Tag Archives: Growing Up

The Moment I Knew I Was A Feminist

It was a cold, rainy day.

In kindergarten.

I was playing with my best friend, David. Playing indoors, because of the weather. And we were on our knees, vrooming our construction trucks around on the floor. Our classroom had a really neat mural on the floor, complete with roads and stop signs and houses and trees. It was early in the school year and we had been waiting for a day just like today so we could play inside during recess.

Now, I adored Mrs. Harvey. My first few weeks at school were better than I could have imagined. Mrs. Harvey was kind. And sweet. And she knew so much. Everything was a game with Mrs. Harvey. She smelled like cookies. Mrs. Harvey was the reason I wanted to be a teacher someday. Mrs. Harvey would be the first, of many, women role models in my life.

But Mrs. Harvey did not like me playing on the floor with the boys.

With the trucks.

Making vroom-vroom noises.

Mrs. Harvey told me that I wasn’t being very “ladylike” and I needed a little time to myself to reflect. It wasn’t time-out, exactly. She sat me at a table and taught me how to make “scribble pictures” with crayon. She told me this is what little girls were supposed to do during inside recess. This or play in the housekeeping area with the dolls and tea sets and little play stoves.

I didn’t like the housekeeping area. Besides, my friend – my best friend – liked to play trucks and build things with blocks. There weren’t any blocks or trucks in the housekeeping area.

That evening, I told my mother what had happened. She told me that some people thought that girls could only play with certain toys and in certain ways. When I was at home, playing in our neighborhood, I was free to play any way I wanted. But at school, I had to listen to Mrs. Harvey’s rules.

In our neighborhood, I was the girl who climbed trees, spit cherry pits the farthest, built sand castles and forts, played with trucks and raced on my bike. I wore garter snakes around my wrists and had an ant farm in my room. I was one of the first chosen for a game of kickball or baseball. My best friends were boys because they knew how to play. The only time I touched a doll was to switch the heads of my sister’s Barbies and larger baby dolls so we could laugh at the absurdity.

In high school, I was lamenting to one of my guy friends about my lack of dates. He said, “You’re not the kind of girl guys date. You’re the kind guys marry.” It was supposed to be a compliment. At the time, it was little consolation.

I’m glad I had a mother that told me it was ok to be who I was. And while Mrs. Harvey squelched me a little on that cold, October day – her sweet, nurturing nature was something I craved and wanted to emulate. She was much older than my mother and a victim of her era. All is forgiven.

But that day, the day I was told little girls don’t play with trucks and make loud noises, was a defining moment for me.

It is a day I look back on fondly. At the time, I was upset. But I had a mother who believed I could play with trucks if I wanted to. I had a father who took me fishing and to baseball games. I was in elementary school during the ’70s, watching the women’s movement take off. There were so many more amazing female role models to come.

I smile when I take a look at what my life is now. I am a mother of three. Who gave up her career to stay home with her children. To raise them full-time. A job I wouldn’t trade for any other. I love to bake and have an orderly home. I’d rather cook something from scratch than pop dinner in the microwave. We even have a picket fence around our yard.

It sounds all so very 1950s.

But it’s who I am.

It’s what I love.

And it’s the feminist movement that allows me to be proud of  this very delicious, amazing, gratifying and yes, enviable place in my life.

17 Comments

Filed under children, Growing Up, Lessons Learned, Observations

Don’t Let Your Mother Hear You Playing This!

Ok. So this post is going to really date me. Hold onto your time machines. We’re going waaaayyyy back….

The first albums I ever owned (vinyl, 33 1/3 RPM microgroove) were the Jackson 5 (that’s Michael Jackson’s first gig) jackson5

and Donny Osmond. donny6

Safe. Wholesome. Fun pop music.

Then I discovered the Beatles. Sure, I was  a little late (they broke up in 1970) but my uncle had all their albums and I thought my uncle was pretty cool. I started collecting their albums, too. I’d pour over the lyrics, spin the records backward, analyze every word. Was Paul dead? Who was the walrus? Where IS Strawberry Fields? Is there happiness in a warm gun?

The first hard rock album I ever bought was Deep Purple’s Machine Head. I loved the song Smoke on the Water. The lead singer was Ian Gillian, voice of Jesus on the 1970 recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. My parents played JCS in our house all the time. I remember one Saturday, listening to my newest purchase with my hard-earned allowance and being very disappointed. Sure, Smoke on the Water was a great song but the lyrics of the other songs disturbed me. I was  a young innocent. Many of the songs glorified drug use. Sure, the Beatles had alluded to it in their songs – often quite openly -but somehow this was different. A little more crude. Real. With no consequences. I was quite disturbed by this and my father used it to teach me about “wise purchases” and knowing more about the product before I lay down my hard-earned cash.

Eh. I got over it. As long as I liked the music I learned to ignore the lyrics. And so it went and on another Saturday my sister and I were listening to Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog (sometimes referred to as Son of a Bitch because of the line “Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch!”) nazarethMy sister and I, in our room, record player blaring, singing into our hairbrushes. My dad bursts in. “WHAT are you listening to?” “N-n-n-nazareth” we stutter, pointing to the album cover. “We just bought it.” “Oh,” my dad says, realizing this was our latest purchase. “Well, just don’t let your mother hear you playing this. And turn it down.”

As a young adult, because I truly enjoy all kinds of music, I became interested in this new genre, Rap. Ok. Not so new, but finally in the mainstream. I loved the Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C. and the first rap song, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. But talk about struggling with the lyrics – Gangsta Rap really turned me off no matter how much I liked the music. And then, of course, there was the portrayal of women.

nine-inch-nails-logo

And speaking of women, and getting back to my love of hard rock, I really struggled when Nine Inch Nails hit the charts. The music? I loved. The lyrics? Not so much. Ok, not much at all. Well, most of the lyrics, anyway. How could I like such an artist? Many of the videos are banned for their graphic visions of violence and torture. But a song like “Hurt?” Gut wrenching and beautiful. When Johnny Cash did his haunting version Trent Reznor (lead singer for NIN) was quoted, “[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form.”

Now I have children. I’ve censored the music I listen to when they’re around. My love of theater and opera and classical; they’re VERY aware of. We listen to “safe” pop music stations in the car. Tori Amos, NIN, Puddle of Mudd, and friends – I listen to when I’m alone.

But my daughter is now 17. And she’s listening to the same things I am – and then some – for a while now.  How do we keep our children from believing in the damaging lyrics found in some songs? How did I emerge from my teens with a strong sense of self? Have I sheltered them enough, for long enough, until they could come to their own conclusions of how the music should move them? And is it just me, or is sheltering them getting harder and harder?

Music is powerful. And as an art form it’s easier to come by. It’s everywhere. And we’re influenced by it more easily then I think we’re willing to admit.

20 Comments

Filed under Growing Up, Music

Tunes for Tuesday

(Ok, so I’m not quite sure of the title for this kind of post yet but music is a huge part of my life and I know I’m going to want to share from time to time. Let’s just say this is a work in progress.) 

My first words were sung. Herman’s Hermits. “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” I was a delayed “talker.” Just waiting for the right song, I guess. And no, I wasn’t singing the full lyrics. I’m not a savant. Just the “baby, baby” part. But still. Kinda cute, dontcha think?

Anyway, so I like to sing. Sang in plays, choirs, small movie part, a symphony chorale. But my taste of fame, Hollywood…not great. Dry, artificially sweetened with too much saturated fat. So I sing to my kids. I sing in the shower. And I listen to lots and lots and lots of music. All kinds, too. Pop, rock, classical, opera, hip hop, gospel, country, jazz, alternative, reggae, standards, oldies, ska, world, blues – I’m leaving a lot out, but you get the picture. I can find something in any genre that I’ll want to put on my ipod.

Well, I just discovered Kate Earl and her song Melody. I LOVE the words.

“No matter what has ever come to me
I got my own brand of company
I got da da da inside my head”   – I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. I continue to struggle through the dysfunction in my life. Music has saved me from the depression that many in my biological family have faced. We have suicide, bi-polar, alcoholism, BPD, etc. I swear I’ve been able to avoid many valleys my other family members have sunk into because of my connection to my music.

“& i find that i’m never alone
& i find that my heart is my home
& the music within makes me whole
A world that i built on my own” –  Hours spent in my bedroom listening to music, singing into my hairbrush, avoiding the drama outside my bedroom door. My alarm clock radio woke me to music, stayed on until I left the house, then the radio in the car and sneaking my walkman (yes, I’m that old) into school. I slept with a transistor radio underneath my pillow. Music was my best friend. It was my only constant in an unpredictable childhood.

“Every missing piece of me
I can find in a melody” – Let me say it again, “Every missing piece of me I can find in melody.” She is singing about my life. Hours spent as a child and teen copying down lyrics. Taping a song off the radio or off an album. Then notebook and pencil and finger on the pause button of my tape recorder so I could write down every word. I have so many “theme songs” for my life I started a When I’m Gone playlist on my ipod that I want played at my funeral. (Which my daughter thinks is incredibly morbid but I think it’s kinda neat. I want everyone dancing, crying, laughing and remembering  me through the music that makes/made me who I am. Of course, I have about 3 days worth of songs on there already so it’s going to be a loooooooonnnnggg party.)

And from time to time (maybe on Tuesdays if the name sticks)  I’m going to share with you songs that mean something to me. Light, dark, happy, sad, thought provoking. All kinds. So, without further ado…..enjoy!

Kate Earl – Melody

4 Comments

Filed under Growing Up, Music

I Thought I Knew

I taught a high school composition course and one semester, the way the schedule fell, there were only females in the class. Can you imagine? Well, I suppose you can if you teach in an all-girls school but this was a dream class for me. And since it was a private school I had a bit of leeway with the curriculum. So with a snip here and a stitch there I tailored the class for young women. It was an amazing semester. Full of women’s literature, women’s essays and short stories. They wrote and wrote and wrote and it was great fun. And true to my collaborative style THEY came up with an assignment: Interview our mothers and then write about the responses, how we felt about their responses, what we expected and how we were surprised. And then they added one more requirement. I had to participate, as well.

I was in my mid 20’s and had a co-dependant, close relationship with my mother. Secretly, I knew I was the favorite of her 4 daughters. I thought I knew her inside and out. I wouldn’t even have to call her. I knew how she would respond.

The questions all revolved around how our mothers approached relationships with boyfriends, parents, husbands and children. We would interview our mothers and then report as a group some of our findings before we sat down to write.

I called my mother, told her about the assignment and began asking questions.

Q. So, Mom. Why did you marry Dad?    A. Because I knew he’d be a good provider.

What?!? Didn’t you love him? Didn’t you love how funny he was , cute, endearing, fun to be around? I was stunned. She was very matter of fact. She said she grew to love him but no, she wasn’t really in love at first. She just wanted to get out of the house and go to college – which her parents didn’t want her to do. They felt college for a woman was a waste of time. She knew he loved her and he was college educated. That was enough for her.

Q. How did you and Dad decide to have me?    A. Your Dad wanted kids and I didn’t. I wanted to go to school. So I gave him one night during my fertile time and if I got pregnant I’d be a mom. If I didn’t, I’d go to nursing school.

Guess what? She got pregnant. With me. And then 3 others in the span of 3 years. At one point she had 4 children age 3 and under (the two youngest were twins.) How’s that for karma?

Looking back, after years of getting over my stunned reaction, it makes so much sense now. She resented all of us. She resented how we kept her from getting the career she wanted, when she wanted it. She did, eventually, go to school and become a very fine intensive care nurse. Once we were all in school, when society deemed it acceptable for her to have something of her own, she went to school. And worked nights. And left us to take care of each other. In elementary school, I made all of our lunches and would envy the kids who went home after school to a mom complete with milk and cookies. By the 6th grade I was making dinners for the family. I taught 6th grade one time (never again!) and do you know how tiny they are? Granted, we ate a lot of spaghetti, french toast and scrambled eggs, “Madhatter Meatballs” from the kid’s Betty Crocker cookbook – the few things I could make. But still.

I used to say I wouldn’t be the woman I am now if it weren’t for my mother. Back then I was talking about the person that made school a priority, lived an independent life. But now I see that my crusade to make sure EVERY child is wanted stems more from her example than anything else. I made a conscious decision to adopt. I made a conscious decision to have a biological child. I’ve welcomed foster children into my home. I preach birth control because no innocent child should have to be a “consequence” of your actions. I pray for a world where abortion is unnecessary.

I had no idea where that conviction to “save the children” came from. Until now.

11 Comments

Filed under Moms, Motherhood

Facebook is the New High School for Adults

Don’t look so surprised. I know you’ve thought it, too. Sure, you can try to fool yourself. I joined to keep in touch with friends and family. I like being able to share pictures of how much our kids have grown. I lost touch with Nancy in college and we’ve reconnected! Isn’t that wonderful?

Yes. It’s great. If that’s what it’s used for. But there’s a whole new element that no one talks about. We expect the younger set to be catty. After all, they’re young. That’s what they do. And also not surprising is the fact that females between the ages of 18-24 make up the largest groups of users on Facebook. (http://www.istrategylabs.com/2009-facebook-demographics-and-statistics-report-276-growth-in-35-54-year-old-users/) But the group with the largest growth, up 276.4% from last year, is females ages 35-54.

And we haven’t changed. We’re still the same catty bunch from our high school years. Don’t tell me you didn’t look at Karen’s profile, notice that she was still single at age 45 and think, ‘Yep. I always knew she was gay.’ Or how Susie has really put on the weight – you’ve aged much better than she has! Or how “Cutest Couple” divorced within 5 yrs – you predicted that, too. And if you keep these thoughts to yourself, it’s fine. It’s normal.

What isn’t normal, at least from the perspective that we mature and get wiser in our old age, is continuing the catty trend publicly. In our neighborhood “friends” of mine post pictures of their Poker Party Bash (wasn’t invited), John’s 40th Surprise Party (wasn’t invited), Renee’s Birthday Dinner (wasn’t invited), Debbie’s Birthday Night on the Town Celebration (wasn’t invited). I serve on committees, play Bunco, play tennis and go to bookclub with these people. Our children play together at the pool. I thought we were “friends.”

A friend of mine who was invited to the Debbie Birthday Bash refused to be in the pictures they were taking. They asked, why? She said, “Because you’re going to post these on Facebook and someone who wasn’t invited is going to feel hurt. I don’t want to be a part of that.” A discussion stirred up feelings on inadequacy, insecurity, etc. They explained that they wanted people to know they lived a full social life. They wanted the guy that ignored them in high school or the clique of popular girls that always excluded them, people they were “friends” with now on Facebook, to know that they had beautiful friends, fancy cars, gorgeous homes and went fabulous places.

The following night the pictures went up. They all looked fabulous. They all looked like they were having the best time. And about an hour later, Debbie posted the pictures of the Renee’s Birthday Dinner – an event that occurred two months ago, an event  my friend wasn’t invited to. I guess Debbie got the last word.

3 Comments

Filed under Growing Up