Man Cave, Red Tent

Years ago, I read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. It was about the womenfolk of ancient desert nomad tribes, their rituals and customs. Also, it was about women’s bleeding . . .

Turns out back in the day, any childbirthing or menstruating woman was relegated to the red tent until it passed. While she was busy hanging out in there, her sisters and friends did all the shit work. Sounds good to me.

I was young and childless when I read that book. At first I was a bit horrified. How misogynistic, I thought, those chumps making women hide away simply for their natural functions!

Today, I’m thinking it must have been the ladies who orchestrated it this way.

It’s kind of like the stereotypical man cave, the place where an adult male retreats in order to regain his sense of self, his independence, his autonomy, his stature. For some dudes it’s the garage, for others the basement wet-bar, and still for others the home office.

Where do women retreat to? Don’t tell me the kitchen! Maybe we make attempts to hide behind the hot steam of beef stew and buttermilk dumplings – attempt. But there are the children, running in and waving half-finished craft projects in our faces, or holding their crotches and shouting that they have to pee, or crying because one bonked the other in the head.

Not a retreat.

Sometimes we go to the bathroom or the closet when things get really bad. But who can really wind down in a claustrophobic forest of clothing, or surrounded by mouldy porcelain?

Today, with my body wound up like a spring, stiff and coiled, loaded, ready to unleash the fury of cramps and gunk and all manner of unpregnancy, it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and my hands on the wheel (or the spoon, or the phone, or the whatever). Everything around me seemed ridiculous, inane, and at worst, really annoying.

All I want is a few days relief. Just a quiet session in a tent. Just a long space in which to breathe and say nothing and let my body do its unwinding. All the while knowing my children are safe and good and taken care of by other women. If I could, I’d do the same for any other chick.

So, you see, the ancients had some stuff figured out. So what if most of them died at age 30 with rotten teeth and stunted bones. They knew that certain things call for certain things.

A break is a break; nature says so.

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