Shortly after my grandparents were married, my Papa came home late after an evening of hanging with the boys. To his consternation, he found the door locked and the house dark. He pounded on the door, and after a few minutes, my Grandma showed up with her pistol, shouting, “Who’s there?” “It’s your husband,” my Papa wailed, “Please open the door!” My Grandma said, “Any husband of mine would have been home long ago spending the evening with his lovely wife. So it can’t be my husband.” She kept the pistol pointed at him through the window while he begged and pleaded to be let in. After about ten minutes, she unlocked the door and lowered the pistol. “Your dinner’s in the oven,” she told him. He, not any wiser at this point, said, “But I ate with the boys.” She turned the gun back on him: “I said your dinner’s in the oven.” And she kept the gun pointed at him until he ate every bite. When he would tell this story in later years, he would add at the end, very quietly, “And that dinner was cold, too.”
My Grandma’s sister was made of similar stuff. She once showed up at her next-door neighbor’s house with a bloodied baseball bat and said, “Flo, could you help me out? I think I just killed my husband.” Turns out they had been having an argument over who got to use the phone. But she hadn’t killed him–they stayed married until the end.
And while I’ve never seen my dad pull a gun on anyone, I have seen my mom do it. A pizza delivery guy once showed up at the house when I was young, insisting, despite my mom’s assertion otherwise, that he had the right address: “Bitch, you’re gonna open the door and pay for this!” That’s when my mom pulled out her .357 (because she liked a lot of stopping power) and flashed it at him through the window. He could barely keep from tripping over himself as he ran back to his car.
Growing up among such women, I never really understood feminism as an ideology or political point of view–it was a survival strategy. To exhibit disrespect toward a woman was to end up on the wrong end of a pistol or baseball bat. It took me longer than it should have to understand that even strong women like these could be beset by structural inequalities. That said, my first reaction upon hearing the latest revelation of Donald Trump’s disgusting attitude toward women was: “How is this man still alive?”
At the end of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (which title may as well be the motto for this year), the killer called The Misfit says of his latest victim, “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” And I can’t help but to think that maybe Donald Trump could have been a decent person if only he’d had a Grandma packing heat.