When the Matron was but a Wee Lass, she discovered Helen Reddy. Friends, she wore that record down to the grooves: I am Woman! Hear me roar!
Wee Lass instantly understood herself to be a Feminist. Her 9 year old self knew no contradiction, stood certain. Inequity reigned. The world needed changing.
How strong an ideologue?
Here's how Young Maiden cast her first vote for President of the United States of America:
When she entered graduate school, Young Maiden signed on for a Ph.D. that included a minor in Feminist Studies. She was a bad ass, black-leather clad feminista. The big bad boys of the Academy? The white male cannon? Young Maiden had a few things to shake up.
But along the way she experienced puzzling contradictions -- subtleties that still nag at the now older and wiser Matron.
Young Maiden remember vividly taking her fine, young and lithe self out of a cracking 1976 Century Buick to pump gas at a self-serve station. It was raining. Things were messy. There was muck and mud on the car. Ick!
Suddenly, a man about her age raced out of the gas station, jumped over cars and beat his chest: Don't sully thy silken hand! Let me do the dirty work!
She did. She remembers understanding that this was wrong. Unfeminist. The young man wiping her windows smiled and preened.
Young Maiden also remembers the philosophical agony she suffered over this:
She needed to hate the whole event. Actually, you couldn't ask for anything worse! A Princess, for God's sake. Virginity being the big ticket into the Royal Family! Young Maiden found every offense in her feminist playbook.
But she set an alarm in order to get up and witness the big event. Tears betrayed her. Weren't those flower girls cute? And that dress!
Young Maiden just hated herself sometimes.
When Flashdance rocked the country, she penned missives--feminist treatises disguised as Letters to the Editor of college newspaper -- about the ridiculous current construction of femininity as this:
Terrible movie! A crime! The ballerina wannabe welder?
And she bought herself leg warmers. And when Jennifer Beals realizes the patriarchal little girl dream of getting the boy AND being a ballerina, Young Maiden's heart swelled with joy.
These contradictions endure.
The Matron can wipe up mouse poop from under the sink. But her fingers cannot touch the poison. This is John's job.
She can mop the floor but . . .wait: is there actual oil in cars? And the blue stuff that squirts onto the windshield and makes it all clean? How does that get in there?
The worst? The Matron has noticed the shift in the Male Gaze, the evil entity she has been fighting for a lifetime.
She no longer inspires car vaults or cat calls. She understands that this is a good thing. Liberating. But.
Yesterday, the Matron stopped at a full service gas station. The van's windows were caked with muck. She was tired. Actually, her head was about to explode because she's too busy, but that's tomorrow's post.
The twenty-something attendant came out and started pumping the gas. And then he leaned against the pump, took out a magazine and started reading.
The Matron got out and wiped her own windows.
She understood that she had entered the gray world women go when they are not young and pretty. Invisibility.
She resigned herself to the new missives she would pen, treatises that unpack the underpinnings of this particular sexist state.
But later, at the grocery store as the Matron rolled down the aisles, she was subject to something she hadn't experienced in a good long while: a man checked her out.
And, she once again gave herself a thorough scolding because: this attention made her happy.
She is not yet invisible. At least not to men pushing fifty.
Contradiction? This state endures.