What This Woman Wants
“As children grew, what did I need? I needed a man who rushed home from a rehearsal with not just a clarinet in his musician’s backpack, but buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken (no, this wasn’t a staple, but when I was on deadline with three children to feed, I wasn’t always fussy). A woman needs a partner who will order pizza, who will run to the deli for bagels, or who will bring out the donut maker he scored at a garage sale and entertain the children while she sleeps in on a Saturday morning. As the boys continued to grow, and I became busier with my writing career, I needed food to sustain my long hours at the computer.”—Kathryn E. Livingston
Words & Wonder
By Kathryn E. Livingston
BOGOTA New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—1 February 2023—When one of our grown sons was in high school, the Honors English teacher posed the question “What do women want?” She was probably discussing Portrait of a Lady, The Great Gatsby, or some other literary work, though my son doesn’t recall and neither do I. What I do recall is my son’s answer when the teacher surveyed the room, pressing various young scholars for their responses. “Food,” was my boy’s serious, curt, and dry response.
Ms. M (not her real initial) was not at all amused. Hearing of the exchange later that day, I was annoyed that my son’s response was summarily dismissed. His answer was authentic, and it was certainly true based on his experience of living in a house for 16 years with myself, his hungry but loving mother.
Such answers as “love, respect, trust, children, a compassionate spouse, an intellectual equal, a soul mate, a fulfilling career, to make a difference, to feel valued or honored” . . . and so on, may have garnered more approval from the teacher and classmates. But were these answers really true? What more could a woman want than food? (And perhaps new shoes?)
I’d like to know. In our home, food was always of paramount importance, at least to me, a woman. Many reasons played into this; my boy might have done better if he’d pontificated a bit, as a worthy English major would (but that is not his style, nor was he ever to become an English major). He knew his mother highly valued food—not just because I enjoy eating, but because I had communicated to him and my other male offspring that a partner who provides food is an asset.
When a baby is born, what does a woman need most? I know I needed something to eat other than the bland rot they were offering back in the day at the hospital. I was a nursing mother, and I needed some serious sustenance. So instead of settling for pudding and tasteless meatloaf, I sent my husband out for a fresh roast beef sandwich and salt and vinegar chips. A mate who arrives at a new mother’s bedside with chocolate ice cream, a warm pretzel, or a dish of pho, communicates true caring. The answer, Ms. M: Food.
As children grew, what did I need? I needed a man who rushed home from a rehearsal with not just a clarinet in his musician’s backpack, but buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken (no, this wasn’t a staple, but when I was on deadline with three children to feed, I wasn’t always fussy). A woman needs a partner who will order pizza, who will run to the deli for bagels, or who will bring out the donut maker he scored at a garage sale and entertain the children while she sleeps in on a Saturday morning.
As the boys continued to grow, and I became busier with my writing career, I needed food to sustain my long hours at the computer. I had already toiled in the kitchen for many years, providing healthy organic meals (which sometimes involved three different shapes of pasta—linguini, penne, and ziti—to accommodate the palates of three picky young males) at least three nights and sometimes four nights a week (to clarify, I did not serve pasta every night). On the other nights I needed food delivered or made for me. A woman needs a partner who will fire up the grill or toss a salad, a dude who won’t flinch at opening his wallet, even though there is not a lot of cash on hand.
In later life, with the children gone their separate ways, how could I not want an exquisite French meal, an authentic Italian feast, a visit to various farm-to-tables, a meaningful relationship with every taco joint within walking distance?
It’s been years since my son graduated from high school and college, got married, found a great job, learned to cook, discovered what his wife wants . . . and I swear his answer is still the same. He and his beloved love to eat (and neither is overweight). He honors her with bubble tea, with macarons, with bowls overflowing with quinoa, beets, and healthy greens. He learned from his mother what women want. We want food because food shows us that men don’t expect us to do all the cooking, bake all the bread, do all the shopping, clean up after all the kids’ plates, and so on. A lover who provides food, a spouse or partner or mate or significant other of any ilk who feeds (but ahem, not over-feeds) is a valued prize.
And so, I stand by son’s answer. Women want food. Or at the very least, this woman does.
Now I need to get my ass over to Bertha’s Colombian.
Thanks, Eley! And, the coffee’s good there, too…handy place to have nearby!