The Secret to What Men Want: A Review of The Robber Bride

The Secret to What Men Want: A Review of The Robber Bride

Zenia, the title character in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Robber Bride, is a charismatic and beautiful woman who knows just what it takes to steal the hearts of taken men. The heroines of the book, Tony, Roz, and Charis, don’t quite understand what witchcraft she uses to cast a spell on their men and lure them to their deaths as a sea siren would to lovelorn shipmates. And because she remains enigmatic and elusive ’til the end, we know nothing of who she is either, as we are left to wonder what compels a woman to steal others and what does she possess that men willingly leave their loved ones for her? I have faced women like Zenia before, friends in sheep’s clothing, who are really wolves who bare their teeth when a man is introduced. This type of woman is broken, but also sure of who they are; so sure that they feel they can take whomever they want.

In the book, Zenia tells tall tales of what her past may have been, making the heroines feel as if they must defend and protect her, but what really is the past of a woman such as this? Women like Zenia steal their friend’s husbands because they crave love and acceptance and get a rush when a man leaves his wife/girlfriend for her because they feel it must mean they are better than them. These women feel as if they are just as good or better than them if they are chosen by the man, which is a false equivalency, but one they believe nonetheless. Typically, they know their worth because the outside world and men constantly barrage them with these things. They know their strengths lie in their beauty and their presence, so they use these tools to their advantage. However, they have no sense of worth internally, so they try to fill this chasm up with things that don’t belong to them. To take another woman’s man is to take her sense of worth and in it, boost hers; but it never lasts long because that chasm opened when they were young and is a separate issue. These women were hurt by the absence or neglect of their fathers, and as such, they seek a forbidden love when they grow up to try to replace it.

I know those girls didn’t really want my boyfriend. They wanted the promise of getting him, which entailed becoming someone who was loved, but because they didn’t love themselves, they could scarcely accept that same love in return. That is why Zenia never loved any of the men she stole, because she was never looking for love. She wanted to be loved, but she didn’t want to love. To love means to be vulnerable, and she knew she would never be vulnerable again because she’d been hurt so much in the past. And then the real question rears its head: What did she have that all these men wanted? What was her secret? She knew how to have them best fulfill their role as protector, which made them feel good about themselves. When you make a person feel as if they have succeeded in their role, they will adore you.

What is the role of a man in a hetero-normative relationship? Is it always to be the protector? Isn’t that misogynistic? It definitely is. Unfortunately, society has bequeathed the role of provider and protector unto men and nurturer unto women and this is something that we still need to contend with, but we also need to acknowledge that it deeply affects who we are as of today. In situations where one spouse falls seriously ill, more men than women tend to leave the ill spouse. In one case of study participants, the divorce rate was 21 percent for the husbands of seriously ill women and 3 percent for the wives of seriously ill men. I don’t think men have any less compassion than women. The issue here is that men have been conditioned to be protectors and when their wives are dying of cancer, they feel helpless as if they have failed their jobs, so they leave. It’s easier to be alone than it is to be reminded of your failures when you look at your sick wife. This is not a condemnation of men, but of what society has ingrained into us who we should be and what our purpose is.

Zenia, and women like her, know this. Perhaps they know more because they saw their fathers leave. Or they know that most people want to love, but they don’t care about being loved back. Because of their unique position where they can’t accept love, they can cater to the whims of their beloved without being beholden to them. They understand that their worth lies in how they make men and others feel about themselves. Zenia not only plays men, but also the women, making them feel worthy of tending to her. In the end, it’s simply not about what men want, but what everyone wants. The secret is to know what exactly it is that each person is looking for to feel better about themselves, and that is what Zenia knows.

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The Places We Were

I don’t hear your voice anymore

Nor do I catch myself catching your face in the crowds.

I left an impression on you

While the memory you etched in me dissipates.

And yet,

I can still recall the way to your house,

Perched on top of the hill,

Reminding me of things gone by.

Perhaps you remember too,

Which is why you visit me

In the in-between world of dreams.

Hoping against hope that you can find a way back

To who we were.

To the stories we told ourselves about the future

And to something that could never be.

Because that restaurant we loved closed,

That park with the lake outgrew us,

And the house that we built fell apart.

And yet,

A part of me searches for it in the dark,

For that place calls to me as well,

Whispering that all things are possible

When I lay myself to sleep.





A Limbo of Oddities

There is a way this world is built

That exits in a limbo of oddities.

Mud and sand changed into mortar and bricks

And the people thought it was a revolution,

Never realizing it did not change who they were.

So they can unravel DNA and fly to the moon,

But not understand the human soul.

For the soul has been forgotten,

Replaced with the glittery gems of yonder.

We build our foundations on quicksand

If we do not understand ourselves.

We call this the civilized world

Because we don’t execute in the streets,

But we do far worse by sweeping

Our problems under the rug.

Pretending they do not exist if we can’t see.

And yet, they fester as wounds always do.

And we wonder why we cannot progress faster

When we can’t even help ourselves.

Lust and the Objectifier

Lust, in it’s most carnal form, is desire.  It is coveting something that is currently not in your possession, for lust seeks to devour and possess all that is the object of obsession.   When a person lusts, the sentiment consumes all of who they are, and they make rash decisions because they can see no others but their beloved.  In actuality, lust has nothing to do with the object, but only the objectifier.  We seek to make sense of our lust by placing the onus on the object because it takes the weight off of us, but they may feel only apathy for us.  In truth, we revel in our feelings of lust because we build it ourselves.  We induce our own pain and suffering in the name of ‘love’ because we feel as if we are the jilted lover, but love is something different altogether.

Love is when you want to live with someone, but lust is when you can’t live without them.  We like to confuse the two to make ourselves feel better, but lust is a different animal that wants to possess wholly, whereas love is when you set someone free because that is what is best for them.  The truth is we like making ourselves feel sick with lust because it feels better than nothing at all.  We like the intensity and drama it brings into our lives and how it makes us feel.  It gives us a purpose and we read fate into it because we want to.  Love is great, but there is no other feeling like lust, for lust is really just unrequited love.  And a lover in agony is always the best sort of protagonist.



The Dream Experiencers

What do the blind dream of if they cannot see?  What do babies dream of if they have not experienced?  How conscious are we when we are unconscious. slithering about in our subconscious?  How do you separate dream from reality if your mind reads it as one and the same?  How are those who are mentally unstable any different?  And yet, even in our dreams, we know what is and isn’t.  The rules may bend as the landscape, but we always know truths, as if we are never really asleep.  If our minds are always on, where does it go and what does it seek?  We create our own nightmares and fantasies that we would never encounter or imagine in our waking lives, because at our core, we are explorers and experiencers.  We want to experience what can and what can never be.

Immigrant Guilt: Living the American Dream

I’ve been up since 8 sitting in bed and watching videos. I only decided to get up because McDonald’s breakfast ends at 10 30 and now, I’m back in bed lounging about. Sometimes, I think, what would my ancestors and the people who came before me think about how lazy I am? I think everyone who is a 1st or 2nd generation immigrant has that immigrant guilt. Like, when they were running through the jungles of Laos, dodging bullets and jaguars ( I don’t know if there were jaguars. It’s not like I know that much about Laos), were they thinking ‘someday, my progeny is going to have the chance to do great things,’ and meanwhile, I’m just here eating my Egg Mcmuffin. It’s delicious. It tastes like hard-earned freedom. But you know what? They didn’t know about how great Youtube was. Or about how entertaining Netflix could be. They came from a time and a place where if half your children survived, you were considered lucky. And I do consider myself lucky, because I could not have made it in the rice paddies of Laos. I have Rosacea, which makes me allergic to the light, and Asthma, which means I’m weak as well. I would be the most useless person ever there, but not here. Here, it’s like I was born to watch Netflix inside my air-conditioned home with the blinds drawn while eating fast food. So, I have to thank you for risking your lives so I can do what I excel at: nothing.

Death in the Obituary Department


I work with death everyday.  I take calls about the dead.  I correct writing about the dead.  I confirm deaths.  What an odd job left for those who are living to undertake.  Inevitably, the omnipresence that is death seeps into your consciousness and you ponder what exactly is death.  What is the meaning of a life lived?  You’re left with more questions than answers and the thing I must accept is that all my questions are not meant to be answered.  Obituaries are quite mundane, spelling out the the accomplishments and progeny of a person, but not their hopes, dreams, and fears.  What happens after you die?

If anyone purports to know exactly what happens after you die, they are lying.  We fear death and so, we assuage our frightful thoughts with the imaginary, for we could only imagine what is life after death.  I used to think this arcane and foolish, but as of recently, I’ve come to accept that we all need a little imagination in our lives.  I would highly recommend a video with author Margaret Atwood, who explains that she knows what she believes is not real, but it’s a fantasy she’s willing to accept because it is better than reality.

That is religion in a nut shell, and I see how detrimental it can become.  Here, I offer a caveat.  Believe what you want, but know that belief is not knowledge.  Oftentimes, people confuse the two and then say things like the world is 6,000 years old or we should never use birth control.  And yet it is our fear of death that helps ingrain that belief is knowledge, when it is not.  When you understand fear, you can understand how powerful it is and how it can be used as a tool.  Death is but a reminder that all good things must come to an end.  And because of that, it is the only thing we will never overcome, so we must accept.  Accept who it is that you are, the body you reside in, the times you live in, what you can and cannot change, and live with what you have done.

The Unreliable Narrator: Why we tell stories

The Unreliable Narrator: Why we tell stories

Letting go of what you want

I sometimes wonder what this is all for.  Why we even try at all?  I know all of these things already, but the questions persist because there is so much chaos that exists in this world.  As I mature, I start to see what this world is really about and how it operates and I wonder at how people just blindly accept it, but at the same time, I know this is my reality for the moment.  As a kid, you hope for change and you aspire to be the agent of change, but as you grow, you see that you are but a cog in the machine.  And even without you, the machine churns on.  So what is it that we are to change?  I think we wanted to change the world, but we have to realize the world only changes when we change ourselves and our mindsets.

As emotional beings, we are constantly looking to be fulfilled, and that can be impossible at times, so we feel defeated and lethargic about ourselves and the reality we live in.  It is impossible to feel happy all the time, and we have to accept that.  We look for change in the world perhaps because we want the change to represent us, but if we choose to represent ourselves, the change is already apparent.  When you embody all that you believe in, you are living your truth and others will see it.  You can’t save the world and you can’t even save the people in your life and that is something you have to accept to be happy.  If you keep holding on to the idea that you will be able to enact change in one person or one cause, you will be sorely disappointed.  Know that you are doing your best and that is enough.

Oftentimes, we hold on to ideas because they are what we want the most in the world.  We want our friend to stop seeing that terrible guy.  We want that job promotion.  We want our mother to have a closer relationship to us.  We want a baby.  We want our children to be happy.  What we don’t realize is that if we keep holding on to these desires without any change, we will feel empty and disappointed that life did not go our way.  I’m not saying that you stop trying for these things, but that you stop desiring these things when they are out of your reach.  When you let go of your desire for what you want the most, you are truly free to accept what life gives you and simply enjoy it.  There is too much chaos that exists in this world to guarantee one way or another that you will fulfill your desires, but if you can let go of your expectations, you can change your mindset enough to enjoy what you do have.