Sharpest Knife In the Drawer

Are some things better left unsaid? Emily isn’t saying “yes” or “no”. But she does have something to say about the sheer power of words. In particular the words uttered by a woman.

#479, c. 1862

She dealt her pretty words like Blades —
How glittering they shone —
And every One unbared a Nerve
Or wantoned with a Bone —

She never deemed — she hurt —
That — is not Steel’s Affair —
A vulgar grimace in the Flesh —
How ill the Creatures bear —

To Ache is human — not polite —
The Film upon the eye
Mortality’s old Custom —
Just locking up — to Die.

A woman with a mouth on her is just about the most dangerous thing in the world. Isn’t that right? If she controls the words, she controls everything. Steer clear. Run and hide! She will flay you right open.

(It’s been said many times that the thing women fear the most from men is that men will kill them. The thing the men fear the most from women is that women will laugh at them. Which is, of course, a fate worse than death.)

A woman has to be careful with her words, as if she carries a razor-sharp switchblade in her purse. The trouble is that when you’re really good at something, it’s hard to remember to be responsible and compassionate with your talent. That’s like asking the sharpest knife in the drawer not to do what it was born and cultivated to do: Cut.

For example, let’s say you do carry around the verbal equivalent of a razor-sharp switchblade in your purse. It would be really hard not to use it because it’s right there, after all. Easy to get to. Enormous power to cause absolute ruin in one small movement on the blade. You change everything by using your own extraordinary talent, even to its most destructive ends. That way you can know your power. It’s exhilarating. You’d have to be a saint to resist that temptation. Who among us can really say we are saintly? At most we can only hope to imitate the saints.

My take on Emily’s thrust here is to observe that women will use what they have. It’s a mistake to insist that they must deploy their power with more compassion than anyone else. They will do what they do, and use the talents they possess. That’s only natural.

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