Weaker Sex My Foot

I’ll say one thing, speaking of that boy who came to my aid when my raspberries spilled onto the asphalt that day: people help women more readily than they help men, maybe because we’re not as afraid of showing weakness. Guys hate to show any kind of weakness or uncertainty. They don’t even want to be seen sitting down. I know, I watch ’em at my Mobil station. A guy can almost never just sit in his car when the attendant checks the oil even though he knows the man will come show him the dipstick. He has to get out, walk around to the front and look under the hood too, as if he wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a raccoon under there, or a tangle of spaghetti or somebody’s underpants.

Men need to look like they’re in charge. They just do. 

I think of that line from Shakespeare when the two grown daughters of King Lear start sassing him the minute he signs his lands over to them. “Being weak, seem so!” one of them barks at him and the phrase often rings in my ears. It’s all guys ever wanted of us sure: that being ‘weak’, we act weak.

Only somewhere in there we learned to read, and teach the children, and make the peace, and calm the angry waters. We even figured out some pretty good ways to not have a baby every ten months and to ease the pain of childbirth when we did. Midwives held centuries’ worth of knowledge.

Next thing you knew we’d gotten the vote, the job, a seat on the bench (and I don’t mean the bench at a ballpark.)  For some reason we still earn only 75 cents of each dollar guys earn but we’re bound to close that gap too. In 2009 7,823 women earned medical degrees as against 8,164 men.

AND, if we care to, we can still show weakness.  We can still show need. We don’t posture and brag not because we’re these big saints but because we’re not hard-wired to.

I like being a woman and I like the stretchy tension of living with a man, especially one who is thrilled to see women doing so well. I just pray that when my kind is really on top we have the sense to stay away from war. I’m kinda thinking we will. 

Back in Your Mother’s Belly

The secretary of my college class sent out a group email begging for news of us all. How were we really? she wanted to know

Well let’s see now, is what I thought. I think I’m in better shape than my mother was at my age since women didn’t even walk in the old days, never mind exercise. Men didn’t either plus they all had these little fat tummies which they wore UNDER their belts for some reason.

Everybody was soft, I guess, takin’ it easy after the War maybe – never mind that they all smoked their brains out. My own mother smoked in a closed car on the hour-long ride to our cousins’ on holidays; smoked madly until the summer of ‘74 when she got a bad bronchial infection and was ordered to her bed. She dragged a little TV into her room to watch the Watergate hearings. “That man is disgusting!” she yelled at one point about poor old Nixon, “and this is disgusting too!” she yelled again, looking down at the cigarette in her hand. She stubbed it out and never smoked again and lived until her 80th birthday party when she died within the space of about ten seconds, a little plate of cookies on her lap.

But I figure we’re all going to live so long with our annoying Boomer talk about enhanced sexual performance and all that our kids will be just dying to put the pillow over our faces.

I guess I expect to live up into my 80s – IF I can start paying pay better attention that is and not step off the curb into the path of some big old bus.

So in general I feel pretty much as I did at 19 though God knows what color my hair REALLY is. Still, it’s fun to grow older. I lie in bed at 5 in the morning when the alarm first goes off and time-travel all the way back to crib days. I like that: the way we’re lifting a little every day as we get older and can sometimes survey the whole landscape almost.

My oldest girl wanted to have her firstbaby at home last May and I was a wreck. We watched him kick and we could sometimes feel his little spine right through her skin. We all drummed on his little bottom: “Hello hello are you OK?” we said the way you would to someone trapped in a cave…

Along with not knowing what any body’s real hair color is anymore I find we don’t know what natural labor is like. The doctors hurry everyone along so with their Pitocin and then oops labor slowed down! and oops the baby looks upse!t and then it’s C-sections all around.

I was proud of our girl for wanting to do it God’s own way with her two midwiveswho said “Put sheets you don’t care about on the bed and under those a set of waterproof sheets and under THOSE your very favorite sheets in the world.” There’s the progression of the thing right there, peace at the end of the struggle.

In the end the medical establishment won of course. They took their tests when the baby was ten days overdue and said the amniotic fluid was draining clear away so in the end it was Induced labor and Pitocin and an Epidural after all – everything but the dread C-section.

I wrote all that in my email to the college and they printed like three lines of it in the Alumnae Quarterly.

The moral of the story I guess?How I am is how they are, meaning my children, and right now anyway my children are just fine and that new baby smiles away alone his crib like he was getting paid to do it. Even his big brother three is growing rather fond of him. He said recently that you do too get to go back inside your mother’s belly. “WHEN YOU DIE” he said and well who could argue with him there?