Want

I’ve been thinking and writing about how women
are coached—cajoled, shamed, guilted—into practicing gratitude as
yet one more desirable character trait for the fairer sex. (Read: as yet
another way of telling us to sit down).

An entire industry has made a business of reminding women to
settle in with a cup of tea before the sun rises, while the grass is still
wet. To fill our journals not with secret longings or the yearnings that
won’t quit but with lists of what we already have. Take a moment to
think about all you have, they tell us. We should be thankful, always
mindful of what we have, hashtag blessed.

There’s a sweetness to the idea, but also an idiocy. Children
recite back letters of the alphabet and the colors of wooden blocks
because they are still learning words, shades, and hues.
I’d like to see a man’s face should a friend or counselor suggest
he walk into a bookstore and choose a journal that really speaks to
him, one he can use to record the things he’s most thankful for when
he finds himself feeling blue. No need to dwell on what is or isn’t. Just
note what’s there, Greg, and be grateful for it.

Take a minute and picture Greg’s face.

I know my letters and my colors without anyone quizzing me
or reminding me to list the names. I would cheerfully bite into those
antique pearl buttons that are colored like scoops of sherbet if I
didn’t know for sure that I’d break my teeth, and sometimes I see a
certain salmon color of fall leaves and my fingers itch to pick leaves
from branches and eat them like candy.
Women are taught that desire is ugly, that to covet something is like
being caught with our hands in our pants. It is a hard thing, and
we are soft. Why does not just requesting our due but expecting it
make us rude, turn us into something pushy and dangerous? Is it
that having what we want will make us powerful? Will getting what
we’ve earned position us as a threat? If a desirous woman is ugly, is
she eclipsed by the sated, powerful woman, truly the Medusa among
us? And why won’t the Medusa come and teach me her ways if so? I
want to be sated.

And why can I no longer tell the difference between what I’ve
been taught, what I have learned, and what I believe?
Meanwhile men are coached and encouraged—and to be fair,
maybe pushed and bullied—into achieving. Into pushing over and
walking on and rushing past and demanding more. I’m sure it’s no
picnic either.

But theirs is not the picnic I’m at, and I’m tired today of being
grateful. I don’t care if this makes me ugly. I don’t need patriarchal
instructions regarding the patterning of my heart, how to organize
myself to feel a lot of gratitude here or just a smidge of desire there,
as long as it isn’t too much and doesn’t cause anyone discomfort.

Don’t suggest I add the color pink to my journal when what I’m tell-
ing you is that I want to scale trees naked and eat October. Don’t tell
me the right way to name what I see and want or which words I can
use to describe those things even in conversation with myself.
I once had a dream that I was a wolf in wolf ’s clothing, a wolf
stuffed into a wolf suit, ready to hunt times two. I want so many
things it burns. If people ever knew the desire that throbs inside of
me, I can see how it might cause general discomfort all around.
Here is my prayer into the silence, to the [all knowing and
male-gendered] being I’m supposed to be most thankful to: thank
you for fall leaves and for so many colors. Thank you for the easy
weight in my hand of a gray stone warmed by sunlight. Thank you
for the belief I have in a goodness big enough for me to tell you that
I don’t think you’re real—I don’t—and to simultaneously believe that
if I’m wrong and you are real, I know you’ll understand my arrogance.
And real or pretend, I know you will also get it when I say this:
fuck gratitude. Fuck it so hard. Sit down, for the love of all things
holy, and let me tell you what I want. Let’s drink coffee and talk and
get hysterical all together at once. Because if you are real, you made
me to want since what I want is who I am. And if you aren’t real, it
doesn’t matter. Because who I am is what I want, and there’s no time
to be making gratitude lists when I am so busy wanting more and
more and more, which is to say, wanting only and nothing more
than myself in this world.

Photo of Ann Marie Brzozowski

Ann Marie Brzozowski is a teacher and a writer from the Small
Wonder—Delaware—a little state on the East Coast of the US. She
has no writing bio to speak of, but looks forward to a day when she
might. In the meantime, she is grateful for the words and stories
of others, which have pulled, are pulling, and will always pull her
through life.