Spinster, Shrew, Harridan by Amy Kiger-Williams

What kind of woman would I be if I didn’t define myself by the boyfriends in my life? Would I be the kind of woman who knew how to change a flat tire? Would I hang drywall in my apartment with a few other women friends? Would we make it a party, drink cabernet sauvignon and eat some Brie that I picked up at Whole Foods and placed on a makeshift table consisting of a small scrap of plywood and an upside down spackling bucket, because we would be inventive women who built walls where walls didn’t exist before and created everything out of nothing and didn’t need boyfriends to help us with anything, even finding a proper surface for our party foods? Would I be able to swap out a malfunctioning electrical socket with a brand new model that wouldn’t catch fire? Would I do all of the things that I sometimes wait for a boyfriend to do, or sometimes call a contractor who becomes (or hopes to become) a boyfriend, who might stay around for a little while because God forbid my apartment catches fire, or my walls fall inward on each other, crushing my party table? What would happen if my AAA membership lapses, leaving me and my deflated tire alone, stranded by the side of the highway, waiting for another boyfriend to come and help hoist the car up on the jack?

What kind of woman would I be if I could hoist the car up on the jack?

What kind of woman would I be if I didn’t feel alone without a warm body next to me in the bed? Would I fall asleep easily? Would I still take Ambien? Would a dog help? Would it have to be a large dog, or would a little pup suffice? How about a cat? Would a cat actually make me look like the sort of woman who couldn’t get a boyfriend? Would I be a spinster? A shrew? A harridan?

What is a harridan, anyway?

What kind of woman would I be if I considered the idea of spending my hours not being a woman who is waiting to catch fire with a boyfriend who tells me he likes the arrangement like this, the way that no one knows about us, as if we are a sweet, horrible secret, or a second boyfriend, who doesn’t love me at all, who is using me, my women friends tell me over wine and a cheese plate, who borrows money sometimes when he runs short on the 28th of the month, then forgets that he had just borrowed money when the 1st of the month rolls around, his bank account newly plump again, who wants me to take his dog for a while, since he can’t afford him, for Christ’s sake! or a third boyfriend who got mad at me for being me and called me a spinster, a shrew, and a harridan, who I see driving past my apartment, past my job, past the Walgreens when I’m picking up my monthly supply of Ambien, past the restaurant where I’m having dinner with the first or second boyfriend, past my car in the Home Depot parking lot where I have parked because I have decided to become a woman who can swap out a malfunctioning electrical socket, a woman who can put up a wall with the help of her cabernet-drinking, Brie-eating friends? What would happen if right at that moment, I notice that my car’s left rear tire, the one resting on a yellow line in the Home Depot parking lot, is flat, goddamn it, and the third boyfriend sees his chance, and he steps out of his car that he’s parked threateningly behind mine and says with a fake smile in his voice, “Hey, funny seeing you here, do you need a hand?” What kind of person am I when I think about how I don’t want to be a woman stranded by the side of a highway, or in a Home Depot parking lot, or ever, ever a woman at the mercy of a man’s help, and I smile with all of the teeth in my mouth so he won’t get angry at me for being me, and I say, “No, thank you, I’ve got this?”

What are the walls that I am building where no walls existed before when I decide to create everything out of nothing?

Who am I when I realize that I don’t need a boyfriend to help me with anything?

And what kind of woman am I in that very moment when I finally reach into the trunk of my car and I pull out the jack?

Amy Kiger-Williams holds an MFA in Fiction from Rutgers-Newark. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Yale Review Online, South Carolina Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Gone Lawn, and Cleaver, among others. She is at work on a novel and a short story collection. You can read more of her work at amykigerwilliams.com and follow her on Twitter at @amykw. 

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