I have been wanting to write about how every man I have dated more than once or have been interested in more than a passing way over the past nine years is now involved in a committed relationship of some kind. I’ve been self-indulgently and angstily thinking about this a lot. A lot of self-questioning is going on over here.
But, for all women my age – married, single or somewhere in between – something much more important is going on right now.
You remember how your parents used to tell you that you could be anything – no, really – you can do anything. Women’s rights has really opened things up for you. Women used to be only certain professions (nurses, teachers, housewives), but now that we are in the 1980s! The 1990s! Things are different. I was told I didn’t need to get married – I could do whatever I wanted. I was told I was not going to college to get an Mrs. degree.
When I was 17, I went to Planned Parenthood with a friend and obtained birth control with no more trouble than a cold speculum and a pamphlet.
My sister, on more than one occasion when I have balked at career moves, has said to me, “Don’t be one of those women.” Meaning, I assumed, that I should take opportunities and run with them.
My gay friends were simply friends. In retrospect, I was not that helpful to them. Still, I loved and supported them. And still do.
At home, I learned a requisite number of things that only boys used to be taught: changing a tire. More importantly, I remember the feeling of absolute power using my own power tools around my own house – no husband in sight.
If you grew up white, middle-class in the Midwest, with fairly educated parents, your experience was possibly similar to mine. Or, maybe yours was wildly different – either way, here is the point, my friends:
Things that we have assumed to be settled and accepted are being debated and eroded in some of the most insidious ways. Women’s reproductive choices and a health care and insurance system that supports those is being deleted, and not slowly. Workplace and social equality for our queer friends is being rescinded at an alarming rate. Student loan forgiveness programs, and, indeed, access to higher education for our children are being pushed further and further out of reach. Our friends’ and our friends’ daughters’ experiences of sexual harassment and rape – whether they happened 30 years ago or yesterday – are being whitewashed so as not to ruin the lives of the perpetrators.
What are we doing? We are working. We are cooking supper. Taking art classes. Checking out library books. Feeling sad our children are leaving for college. A few women my age still haven’t given up on online dating.
Nothing is wrong with any of those or a host of other things that we are involved with. BUT – there’s always a BUT.
BUT the thing is: we have assumed that everyone had and has and will have the advantages we had. This is not the case.
I know, you’re thinking: sources. Give me sources for these assertions.
This is not that kind of article.
This article is asking you to think about the privileges you have enjoyed over your lifetime, and check on them to make sure they are still commanding a wide berth in our society. It’s possible they are not, and if not, you might want to do something. Get informed. Write letters. March. Vote.
There’s a much talked about novel-turned-TV-show, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. And, if it teaches its readers nothing else, it teaches us to pay attention.
The dating article can wait for another day.
Today, it’s time to pay attention.