Define a Good Woman

KB Carle

My doctor’s tell me I’m depressed because I’m chronically ill. My mother says I’m chronically ill because I’m depressed. My father doesn’t believe — or acknowledge — my depression. You’re just tired, he says. My husband acknowledges my depression too much. Bad day, he says holding my hand, rubbing my back, poking and prodding my tightened muscles, searching for any signs of life.

Wilma Flintstone washes dishes made of stone with water that shoots from a mammoth’s blue trunk. She never questions the amount of nose-dew she spreads on her plates, cups, and knives. Doesn’t acknowledge the “ow” that escapes the mammoth when she tugs on his nose too hard. She’s a housewife, and the last thing she needs is to acknowledge that her appliances have feelings.

I think I’ll die in this bed. Not today, but someday, wrapped in fleece sheets covered in Canadian Geese.

Wilma was supposed to have a baby boy during season three of The Flintstones until someone came up with the ideal Flintstone toy for little girls. Imagine Fred’s surprise to find Wilma in the baby’s room, packing three paychecks worth of clothes and toys.

My husband believes my body is made of glass. The slightest touch or harsh word will cause me to splinter and shatter. I tell him I am the rubber stick of a hot glue gun. I bend over toilets, straighten as doctors prescribe new treatments. My body melts when being pushed through MRI machines and wheelchairs, until I’m unrecognizable and adhering to the nearest surface.

Wilma doesn’t know her best friend and neighbor, Betty Rubble, will adopt a baby boy one season after Fred returns the items meant for their son.

My father finds me in bed when he and my mother come to visit. He asks if I’m coming downstairs. I tell him I can’t. I have a fever. My legs are swollen. My bones are at war with every muscle in my body. He closes the door. I hear him go downstairs, tell my mother that I’m sleeping.

Wilma complains to Fred that the garbage disposal is broken. She balances their sleeping daughter, Pebbles, on her hip, vacuums with one foot, irons with her free hand. In a minute, says Fred, rubbing his hands together and smacking his lips, his ritual before devouring his Bronto Burger. Wilma rolls her eyes. Pebbles wakes and starts to cry.

My husband and I link arms in the park and I don’t shrink away from his touch. I rub my nose into his arm. He laughs and kisses my forehead. We are in college again. In love again.

For date night, Fred takes Wilma bowling. At first, she crosses her legs and pouts, complains Fred never thinks about her and what she likes. Oh Fred, she says when he asks if she’s having fun. Before Fred apologizes, before Wilma asks Fred if he knows what he’s apologizing for, Mr. Slate — Fred’s boss — laughs. That’s all it takes to send Wilma into a rage, nobody laughs at her Fred. She grabs his stone ball, tiptoes just like Fred taught her, and releases. Strike, she says and smirks at Mr. Slate. She picks up Fred, flings him over her shoulder. Makes him promise to take her dancing next time.

My mother sits on the edge of my bed and tells me I have a good man. I tell her I know, and I do know, just like I know I’m not a good woman.

Fred exchanges the old garbage disposal for a new one. Wilma kisses his cheek. Pebbles claps and Dino barks, running circles around the whole family. Everyone laughs. The credits play. No one talks about what happens to the now homeless pigasaurus — a purple pig with tusks, black spots, and purple spines running down his back — that’s been eating the Flintstone’s trash for years.

I imagine another woman. How she fills a room with her scent — sometimes pine or bacon. Burning leaves would be her favorite scent. My husband’s favorite scent. My imaginary woman wouldn’t calculate how long to laugh at a joke, edit her response to are you okay? She just knows things. She knows she is the imaginary woman. Knows how to love my husband, be the daughter my parents miss. She knows I’m upstairs imagining her. My imaginary woman knows that the strength to leave this bed will never find me, that I’ll only burrow deeper under the covers.

Fred and Wilma Flintstone are one of the first television couples to sleep in the same bed. If you ask Fred, he’ll say they were the first animated couple to do so. Take that Jetson! Wilma giggles her signature giggle knowing her husband’s secret. That he can only sleep when they’re cuddled up together, his arm wrapped around her waist. He knows when she’s having a nightmare by the way her body curves and clenches. During those moments, she feels his arm tighten around her, feels his lips find her in the dark.

I have settled on a life where I live in this bed. Where my husband crawls in and asks can I touch you? I love the sound of his voice in the dark, how it seeps into my skin. No I say, because his voice isn’t enough. Just let me look at you. We stare at one another until he tells me about his day. Until I tell him I’m sure my father will never understand. How my mother does but doesn’t know what to do. I feel his fingers brush against mine. The small why that slips from his lips when I pull away. I can’t I say. I see my husband’s face in the dark. His skin a sheath pulled over bone, eyes searching for a version of me that is trapped in bed springs. Trapped in something no one can name but keeps me confined to a room with no locks.


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