Men are dynamic and powerful. That the only kind of man good enough for a woman is a Real Man. The kind of man who wed Mary.

Mary was just an impoverished Scottish hillbilly with an eighth-grade education, from a family humiliated by her slutty sister’s scandal until Fred rescued her. He must have made her feel very grateful. It was the 1930’s, and what women needed were powerful men. Men who could pay for things. Men who were respected and feared by other men. Men who could claim them and protect them and keep them from starving. Mary was just a servant, fresh off the boat, after all. She was a nobody. She was the worst possible thing to be- aside from unwed and pregnant. Mary was poor.

She must have had such pride in her new life, and such animosity for that which she had left behind. In order to be properly rescued, you have to hate the place you left. You have to abandon it completely. You have to despise everyone and everything that reminds you of it. It’s easy to be charitable to the unfortunate, just as long as nobody forgets you are not one of them. You have to remain separate. There is you, and there is them. This is how you know you are winning.

It must have been her only point of power, of accomplishment, in a time when the best thing a woman could do for herself was marry well. And you needed to be the kind of man your mother would have married. The kind of man who would be enough to be considered “well”. A man like Fred.

You had to be as good as Fred. No one would ever want you unless you were as good as Fred. Fred, who brought his tough negotiation style home with him. Fred, who the relatives began avoiding, because he conducted professional relationships with even his family members. Your brother couldn’t do it; you had to do it. It was the only way to be a real man. A man other men would want to be. A man women would want.

I wonder what it was like, living in a world where a person’s value was tied only to their power, and not to the contents of their soul. I bet you weren’t allowed to cry. I bet you were never taught the beauty of compassion, of empathy, of kindness. I wonder what it was like, never being given the tools to express vulnerability or pain. I wonder what it felt like, watching Fred work seven days a week, knowing he would never love you as much as he loved that ladder he was climbing. Knowing the only way your own father could ever approve of you was to measure up. To build your own Tower of Babel. To be a Real Man.

A Real Man. Real Men are powerful. Money is power. Fame is power. The ability to maneuver others is power. The holy triad. The only way to be worth anything. The only option for you.

So you learned to force your hand. When you were a grade school bully, your father called you “rambunctious”. He didn’t teach you value of diplomacy, of conflict resolution, of patience. Real Men do not cry, they fight. Real Men grab women by the pussy. Real Men do not back down, even if they’re wrong. Real Men are bulldozers. Real Men are wars. Real Men don’t need to be nurtured, they need to toughen up. Real Men take stuff; they take everything. Real Men marry the most beautiful women, and parade them around, a measure of desirability. Real Men don’t coddle, they provide.

I bet, when you were a child, nobody ever told you that you were already enough. That what mattered was Who You Were. That a person can be judged by the way they treat others. That you are supposed to be human.

You probably just want to be loved. Even now, you’ve only done what the two people you idolized as a little boy told you was the golden ticket to their approval. And now, here you are, unable to garner the skills everybody else in this game takes for granted: finesse, sensitivity, wit. The things most of us learn early on, as we develop loving, sincere relationships, as we navigate our way through difficult situations. The things politicians are groomed to do, it seems to all just come naturally. Nobody ever told you that you would need those things, so you came unprepared for the ultimate secret handshake. It’s like some inside joke everyone is in on, but you.

So you get louder and more belligerent, just how daddy dearest showed you real men do it, and the laughter gets louder, too. Your critics get cleverer. Nobody has ever been laughed at so much. The whole world is laughing. You stand your ground, but you know what they are saying. You must wonder how people can be so witty. Nobody ever taught you about the finer points of banter. Nobody taught you anything. Fred expected you to just pick it up. To just watch and figure out what to do. Nobody ever explained. You didn’t know that money and fame and pussy wouldn’t be enough. And now, even if you manage to force your way through this door, you’ll always be known as a bull in a China shop. Nobody will ever love you.

You know who your supporters are, and you know they are not the kind of people you’d ever respect, not really. They’re all people you managed to fool, people who don’t care about things like fact checking and finely-crafted conversations. These are people who believe in sideshow magicians, and you know it. You could sell them anything. Even you think they’re idiots.

The people you really want to love you, they never will. But you have to take what you can get. You can’t let anyone see how frustrating it is that you can’t ever get it right. That’s the thing they don’t seem to understand. You want, more than anything, to get it right. Even the size of your hands is fair game. Everything about you is funny, it seems.

They don’t even like your hair. Nobody’s making fun of her hair, but yours is Photo-shopped onto woodland creatures and cats, all across the the web. And what’s she doing here, anyway? You’ve spent your whole life being told that this is what women require of men. Why doesn’t she like you? Why does she smirk every time you speak?

I wonder how that makes you feel. Sometimes, when I’m watching you on stage, you look like you’re about to cry. Immediately after, I watch you have outbursts and tantrums akin to the ones I see in children. I watch you lash out on the internet, like a person who’s only means of being heard is yelling. I watch you behave like a boy who was raised without any true support, any guidance on how to use his voice. Nobody ever sat down with you and allowed you to have feelings, did they? Surrounded by women who were taught that the only men who could keep them safe, because they did not deserve to keep themselves safe, were Real Men. Surrounded by Real Men who were taught that their humanity was weakness.

Nobody will ever love you. And it’s too late now, because you are a monster. To ever be somebody sincere, somebody with soul, you’d have to denounce the the very thing that shaped you. You would have to name your Frankenstein. Real Men don’t do that. Real Men don’t back down. Real Men don’t care if they’re loved. So this is all you get.

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