I am Woman, Hear Me Roar

Gloria Steinem, 1971
Gloria Steinem, 1971

I’ve been reading Gail Collins’s book, “When Everything Changed:  The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.”  It’s a really interesting, well-researched story.  What amazes me, however, is that I was there and participating in the change for a good portion of this history.

Along with my friends, my sisters, my boyfriends, and classmates, we were all part of history and didn’t even realize it at the time!  At least, I didn’t think of it as changing history–I thought of what I did as standing up for myself and trying to make the kind of life I wanted.  More accurately, I knew what kind of life I didn’t want, and was determined to go a different way.

I didn’t want to be stuck on a farm doing hard physical labor and dependent on my husband or neighbors to drive me anywhere, like my poor mother.  Item #1 on the independence agenda:  Learn to drive!  I’m flabbergasted that fewer kids are learning to drive now.

I wanted to learn, to get a good job, to support myself.  Item #2 on the agenda:  Go to college.  Mother and Daddy were in strong agreement with this.  Their whole intent was for us kids to have a better life than they did, and college was the road to that.

I wanted to make a good living, travel, see the wide world.  Item #3:  Graduate degree.  I think that’s where the reality of the change I was pushing for really hit me.  My class at Wharton was 28% female, and most of the male percentage was not very welcoming (except the ones who were looking for high-earning wives.)  One guy said to me, “You know you got in under a quota.”  I asked him what his GMAT score and GPA were, and he wouldn’t tell me.

That was just the beginning of what I had to face in the business world–and still continue to face.  Women have made tremendous strides, but we still get paid less for the same work.  We still carry more responsibility for family and home while working more and more hours.

I used to get alarmed when I saw young girls continuing to play dumb to attract boys.  I’m glad that more of them are strong enough to not play those games.  The real lesson from the women’s movement for all women is:  Be prepared to take care of yourself.  The old social contract of the stay-at-home wife and breadwinner husband was irretrievably broken by bad economic times in the 1970’s, and there is no going back.  Even without equal pay for equal work, we still gotta work.

The other lesson I think we’re all still trying to learn is to respect ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and stop blaming ourselves when life is not controllable.  As women, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

Getting Through February

Red_Heart___1.2011Unlike T. S. Eliot, I believe February is the cruelest month.  It’s when the snows are the deepest, the winds are the coldest, and even though the days are longer, the winter seems harsh and unending.  I have a bias, too, from my youth.  Growing up in the south, spring came in March, so February was the end of winter.  Here in the north, we have at least another month of snow, wind and cold to go.

February is cruel to me, as well, because my daddy died in this month, decades ago, and my longtime companion Ron died 13 years ago today.  But bad stuff happens in every month, you know?  Good things happen as well.  My niece Judy and my sister Juanita were born in this month, and what would life be without them?

So my goal with February is to cheer myself up as much as possible, enjoy what I can, and move on.  Here are some things I recommend for these cold, dark days, and the warm hearts we all know and love.

  • Have a good cry.  See “Les Miserables” or watch a good old tearjerker on Turner Classic Movies or Netflix.  “You had me at hello.”  Hello?  My favorite:  “Enchanted April.”
  • Chocolate.  The more the better.
  • Go to a warm spot if you can afford it.  If not, take a movie holiday.  Gidget Goes Hawaiian!
  • Don’t be proud.  Call a friend if you need one, and just hang out.  DO NOT think Facebook or Twitter is a substitute for human companionship.  IT IS NOT!
  • Go shopping for something inexpensive.  This is a true story.  When Ron was in law school at Yale, he was friends with Anita Hill, a fellow law student.  I came up from Philadelphia (Wharton) to visit, and we were chatting.  She said to me, “When I want to go shopping, I go buy nail polish, because it’s pretty, and it’s cheap!”  We were all starving students then, but there is still a lesson there.
  • Hug your dog, or your cat, or your rabbit, or your hamster.  They are warm, small, and don’t understand why you are unhappy, but they still love you.
  • Re-read a book you love.
  • Read a book you haven’t read before, especially if it’s unlike anything you’ve read before.
  • Call or write someone and thank them for something nice they did for you.
  • Do something for someone else.  It’s the best way to get outside of your head.

I hope this helps.  Let me know what you think.