I was raised by women. For the longest time women were all I knew. My brother kept himself enough apart, and was enough older, that I cannot say that I knew him, not until much later, when we were adults and started giving up our secrets to each other.
I was raised by women, and now I find myself among men. Even the cat is male. And still I don’t fully understand men. My sons remain opaque to me, though once they were of me. Their habits, their comforts, their smell are the foreign language I cannot seem to master. The prosody of their chatter tempts me, and I can follow along when they remember to speak slowly, but I will never be a native speaker of their tongue.
There is a certain freedom in landing here on Mars, I will admit, even at a distance never less than seventy-five million miles from Venus. My sons and husband cannot expect me to act according to stereotype when they remain relatively unaware of the content of that stereotype. (My husband has no sister who might have taught him such things early on.) So I follow no prescription. But now and then I am lonely in this place, separated as I am from my first tribe. I do not often feel understood. Tolerated, yes. Loved, yes.
And as my boys grow older, the gap between us widens, unnoticeable in a 24-hour span, perhaps, but perceptible in weeks and months. I call to them, and they cannot make out the signal for the noise. They do nod encouragingly, ready to oblige in the event that they receive some intelligible instruction.
My children will be grown to men in one reluctant heartbeat. I am certain they will remain amiable and affectionate. I will tousle their hair and wish them well. I will adore them.
But in truth they are as little known to me as my cat, who gazes at me with a ferocity I keep mistaking for intention.