the new womans broken hearta short story
by Andrea Dworkin
All rights reserved.
[This is a work of fiction and any resemblance between the characters in this book and real persons living or dead is coincidental.]
(for E. and L.)
morning broke. I mean, fell right on its goddam ass and broke. no walking barefoot if you care about yr feet, kid.
I waited and waited. no call came. I cant say, the call didnt come because it wasnt a question of one really. it was a question of any one. it was a question of one goddam person calling to say I like this or that or I want to buy this or that or you moved my heart, my spirit, or I like yr ass. to clarify, not a man calling to say I like yr ass but one of those shining new women, luminous, tough, lighting right up from inside. one of them. or some of the wrecked old women I know, too late not to be wrecked, too many children torn right out of them, but still, I like the wrinkles, I like the toughness of the heart. one of them. not one of those new new new girl children playing soccer on the boys team for the first time. young is dumb. at least it was when I was young. I have no patience with the untorn, anyone who hasnt weathered rough weather. fallen apart, been ripped to pieces, put herself back together, big stitches, jagged cuts, nothing nice. then something shines out. but these ones all shined up on the outside, the ass wigglers. I'll be honest, I dont like them. not at all. the smilers. the soft voices, eyes on the ground or scanning outer space. its not that I wouldnt give my life for them, I just dont want them to call me on the telephone.
still, business is business. I needed one of them, the ass wigglers, to call me on the phone. editors. shits. smiling, cleaned up shits. plasticized turds. everything is too long or too short or too angry or too rude. one even said too urban. Im living on goddam east 5 street, dog shit, I mean, buried in dog shit, police precinct across the street sirens blazing day and night, hells angels 2 streets down, toilet in the hall and of course I have colitis constant diarrhea, and some asshole smiler says too urban. Id like to be gods editor. I have a few revisions Id like to make.
so I wait. not quietly, I might add. I sigh and grunt and groan. I make noise, what can I say. my cat runs to answer and then demands attention, absolutely demands. not a side glance either but total rapt absolute attention, my whole body in fact, not a hand, or a touch, or a little condescending pat on the head. I hiss. why not, I mean I speak the language so to speak.
which brings me to the heart of the matter. ladies. for instance, a lady would pretend she did not know exactly what to say to a cat that demanded her whole life on the spot. she would not hiss. she would make polite muted gestures. even if she were alone, she would act as if someone was watching her. or try to. she would push the cat aside with one hand, pretending gentle, but it would be a goddam rude push you had better believe it, and she would smile. at the window. at the wall. at the goddam cat if you can imagine that. me, I hiss. thus, all my problems in life. the ladies dare not respect hissers. they wiggle their goddam asses but hissers are pariahs. female hissers. male hissers are another story altogether.
for example, one morning I go to cover a story. I go 1500 miles to cover this particular story. now, I need the money. people are very coy about money, and the ladies arent just coy, they are sci fi about money. me, Im a hisser. I hate it but I need it. only I dont want to find it under the pillow the next morning if you know what I mean. I dont wear stockings and I want to buy my own hershey bars. or steal them myself at least. Id really like to give them up altogether. but I wouldnt really and its the only social lie I tell. anyway I pick my own health hazards and on my list sperm in situ comes somewhere below being eaten slowly by a gourmet shark and being spit out half way through because you dont quite measure up. its an attitude, what can I say. except to remind the public at large that the Constitution is supposed to protect it.
so I go to cover the story and the ass wigglers are out in large numbers. I mean they are fucking hanging from the chandeliers, and there are chandeliers. ritzy hotel. lots of male journalists. whither they goest go the ass wigglers.
so its a conference of women. and the point is that this particular event occurred because a lot of tough shining new women have demanded this and that, like men not going inside them at will, either naked or with instruments, to tear them up, knock them up, beat them up, fuck them up, etc. and suddenly, the ladies have crawled out of the woodwork. so I go to pee in the classy lounge where the toilets are, and one of the ass wigglers doesnt talk to me. I mean, Im peeing, shes peeing, so who the fuck does she think she is. so the line is drawn. but its been drawn before. in fact its been drawn right across my own goddam flesh, its been drawn in high heeled ladies boots trampling over me to get into print. I mean, I cant make a living. the boys like the ass wigglers.
so I work you know. I mean, I fucking work. but theres work I wont take on, like certain kinds of ass wiggling at certain specific moments. the crucial moments. like when the male editor wants that ass to move back and forth this way and that. as a result, I am what is euphemistically referred to as a poor person. I am ass breaking poor and no person either. a woman is what I am, a hisser, a goddam fucking poor woman who stays goddam fucking poor because she doesnt fuck various jerks around town.
its the white glove syndrome. the queen must be naked except for the white gloves. while hes fucking her raw she has to pretend shes sitting with her legs closed proper and upright and while hes sitting with his legs closed handing out work assignments she has to pretend shes fucking him until she drops dead from it. yeah its tough on her. its tougher on me.
I dont mean for this to be bitter. I dont know from bitter. its true that morning fell flat on its ass and when morning breaks its shit to clean it up. and I dont much like sleeping either because I have technicolor dreams in which strangers try to kill me in very resourceful ways. and its true that since the ass wiggler snubbed me in the toilet of the ritzy hotel I get especially upset when I go to pee in my own house (house here being a euphemism for apartment, room, or hovel--as in her own shithole which she does not in any sense own, in other words, where she hangs her nonexistent hat) and remember that the food stamps ran out and I have $11.14 in the bank. bleak, Arctic in fact, but not bitter. because I do still notice some things I particularly like. the sun, for instance, or the sky even when the sun isnt in it. I mean, I like it. I like trees. I like them all year long, no matter what. I like cold air. Im not one of those complainers about winter which should be noted since so many people who pretend to love life hate winter. I like the color red a lot and purple drives me crazy with pleasure. I churn inside with excitement and delight every time a dog or cat smiles at me. when I see a graveyard and the moon is full and everything is covered with snow I wonder about vampires. you cant say I dont like life.
people ask, well, dont sweet things happen? yes, indeed. many sweet things. but sweet doesnt keep you from dying. making love doesnt keep you from dying unless you get paid. writing doesnt keep you from dying unless you get paid. being wise doesnt keep you from dying unless you get paid. facts are facts. being poor makes you face facts which also does not keep you from dying.
people ask, well, why dont you tell a story the right way, you woke up then what happened and who said what to whom. I say thats shit because when you are ass fucking poor every day is the same. you worry. ok. she had brown hair and brown eyes and she worried. theres a story for you. she worried when she peed and she worried when she sat down to figure out how far the $11.14 would go and what would happen when it was gone and she worried when she took her walk and saw the pretty tree. she worried day and night. she choked on worry. she ate worry and she vomited worry and no matter how much she shitted and vomited the worry didnt come out, it just stayed inside and festered and grew. she was pregnant with worry, hows that? so how come the bitch doesnt just sell that ass if shes in this goddam situation and its as bad as she says. well, the bitch did, not just once but over and over, long ago, but not so long ago that she doesnt remember it. she sold it for a corned beef sandwich and for steak when she could get it. she sold it for a bed to sleep in and it didnt have to be her own either. she ate speed because it was cheaper than food and she got fucked raw in exchange for small change day after day and night after night. she did it in ones twos threes and fours with onlookers and without. so she figures shes wiggled her ass enough for one lifetime and the truth is she would rather be dead if only the dying wasnt so fucking slow and awful and she didnt love life goddam it so much. the truth is once you stop you stop. its not something you can go back to once its broken you in half and you know what it means. I mean, as long as youre alive and you know what trading in ass means and you stop, thats it. its not negotiable. and the woman for whom it is not negotiable is anathema.
for example, heres a typical vignette. not overdrawn, underdrawn. youre done yr days work, fucking. youre home. so some asshole man thinks thats his time. so he comes with a knife and since hes neighborhood trade you try to calm him down. most whores are pacifists of the first order. so he takes over yr room, takes off his shirt, lays down his knife. thats yr triumph. the fuck isnt anything once the knife is laid down. only the fuck is always something. you have to pretend that you won. then you got to get him to go but hes all comfy isnt he. so another man comes to the door and you say in an undertone, this fuckers taken over my house. so it turns out man 2 is a hero, he comes in and says what you doing with my woman. and it turns out man 2 is a big drug dealer and man 1 is a fucking junkie. so you listen to man 1 apologize to man 2 for fucking his woman. so man 1 leaves. guess who doesnt leave? right. man 2 is there to stay. so he figures hes got you and he does. and he fucking tries to bite you to death and you lie still and groan because you owe him and he fucking bites you near to death. between yr legs, yr clitoris, he fucking bites and bites. then he wants breakfast. so once you been through it enough, enough is enough.
ah, you say, so this explains it, whores hate men because whores see the worst, what would a whore be doing with the best. but the truth is that a whore does the worst with the best. the best undress and reduce to worse than the rest. besides, all women are whores and thats a fact. at least all women with more than $11.14 in the bank. me too. shit, I should tell you what I did to get the $11.14. nothing wrong with being a whore. nothing wrong with working in a sweatshop. nothing wrong with picking cotton. nothing wrong with nothing.
I like the books these jerko boys write. I mean, and get paid for. its interesting. capital, labor, exploitation, tomes, volumes, journals, essays, analyses. all they fucking have to do is stop trading in female ass. apparently its easier to write books. it gives someone like me a choice. laugh to death or starve to death. Ive always been pro choice. the ladies are very impressed with those books. its a question of physical coordination. some people can read and wiggle ass simultaneously. ambidextrous.
so now Im waiting and thinking. Anne Frank and Sylvia Plath leap to mind. they both knew Nazis when they saw them, at some point. there were a lot of ass wigglers in the general population around them wiggling ass while ovens filled and emptied. wiggling ass while heroes goosestepped or wrote poetry. wiggling ass while women, those old fashioned women who did nothing but hope or despair, died. this new woman is dying too, of poverty and a broken heart. the heart broken like fine china in an earthquake, the earth rocking and shaking under the impact of all that goddam ass wiggling going off like a million time bombs. an army of whores cannot fail--to die one by one so that no one has to notice. meanwhile one sad old whore who stopped liking it has a heart first cracked then broken by the ladies who wiggle while they work.
"the new womans broken heart" copyright © 1978, 1979, 1980 by Andrea Dworkin. All rights reserved. First published in Heresies, Vol. 2, No. 3, spring 1979.