Feminism, Women, writing

Kick Butt.

I remember the day my grandmother taught me how to curtsey. She was somehow in charge of me on bridge day and I was dressed to be shown off, squeezed into an uncomfortable wool jumper, the white blouse underneath bunching up around my middle. I knew I fell short on many levels, but determined, she gave me a quick how-to before her guests arrived. Holding my plump hands in hers she positioned me in front of her and demonstrated: slide one foot behind the other, dip my knees together, look her in the eye.

I remember feeling a little sick to my stomach. At home I ran barefoot in the wheat fields. Why am I learning this I wondered. The year was 1965 and I had personally witnessed my mother throwing away her bra. “You can do EVERYTHING I couldn’t” my mother told me as she dropped it in the bin with a flourish. But I also knew, like my grandmother’s even, back-slanted handwriting, that today’s lesson held the key to being a lady, a term my mother scorned but the little fat girl secretly worshipped. I stood by the front door with my grandmother that day and executed a perfect curtsey to each guest. They cooed in admiration. This felt just fine.

So began my conflicted relationship with being a woman that frankly has not abated fifty-two years later. Does it ever abate with any woman my age? I write my essays on being white, middle aged and full of words. I question retiring from life when the kids leave for theirs. My essays and blog posts are sprinkled on the internet weekly and after publication I am full of heavy dread each time I turn on my laptop. Who will be offended? Can I live what I say and say what I mean?

But then we have the elections of 2016 and I face that I have been coasting along, letting other women do the heavy lifting. How to hone feminism and fifty and language to shape the next generation now keeps me awake at night.

“Look what we did for you!” was my mother’s favorite line when she pushed me to college, graduate school, begged me to get a PHD. This year I assure my oldest daughter as she plans her wedding, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want,” and I know my mother would be proud. Then I order my daughter monogrammed stationary. Because, honestly, I am still doing a little curtsey with a pen in my hand, bridging the worlds that raised me.

If I want my daughter to keep the path for equality and feminism open despite the elections of 2016, for her to be the next female president (why not?) or know her, I need to trample the have to’s and remind myself and other women daily that women can do anything. So here goes another blog, and some more words, and the choice of honesty.

You will still be a lady if you kick butt. Even more of one now in 2016. And you need to.

Thanks for cutting the path, Mom. Stomping on it right now for you and all of us.

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Gathering lilacs at Moose Hill. Alexandra Dane, 1965

 

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Changes, Choices, Friendship, Women

What We Need We Do Not Know.

 

What we need we do not know but find on the street corners, women in soft t-shirts walking dogs, mothers, the milk, just strangers who pause to savor that day of freedom November 8 the talk of children and leaves not small circles pressed deep with pens and pencils or choices all the ones we have made over and over for everyone but ourselves for today is our day.

What we need we do not know November 9 we push our fingers frantically, beating against our streaming words and screaming soundless fury, scrolling and scrolling and hoping the next line will make us better, so many words to find one answer the rainbow bleeds to white at the unfathomable red fury.

What we need we do not know but find anyways when we push off the noise, once the rain falls relentless and the paper stays unopened we float curled on the couch seek with coffee and friends anchor at our kitchen tables the tired in our bones rising, the tired that comes just before the fight and the starting gun.

What we need we do not know but it’s been buried deep and anyways will take four years to recognize, to age into the imperfect terroir clinging to our tongues staining our breath the taste of loss and resurrection of sweetbitterlove.

What we need we do not know but we discover in a humble safety pin. We push the sharp end through our ragged skins, catch the torn edges, secure the clasp. Begin in pain anyways bleeding and mending,my skin fusing with your skin my children scarring together with your children my vote cast with your vote. Again.

What we need we do not know until we find ourselves at the corner with the women holding each other, laughing at the joy of ourselves.

Alexandra Dane, November 11, 2016

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Hillary Clinton, Not Okay, Vote, Women

Not Okay. Again.

Last week I was making a return at a Nordstrom’s store situated in the northern suburbs of Seattle. All was very quiet on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 PM on the third floor. I was the only customer in sight. My back was to the escalators and while exchanging information with a very young saleswoman I heard it. Right behind me.

“In my day we didn’t stack women’s underwear on tables for everyone to see,” he growled. I could feel him a few feet away. Those little hairs on our neck? They really do prickle when adrenalin flows.

I smiled at the gal, got very still then heard closer behind me,

“Seriously, you bitches need to do something about this.”

I looked her in the eye, did not turn around and said, “Does he come here often?”

She continued to smile and said without missing a beat,

“Oh, thanks goodness, I thought he was with you. No. Never seen him before.”

I laughed too loudly and said “Ah. No.”

And that’s when I felt a very new feeling. I wasn’t scared. I was completely enraged. Expansively enraged.

He moved next to me, fiddled with some pamphlets, commented on our vaginas. I folded my hands around my bag and turned to face him. I was seriously sweating and ready to deck him. This was not ok. Again. The language, the attitude, coming into our space — ladies lingerie for god’s sake. Like a bad movie rerun after all the news, the endless pussy jokes, the locker room talk from Donald Trump. Not. Okay. At. All.

Then he swiveled, circled the sales counter, got very close to another saleswoman and started to talk in a low voice. Not breaking her smile, my saleswoman asked for my signature, then answered a phone call.

“Yes, I did. White male, pony tail, white shirt, back of the lingerie department. Thank you.”

I looked at her in total respect.

“What did you do? I asked, keeping an eye on him.

“No need for phone calls,” she smiled. “We just have to press a button.”

I was flooded for love for this young woman, her professionalism, her smile, her calm. And deeply saddened that standing in our women’s sanctuary we had to protect ourselves. Again.

I looked her in the eye and said,

You are awesome.”

As I headed to the escalator two men took got off and split to either side of me and headed to the back.

Not ok. Again. But here’s what is happening since Donald Trump opened his mouth: Women are not scared, we are really, really angry. We are people, not objects of filth, voyeurism, sexual predatory behavior and let me emphasize, this behavior is not acceptable anywhere. Not in a bus, not in a house, not in the street, not at my feet.

Know the difference between OKAY and NOT OKAY. Or you might get smacked by a sweating writer with a bag full of books and bras. And I guarantee it will hurt.

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Women

Notice.

A few months ago at a college reunion I told a woman I barely knew that she was beautiful. I had been so struck by her stunning calm, her sweet smile, her kindness to other people that day. Her face fell when she heard my words. She narrowed her eyes, checked sideways to see if her husband was listening, glared at me and hissed in a whisper,

“Don’t say that!”

And quickly walked away like I was toxic.

I tell my daughters and son they are beautiful always and forever because they are and always will be. They are my works of art, marvels of DNA and history and memories.

But we woman don’t say beautiful to each other. Well, women have said to me “you look great!” which I instantly translate to “you didn’t look so good the last time I saw you.” Then there’s “you’ve lost weight!” and I cringe because what I weigh is none of their business nor is their assessment of my body type sought after at any time.

We tell each other that we are dressed well, or our hairstyle looks good, or our shoes are glamorous. Exterior compliments. Men or the fashion industry or the magazines rate, weigh and place cultural values on our looks. But for a woman to call another beautiful, in a completely a-sexual manner –the kind of beautiful that is a state of being; not of hair, or clothes, or skin? Highly unusual.

Why don’t we — as women — acknowledge when another woman glows, or looks happy, or truly radiates beautiful?  Why do we let others be better judges?

Her fearful glare had warned me  “back off  you are embarrassing me, my husband won’t like that,” and indicated to me that no one had told her enough or, sadly, at all, that she was beautiful. After the reunion incident I decided more notice was necessary, not less.

Strangers hug me after I say it. Girls smile. Men (yes, I am not exclusive) kiss me on the cheek. Let me tell you something: you will feel as good as they do when you say “you are beautiful.”

A random stranger brought this home today. I was headed to an early ferry, my hair a mess, my jacket rumpled and not quite awake. The morning was so sweet, the coffee so perfect, my car smelled so like heaven packed with dahlias, sweet peas and apples that I had jumped into the car not caring at all about my appearance. I may even have been still wearing my sheepskin slippers.

The ticket lady handed back my change and said, “you are so beautiful, and so early in the morning.” I looked up at her and said “thank you” and cried all the way down the ferry dock.

It was nice to be noticed for the right reasons. It was even better to have a woman tell me.

Notice the beauty. Pass it on.

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“Carnation”, oil on canvas, Emma Dane Garfield 2015

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