Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nancy and I discover we come from two different worlds.

I felt as if I'd known Nancy (my playwright friend from the guitar group) all my life, which was a bit strange since we came from very different backgrounds. I'd been raised at the tail end of an era that preached that a women should be a homemaker, while her husband brought home the pay check and was revered as the undisputed king of his castle.

Nancy, on the other hand, grew up in the vanguard of the Women's Lib Movement. She and her peers were expected to launch successful careers with the goal of finally breaking through the glass ceilings that had until now prevented the fairer sex from competing in a man's world.

So, here we were, the feminist and the homemaker, each from vastly different backgrounds, yet slowly discovering that we had more in common than either of us could have imagined. To better understand Nancy's world, I started reading every book I could find on the subject: Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Adrienne Rich, along with many other authors. I even helped Nancy with workshops she periodically conducted as part of "sensitivity training" for various corporations. According to her, I was one of the fastest learners she'd ever met, taking roughly three months to learn, process, and absorb feminist philosophy. I was pretty proud of my rapid evolution into the modern world!

Yet something bothered me about both of these philosophies. It was all well and good for a wife and mother to stay at home if that was what she wanted, as I had. But what if she didn't? What if she were drawn to a profession: doctor, teacher, scientist, writer, artist? Who had the right to tell her she was failing her husband and family if she followed her passion? Or what if taking a job provided her family with a higher standard of living, college for the kids, a better retirement some day? Wasn't this the kind of decision that should concern no one but the couple involved?

Conversely, who had the right to tell a woman that she was a failure if she truly desired to be a full-time homemaker? Did one size really fit all as Friedan and Steinem preached? Bottom line, why was everybody trying to tell women what to do with their lives?

(On Monday: Something happens which leads Nancy and I to co-author a novel)


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