Maybe If You Were a Man (Story by Risa Peris)

I was not a person people tended to like. I was a fighter even as a child. I used to beat up older boys when I was three and dressed in jumper dresses at my older brother’s baseball games. 

“Robert, come get your baby sister,” yelled one of my victims. Robert was on the mound and waved off the boy. He did a poor pitch and then went to the dugout and yelled at me. 

“Ah, shut up you stupid fool.”

“Mom!” Robert wanted to hit me. 

“Carolina, come sit down.” Mom was embarrassed and tired. 

“Baseball is stupid.” I kicked a rock on the grass.

I was never popular at school. I was smart. Just not popular. The bullying started in fourth grade and went straight through to high school. When I went to college I thought I might garner some friends. I didn’t. I wasn’t well liked. However, my intelligence was respected. There was no bullying except it couldn’t stifle my anger or bewilderment. 

Why was I unlikable?

In law school, I met Daniel. He was smarter than me in Constitutional Law though not in Civil Procedure. Daniel approached me at a party at a bar. 

“We could make a good pair. A team.”

After law school, we married and I moved to Kansas with him. I got a job at the same law firm as Daniel. Daniel was popular. He was harder than me, less pleasant, more aggressive, and constantly argumentative. And yet he was popular like in high school. 

Daniel ran for office. He made it to the House and I ran the campaign as much as I could. I was often his speech writer. Daniel’s star continued to rise. Daniel then became Senator. I was now working part-time at the law firm and overseeing his staff. Daniel became even more aggressive and belligerent. 

“Can’t mess with Stevenson.” It was a statement by a reporter on TV and it stuck. 

I should note my popularity never increased. Daniel told be to back off running his staff. My law firm yanked me off cases where clients didn’t find me pleasant. I didn’t understand. I was easier to speak with than Daniel and, quite frankly, all the men at the law firm. 

Daniel made a bid for president. His campaign advisor approached me. “Hang back a little. Try to keep a low profile. If you two are interviewed together, defer to Daniel.”

I was offended. “Why?” I asked. 

“You aren’t liked.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know why. Maybe if you were a man…you might have gone far. There’s something sharp and shrill about you that people don’t like in women. You barely smile.”

“Neither does, Daniel.”

“I know. There are two standards though. You must have realized that by now.”

I walked out of the room and went to the bathroom and cried. Then I smirked. If I cried in public then I would be a weak woman. I’m aggressive in public and I’m irate and overly aggressive. I kept crying, not because of the unfairness of it all, but because I knew Daniel was cheating on me. I decided to leak it and play the poor wife. Maybe my popularity rate would go up. I realized that even in matters of the heart I was hard and strategizing. Maybe like a man would.