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Reply #25

In the discussion thread: Growing up female [View all]

Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Mon May 7, 2012, 06:41 PM

25. I'm 62

and grew up in the Midwest, which was a pretty conservative place. What I remember most is having to wear a skirt or dress to school, even in the cold winter months, all the way through high school. We had a "pants day" once a year. Whoop-de-doo.

Ditto on the Home-Ec, where we learned to cook useless things such as cinnamon toast and broiled grapefruit (wha?). I ran the sewing machine needle through my finger trying to make the required apron. On the other hand, I never had a desire to take wood-shop. And given my clumsiness with the sewing machine, it was probably a good thing: heaven knows what I would have done with a circular saw.

On the other hand, no one ever ONCE suggested to me that my job was to get married. It was never discussed. I don't remember ever thinking about getting married, either as a girl, an adolescent, or even in college. I, too, was a brainy student, and never was it suggested that I shouldn't be too smart or should hold back. I was fiercely competitive, and frankly angry that my (male) nemesis beat me out for valedictorian of our class of 1,000 because I had gotten a B in gym class. Being salutatorian felt like being "second best."

I think I escaped much of the sexist attitudes of my place and time (though certainly not all) because of my excellent, wonderful parents. They never lectured us, pushed us in any direction, or treated us differently because we were boys or girls. My father taught me how to play softball and let my sister and me help him rake leaves outdoors (he also took me to art museums and symphony concerts); my mother was fiercely supportive of anything I (or my siblings) wanted to do. It was simply assumed that we would strive to do our best and behave ourselves: and we tried to live up to it. I really was oblivious to most of the expected outside norms, or felt antipathy towards them. I remember in junior high that the "cool" girls invited me to be in their sorority. At first I was honored, but I ended up hating it and dropping out: it was about conformity, and fashion, and ... snobbery. I was bored and somewhat rebellious, and felt different. I also disliked dating the boys in high school, and often made up excuses to get out of a date.

All of this didn't mean I wasn't a "girl." I was a serious dancer. Once I went off on my own, to college and work and beyond, I had the requisite number of significant love affairs, and I eventually met the man to whom I've been married for 38 years. I'm a really good cook, and enjoy household kinds of things. But I've always had as many male friends as female friends, and I've never taken any crap from any man in either a personal or professional capacity. I still feel different sometimes.

PS: I've always simply avoided sexist men: one strike and you're out. I came from a matriarchal environment, and the women in my family don't take any guff.

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