Monday, August 16, 2010


Over the months, Nancy and I frequently discussed women's place in the world, and where we each fit into the scheme of things. Although I now considered myself a feminist, I stood firm on my decision to remain a stay-at-home mom. I talked about this to my husband and, bless his heart, he said he'd stand by whatever decision I made, whether it was to continue to be a homemaker, or head out into the business world. Looking back on it now, I think if he had opposed the idea of my going back to work I probably would have done it just to prove that I had a right to follow my own path. But he was so darn nice and understanding about it, that I didn't feel put upon or isolated by my decision. (Of course it would be pretty hard to feel isolated when you're caring for seven children, busy with PTA, coaching Little League, acting as class mother, teaching guitar, writing a weekly newspaper column, and playing in a church folk group!)

Then something happened to change my life forever -- an event I think back upon as my "Aha Moment". One morning a vice-principal from my oldest kids' high school came to our house to discuss some volunteer work I was doing for the school. I didn't know the man very well, but I thought it was a little strange that from the moment he entered the house he never once looked me directly in the eye. In fact, I received the distinct impression that I was just another housewife he was forced to deal with because the principal had placed the job on his desk. As I served him coffee and homemade coffee cake, he still didn't make eye contact, instead rummaging through the pile of paperwork he'd pulled from his briefcase and describing the part I was to play in the project. This went on for so long that I was beginning to get distinctly hot under the collar, to phrase it nicely. I knew that if my husband were sitting there at that dining room table instead of me, it would have been a very different story.

As he was returning the papers to his case, I decided to put my theory to the test. Keeping my voice casual, I mentioned that I wrote a newspaper column titled PENNY PINCHERS, which appeared in a dozen newspapers throughout the San Francisco peninsula. His reaction was totally amazing! He suddenly sat upright in his seat, raised his head, and for the first time since entering the house stared me straight in the eye. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Why was it that as a housewife I was the invisible woman, but as a newspaper columnist -- one that he claimed his wife read religiously -- I was all of a sudden a real honest to God person?

I couldn't wait to tell Nancy about this remarkable experience. We had a good laugh at the vice-principal's expense, but it also touched a deeply sensitive nerve that we couldn't ignore. Over the following weeks, we spoke to other women only to discover that they, too, had similar stories to tell. The more we thought about it, the more the idea for a book began to take shape in our minds. What if this was happening to women all over the country, women who appeared as shadow-figures rather than viable, self-actualized individuals? And what if, because of this, women were suddenly and mysteriously starting to disappear all across America?

(On Thursday: Nancy and I set out to re-write HIS-story from a woman's standpoint!)


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