I am teetering down the driveway.
I am sixteen and I am teetering down the mile-long driveway of this lesbian separatist womyn’s land where my mother now lives.
And my pink kitten heels keep catching in the gravel and my perm is wilted in the Ozarks heat and I am pretty sure my make-up didn’t survive the plane trip so well.
I am teetering.
And I don’t know what YOUR idea of lesbian separatist womyn’s land is – maybe you’re imagining snarling crew-cut women in army surplus uniforms, steel-toed boots, marching through the morning, afternoons spent screaming their plans for taking down the Patriarchy.
Or – maybe. Maybe you’re thinking of a shimmer, a flutter, a bevy of wood-nymphs, long hair streaming behind them as they dance in the sun, in a meadow of cornflowers. Silk dresses floating. Or, maybe not. Maybe they don’t bother with the dresses. Maybe there’s kissing.
I DON’T KNOW IT’S YOUR IMAGINATION.
The reality is this:
I am teetering down the long, long driveway with my mother. It’s hot. Cicadas are screaming. And I want to go home to California.
I want to go back to cooing over boys and figure skating lessons and searching the mall for the one perfect pair of Jordache jeans that will make Gina Bianchini BEG to sit with me at lunch and then – suddenly – I hear laughter.
Merry, raucous, abandoned.
This is not the brittle hand-over-mouth titter of the Suburban California Woman. These are cackles. Guffaws. Rejoicing – JOY.
I am teetering.
Six women – young and fat and old and thin and scarred and smooth, and there are missing teeth and missing hair and faces bare of make-up and faces with laugh lines etched deep.
Like roadmaps of joys past.
And okay, yes, some of them are naked, but only because it’s 113 degrees outside and THIS?
Is my idea of feminism.
These women sitting together, eyes twinkling with merriment, and they are not talking about the Patriarchy, because they have better things to talk about.
They don’t give a damn about their hair teeth weight clothes NOT because they have learned to ignore society’s wants, but because they cannot FUCKING REMEMBER THE LAST TIME THEY CARED.
And I listen. I listen really hard. But no one ever mentions Diet Coke or how much they hate themselves, not once.
These are my feminists.
I am teetering.
These women, who have gone through hardships that you can hardly imagine. That left scars – real scars, not the kind therapists like to talk about, but actual scars – etched deep, like roadmaps of torments past. They do not need to be mollycoddled by anybody.
No one is saying, “You have a condition. The condition of being a WOH-MAN. We’re very sorry, there’s nothing we can do. TRIGGER WARNING! Fat hatred! Homophobia! Violence! This might make you FEEL things, put your hands over your ears little girls! Close your eyes, we don’t want to UPSET you! You are VICTIMS, you frail and delicate things!”
This Princess is a grown-up. She climbed down from her tower all by herself years and years ago in the days before “feminist” meant crying in your herbal tea about how the meanie bad culture forces you to wear high heels and how your wedding day is the biggest day in your life because for once you’re not marginalized by virtue of being a woman, but instead celebrated because of it. And if your husband doesn’t help with the dishes? It’s because he hates women instead of because he is simply AN ASSHOLE and NOTHING is your fault or your responsibility because you’re a WOH-MAN. And if someone tells you you have control? They’re trying to take away your fucking victimhood.
This Princess STRIDES down the sidewalk, wearing her scars like badges. And yeah, it’s been fucking hard but we laugh about it now.
And I – I am teetering.
I wipe my mouth in the heat. My pink lipstick smears across my hand.
I take a step forward.
I am seventeen and I am sitting in a classroom. I teetered, and I fell. I fell on the side of the Princess striding down the sidewalk like she owns the place. Wielding her sword in strong, scarred hands.
And merry, raucous, abandoned laughter.
THESE are my feminists.
Photo Phil Roeder