Soooo, my mom has gotten remarried.
Here's a woman who has been divorced all of a year and change (and has re assumed her maiden name). And now, as a convenient means to keep her beau on some sort of insurance package, she's hooking it up again.
This is hard for her, because she's a debutante. She still comes from a place where the act of marriage was filled with lavish pomp and circumstance and societal presentation and that means something.
Not like she would need all that racket again, but these are not the most ideal terms under which she would choose to do this thing, and when she told me on the phone she was in tears. Now her beau is pretty cool and supportive of all her interests while having a lot going for himself. And there is plenty of financial glue keeping these two together- in other words, he wouldn't break up with her even if she had said no. Granted, its her choice, and since I'm a privacy whore (which says nothing of my blogging this), I realize it is also none of my business. She wanted me to know, and I appreciate that. This is after all, the woman who's done the most for me in my life.
If you'll indulge me for a moment: my mom is a Virgo, I'm a Pisces. We agree on practically nothing, but perhaps we subconsciously agreed that there would have to be a completion of the break from my father at some point. I'm not sure exactly how far along she was/is on the healing process from ending a 26yr relationship, but this new marriage has the potential to be cathartic and obstacle-clearing as much as it is a screw in the works.
So, how do I validate these essentially feminist feelings of frustration and longing, and still empower her without the usual lame-o "I'm here for ya, Ma." sentiments?
I've been thinking for a long time, and in several different contexts, about how to do just this for my mother. She gets along with women, but she was a boys-club kinda gal in her younger youth and I don't think she has any interest in "waves" or other mostly nonsensical academic feminist jargon. She's a go-getter. Ultra-practical but creative. Into control, but knows when she's got too much info on her hands. Like I said: a flippin' Virgo.
And my school takes a page from hers- my classic argument is "Do you believe women should be allowed to wear pants? Then yr a feminist." And regardless of whether you believe they should or should not be allowed to, they are. Change happens and the future is coming: All modern women are feminists, period.
Even here as I consider how my own blanket statement might fail me, my thinking is clear. I am a writer, but my writing is inseparable from and influenced heavily by my womanhood and my feminine experience.
On top of that, here's what's getting strange with all that pants-wearing (and this won't be the first time I've said this, and generally it isn't a new thought either): girls are becoming the new boys. The reversal of struggle in gendered culture fascinates me. Women now have the struggles that men have/had, in addition to their mostly traditional responsibilities when raising a family. Whether men (and gay couples) are more readily embracing the family structure and finding a balance being stay-at-home dads and the like... well, I haven't done the research there to say, altho' it seems likely. That's a whole other discussion- I do however absolutely support the rights of gay couples to adopt.
Yet, here's where mom failed not just me growing up. There was a lot in that big brain of hers, and she knew she could get what she wanted and still have a family- she's told me before she always wanted to be a mom. She had a lot to say, tho', that never got said for fear of my tempermental father. Clear patriarchal power grab at work, this guy. Her's was the bottom line, however, and her passive-aggressive way of communicating, and reacting poorly to my father's asinine behaviors (saying "Tell your daughter to fix her hair.", or having a fucking outright cow over where the TV remote is) didn't correct either of us. Now he's left with backhanded regret and I've got a few twinges of resentment.
One lesson that did go in pretty well was to let what has passed pass, and to hold no grudge, and I really do love my mom AND my dad.
She's made some choices and is older and wiser now. Her communication is better. And not just because I demand for it to be. Maybe that's the best way I can continue to empower her- to trust her enough to know she'll speak up with questions to address her own lack when it comes to communication or anything else. I too need help being not just a feminist, not just a writer, not just myself.
Wrote a post-card to mom a week or so back, A very sassy Adrian Tomine drawing of a girl lounging on a couch, talking on the phone with the caption: "But my problems are more interesting than yours!" On the back I wrote something to the effect of "Your mother looks to you and clings to your spirit for the same reason you do to mine: You say and do the things she feels she cannot." Feminism, what it will grow and change into next, finds its deepest roots in the binds of one generation of women to the next. I guess just being there and living and working as evidence for the future of feminism really is enough.
On a random note, "modern young feminist" publication Venus Magazine apparently went thru a corporate revamp recently, much like Sassy back in the day. There was an article about it in the Chicago Reader hinting that it was moving away from its "Feminist" with a capital-F roots. Can we afford to forget that we are standing on the shoulders of giants? No, but I'm not sure its worth looking down all the time and getting vertigo either. Chernobyl got on me to "submit" (ha ha) to the idea potentially writing for a magazine @ a SWOP meeting, and with good reason- "You should write about feminist issues, I know you have something to say." And I guess I do.
The best place to start learning about the feminist outlook has always been in our own backyards.