Gender Disparity: Me and My Husband

Daily excerpts on gender dynamics in Romania.

Note: This is the original version of an article published in issue #37 of DoR magazine. You can read the Romanian version here.

My husband doesn’t show up. He isn’t answering my calls. Isn’t answering my lawyer’s call. My friend and I drive to his apartment—the one I left. I knock on the door, call and call. 10 AM, an hour after we were supposed to finalize our divorce at the only public notary in Bragadiru, he answers: I overslept. He appears in the doorway smelling like a beer factory, fresh scrapes on his face, arm and hand—he’d fallen off a scooter sober, and he definitely isn’t drunk now, he says. He’s drunk. He gets in the back seat, and we drive him there. The notary sets the papers down in front of my husband, and he says: You sign first because you’re the man.

Why do you have to be so demanding?

I’m in a cab on my way to the gym. Halfway into the ride the driver turns, points at my crossed legs, orders me to sit with both feet on the floor. I tell him I’m sitting just fine. He starts to yell, I ask him to pull over. I try to get out, but he grabs me by the arm and holds me down with one hand, grabs my backpack with the other. I somehow manage to get out of the cab. I don’t know where I am. The driver gets out, follows me to the sidewalk. He won’t leave. I call my husband, I call 112. My husband and a male colleague arrive. The driver gets in the back seat to re-enact for my husband how I’d been sitting unacceptably and hadn’t listened. Officers arrive; they don’t look at me, don’t ask me what happened. The colleague gives the driver a wad of cash. The officers shake the driver’s hand.

I’m in line at Regina Maria. The man next to me, a foreigner, says to the receptionist: You know, there are two ways to thank someone: you can say thanks or you can give a kiss. And I prefer to give a little kiss. She smiles nervously and thanks him. He leans toward her. That’s inappropriate, I say. Everyone in line stares. Was I talking to you? he says.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the beautiful tall blond poetess, Tara Skurtu. I’m at an international poetry festival sitting beside the cultural attaché of the U.S. Embassy. She’s shocked, asks if I get this a lot at public events. In general, no; in Romania: yes.

A couple guys walk into the bar and shake hands with each man at my table: Salut, salut, salut. They don’t shake my hand, don’t address me. What’s up with that, I ask a friend. Where I come from that’s rude. He tells me they’re just being polite, they don’t want to make me look like a whore.

Your book is taking over our relationship. But just so you know, I haven’t slept with anyone yet.

I’m negotiating a job offer. You aren’t planning on having kids anytime soon, are you?

At marriage counseling, I bring up the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. My husband responds: But I do take responsibility for my actions: I gaslight Tara!

You stick with your man no matter what.

At least, at the end of the day, you’re still a beautiful woman.

In one of the founding Romanian myths, the husband buries his wife alive inside the walls of a church. He sacrifices her to construct the place he’s imagined.

My ex-husband and I lived on Strada Ofrandei. I asked him what “ofrandei” meant. It’s something you give to get something. Like a sacrifice. Like what you do for a god.

Tara Skurtu is an american poet and creative writing teacher living in Romania. Her first book, The Amoeba Game, was published in 2018.

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