Remember Shel Silverstein's classic story The Giving Tree? In it, a female tree gives everything -- her apples, branches, even her trunk -- to this little boy she loves. She has a total martyr complex; it's messed up! So I started wondering, what if the genders were reversed?
THE TAKING TREE
Once there was a little girl...
and she loved a tall tree.
And every day the girl would come
and she would gather his leaves
and make them into compost to feed her friend, the tree.
She would climb up his trunk
and prune his branches
and eat apples, and she always deposited their cores in the compost pile.
And she would sing to the tree, and water him when he was thirsty,
and when she was tired, he would prod her with his branches, and put her back to work.
And the girl loved the tree...
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the girl grew older.
And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the girl came to the tree
and the tree said, "Hey girl, look at you.
All grown up now, eh? You're going to have to be careful when you climb my trunk to prune my branches, otherwise you might break me. Come on, give me a hug. And how about a song, too? I've been very sad, you see, all alone here, without you."
"I'm too big to climb and play with you," the girl said. "I want to buy things and have fun."
"You can have fun with me!" the tree replied.
"It's not the same. I have friends now. People friends."
"Oh, I get it. You don't like me anymore..."
"It's not that," the girl said. "It's just that, well, I need money. And I thought I'd take some of your apples with me to the city and sell them. Then I can go to college."
The tree laughed at this. "No way," the tree told her. "These are my apples. Some friend you are! Take a hike."
The girl felt badly that the tree seemed so hurt and angry. And so she came back the next day, and the day after that. When her friends would phone, the tree seemed very upset, and so she stopped returning their calls. Instead, she spent all of her time with the tree. She cut the grass around him, and weeded, and pruned his branches. Soon, the tree looked very handsome. And the tree was very happy.
He still wouldn't give her any apples, though.
So the girl went away, and this time, she stayed away for a long time... and the tree was sad.
And then one day the girl came back and the tree shook with joy, and he said, "Hey girl, look at you -- you've gotten old! I don't think you can climb my branches anymore, you'd surely snap something. Which is too bad, because I need pruning."
"I'm too busy to climb trees now," said the girl. "I have a career, and a partner, and we'd like to have a baby in a few years. I need a house to keep my family warm. So I was thinking that I might take some of your branches to build one."
"Wow, I really trusted you," the tree said. "I thought you were my friend. I thought you'd always be here to care for me -- you know I'm not able to do it without you! -- but it turns out you were just using me for my wood, eh?"
"That's not true and you know it," the girl said. "I love you, and want to make sure that a part of you stays with me forever, even in my house, with my family."
"Whatever," the tree said. "You're a false friend."
"No, please don't be like that."
"Who is this partner of yours, anyway? What, aren't I good enough for you? You've never really liked me, have you? What a terrible person you are."
"No," the girl said, tears in her eyes. "Don't hate me."
"I won't if you water me, and prune me, and sing me a song..."
And so the girl did, and the tree was very happy. She came back the next day, too, and the day after that, and as the weeks went by the girl ended up losing her job, and never did get around to having that baby. The tree told her not to worry about that, though.
But eventually, the girl went away again, and stayed away a very long time. And when she came back, the tree was so happy he could hardly speak. "Hey girl," he whispered. "Come and water me."
"I'm too old to take care of you," the girl said. "And too stressed out -- I don't have money, or a good job, or even many friends. I want a boat that will take me far away from here, so that I can start a new life for myself before it's too late. I thought I might cut down your trunk and use it to make a sailboat."
"This is another one of your silly ideas," the tree said. "You're going to be just as unhappy over the sea as you are here. And you'll be just as big a failure too. You see, no one really likes you, except for me. So why don't you do something you're good at? Make me compost and water my roots. And then see about tidying up around here. Stop worrying your little head about your happiness. Happiness is overrated!"
And so that's what the girl did, and the tree was very happy. The girl, not so much.
Finally, the girl went away again, and didn't come back for a long time. "I'm sorry," the girl said when she returned. "I am too weak to prune, or weed, or haul compost and water here for when you're hungry and thirsty. All I can do now is lay against you, and relax in your shade. A good nap would do me wonders."
"Well, that sounds like a bum deal. Don't you have any friends who can come take care of me? The grass needs trimming! And my old leaves should be raked up. You really can't lend a finger to help out around here? What a bad friend you are."
"I gave up my friends to care for you," she said. "And my career. And even my family. What more do you want?"
"Some fertilizer would be nice," the tree said. "And why don't you put some makeup on or something. You look haggard!"
The girl thought about it for a moment. Then she walked away...
... and came back with an axe.
"Hey, now, wait a minute," the tree said.
But the girl, using all of her strength, chopped the tree down. Then she sat on his stump to rest.
"Don't sit there!" the tree said. "You're heavy. You really should go on a diet."
And the girl let one rip.
"You're an asshole," she said.
And the tree didn't say anything in response to that.