The Painful Victory

Several years ago, before the birth of my first son, I had a dream. I was working on my dissertation. I had just watched the Manchurian Candidate, a great source of nightmares. In the dream, I fought off a fearsome dragon in front of a committee, which was apparently there to evaluate my performance. They stared blankly at me, as I wielded whatever pathetic weapon I had–my arm, a stick, something–and fought. I fought hard.

I won.

But the victory was lame. The dragon became part of me, a scar on my cheek. Everyone packed up their papers and left.

I won, and no one noticed. No one cared.

It took years to see the full breadth of that image. I had been marked, and everyone should have known. Yet it was as if I had never fought a glorious battle and prevailed. I don’t want to say this is a specifically feminine experience, because there are many who have fought, won, and really, in the end, lost. Because the victory never met with acknowledgement. It became a badly healed wound, something that mars us. Something people look away from, pretend not to be inspecting.

But still, still. You beat the dragon. You did. And there is no difference now, between you and it.

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