Richard Nixon in a Wig

My cousin thought that was a picture of my wet bottom on the plane – see here – but that could never be me, and not only because it’s practically impossible to take a picture of your own backside.

It couldn’t be my bottom because I would never wear shorts on a plane.

Why not? Because I’m older than faxing, that’s why.

I may even be older than office photocopying. Wait let me check…. YUP. WAY older than office photocopying!

And when you’re old in this way you wouldn’t dream of wearing shorts when you fly. Instead you sort of dress up, a little, even today.

In the old days when a lady flew, she wore not just a skirt and heels but often a hat – a hat! And little white gloves, natch.

I just came across a few photos of me in my senior year of high school on a trip my family and I took to Our Nation’s Capital, which is what we called it back then.

I’m wearing the get-up I flew down in – well minus the hat because now we were touring around, in our high heels and our skirts and it was like 90 degrees although it was only April.

My mom had on this shawl-collared coat in fake cashmere. My sister Nan looked like Grace Kelly. And I looked like Richard Nixon if he dressed up as a woman.

Also a little like Imogene Coca. Remember her?

The point is we made this big effort and we made it because that was the expectation placed upon women: that we’d smile, and be charming and stoke male egos in all places and at all times. I remember weakling down a street when I was just 17, homesick, far from my family, getting plumper by the minute on the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Dinners the college kept serving us, accompanied by buttery homemade rolls and followed by puddings and thick chocolate cakes. I was dawdling along the street minding my business when a guy around 35 passed and said to me in this really nasty voice, “SMILE for God’s sake!”

It was the “click” moment for me all right, when the personal became the political, just like our Gloria described 40 years ago.

God bless Gloria! God Bless the Women’s Movement I say! And, sisters, if someone asks if you’re a feminist you just tell them, “You can bet the farm on it BABE! ”

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Ouch!

So here’s something worse than finding your Slam Book page covered with casual cruelties: You do a little video of what the Boston accent is like and post it on YouTube. Six months go by and every few weeks someone sees it and writes a comment saying ‘Yeah that totally IS the real Boston accent’ or ‘Actually you sound like you’re from the Bronx,’ or ‘Hey I know someone named Marotta, are you related to Frank  Marotta ?’  etc.  This is me I’m talking about, just to be clear, and I like all these comments that have been left on the site by people killing a little time and curious about the way people talk around here.

And then the day before yesterday someone wrote “Wait, is this a drag queen?” About me.

‘Drag queen’ is a word you don’t hear too often outside the theatrical world – I don’t anyway. I mean people are trans-gendered or trans-sexual, people are transitioning from male to female or from female to male but “drag queen “feels to me like an old word, used more for guys who enjoy dressing as women for the simple fun of it. They can even be straight guys, but for someone to seriously think I’m doing that? That I’m a man trying to pass himself off as a woman? As if menopause  wasn’t bad enough! 

Is it because my hair gets so puffed-out and helmety in summer humidity that it looks like a wig? Did the light on my face make me look like I was suppressing whiskers?  I probably am suppressing whiskers these days with the estrogen going out like the tide, but I actually think it’s my general… presentation. I am ‘feminine,’ whatever that means or so I’ve been told along the way, sometimes by people who seem sort of sore about it. I mean once in my 20s a guy actually said to me, “You know you’re not as pretty as you make yourself appear!” What did that mean? That he thought I was working some kind of con? Am I? And am I now some sort of ridiculous figure, who is ‘older’ and should look … less like a woman?  “So sue me” I tried to say back in’the hell-with-you-pal’ fashion but the truth is, I was hurt.

I was hurt this time too, so much so that I erased the comment the minute I saw it.

I did leave the video up because people seem to enjoy thinking about our accent here in Boston, and I like to revisit the subject now and then. I’ve even been thinking of seeing if my nephew will do a 60-second podcast with me where we just talk a little, since when he talks the whole world gets to see what the total no-holds-barred Casey-Affleck-in-Good-Will-Hunting Boston accent really is.

Anyway this comes at a good time in our little Back-to-School week here at Exit Only.

Now here’s Felcity Huffman in the very tender movie Transamerica, just to open our hearts a little. And here  – I’ll just give you the link, I still haven’t been able to go back there  – is me. It kinda brings the bad part of the teen years back in full force.  

Tomorrow: back to the sweet subject of the high school yearbook.

The Man is a Prince: He Does the Dog

The phrase ‘the second shift’ refers to that whole second workday most women put in after they get home from their real jobs. I read a recently that nowadays  men are doing just as much around the house as their wives.  I certainly hope this is true.

They sure weren’t when Arlie Hochschild spent eight straight years conducting the research for her book The Second Shift. Observing daily life in the homes of 50 working couples with children, she found that only 20% of American men shared the extra work of chores and childcare while women put in an average of 15 hours a week on those tasks,  which add up to an entire month of 24-hour days. 

You could resent the heck out of your spouse living this way, but what many women do is create a ‘story’  that allows them to keep resentment at bay. One woman named Nancy explained that her husband Evan ‘did’ the downstairs while she did  the upstairs – only in their house doing the upstairs meant doing all the work relating to the kitchen, living room, dining room, bedrooms and bathrooms, while Evan, for his part, handled the garage.

Oh, and the dog. He did the dog.

But this  way of framing things allowed Nancy to think of Evan as pulling his weight. When asked by Hochschild to reflect on this, Evan said, “We don’t keep count of who does what,” quickly adding, “Whoever gets home first starts the dinner,” a statement which did not in any way line up with what Hochschild saw as a frequent visitor.

This was just their ‘story’, the ‘family myth’ as she calls it that they had devised to cover up the imbalance. “The truth was, Nancy made the dinner.”

Other husbands in her survey had stories of their own. One said, with a perfectly straight face, that he made all the pies.

“But I was brought up to do housework,” explained poor Nancy, in charge of every room in the house. “Evan wasn’t.”

And there’s the crux of it right there. As Hochschild puts it, “the female culture has shifted more rapidly than the male culture, and the image of the go-get-‘em woman has yet to be matched by the image of the let’s-take-care-of-the-kids-together man.”  

Or as Gloria Steinem said a while ago to a standingroom-only crowd of fellow Smith College graduates, “The problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don’t get young men standing up and saying, “How can I combine career and family?”

The day will come though, I feel sure – provided we work hard on raising up strong  and fair- minded little girls  – AND  get them the heck away from all that appalling sex-kitten apparel they’re showing these days in the stores.

Tomorrow I won’t be so crotchety, I promise. 🙂