Cancer Chronicle 119

A few weeks ago, Matt and I went out to lunch at a beach restaurant. We ordered oysters. He got his exactly the way they were listed on the menu. I got mine with quite a few exceptions, and then apologized to the waitress for being difficult.

She looked at me and said, “You’re not difficult, darling. You are clear.”

And that got me thinking about what we call difficult women.
Remember that line in When Harry Met Sally when Sally/Meg Ryan is crying on the bed and says to Harry/Billy Crystal, “I’m difficult.” Or when we hear about actresses who ask for what they want and are labeled difficult?

I have it impressed in my psyche that asking for what I want or being different than other people means I am difficult. And that being difficult is not good. I should be nice. I should be easy. I should go along with what everyone else is eating, having, doing. (I don’t do that but there is still an underlying background queasiness. An apology on the tip of my tongue.)

From the time I was a child and saw the elephant in the living room—that my parents were unhappy, mean to each other, getting ready to divorce—and spoke up about it, I was told to be quiet. I was told that children should be seen and not heard.

And when I confronted my mother about her affairs, I was told that I was difficult, that I was making things up.

And when I refused to keep dieting after gaining and losing so much weight, I was told that I was wrong. Not exactly difficult. More like crazy.

And when I speak up and say that is not funny after a joke that is mean, I get labeled difficult.

And when I don’t want to go where other people are going or eat what other people are eating or do what other people are doing, I am called difficult.

And when I confronted my breast surgeon because I am still in pain and asked her whether her resident closed the surgery, she was uncomfortable and I felt as if I was being difficult. Then I remembered that someone told me that being on my own side sometimes, often, makes people uncomfortable. That being labeled difficult is a catch-all phrase. Is a way that people throw off the discomfort of a woman speaking up.

The truth is that what I am is clear and being clear is difficult for many people…