And then she brought up the unfortunate expression I had used when talking to her on the telephone: “Did you say that in the war you were “combing pussy out of your hair’?” I said I was sorry I’d said it, and I was. “I never heard that expression before,” she said. “I had to guess what it meant.” “Just forget I said it,” I said. “You want to know what my guess was? I guessed that wherever you went there were women who would do anything for food or protection for themselves and the children and the old people, since the young men were dead or gone away,” she said. “How close was I?” “Oh my, oh my, oh my,” I said. “What’s the matter, Rabo?” she said. “You hit the nail on the head,” I said.
“Wasn’t very hard to guess,” she said. “The whole point of war is to put women everywhere in that condition. It’s always men against women, with the men only pretending to fight among themselves.” “They can pretend pretty hard sometimes,” I said. “They know that the ones who pretend the hardest,” she said, “get their pictures in the paper and medals afterwards.”
“Do you have an artificial leg?” she said. “No,” I said. “Lucrezia, the woman who let you in, lost a leg along with her eye. I thought maybe you’d lost one, too.” “No such luck,” I said. “Well—” she said, “early one morning she crossed a meadow, carrying two precious eggs to a neighbor who had given birth to a baby the night before. She stepped on a mine. We don’t know what army was responsible. We do know the sex. Only a male would design and bury a device that ingenious. Before you leave, maybe you can persuade Lucrezia to show you all the medals she won.”
And then she added: “Women are so useless and unimaginative, aren’t they? All they ever think of planting in the dirt is the seed of something beautiful or edible. The only missile they can ever think of throwing at anybody is a ball or a bridal bouquet.” I said with utmost fatigue, “O.K., Marilee— you’ve certainly made your point. I have never felt worse in my life. I only wish the Arno were deep enough to drown myself in. Can I please return to my hotel?” “No,” she said. “I think I’ve reduced you to the level of self-esteem which men try to force on women. If I have, I would very much like to have you stay for the tea I promised you. Who knows? We might even become friends again”.
From Kurt Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard” (1987).