|In love with the earth and sky
There I was in 6th grade Science class, 12 years old, standing in the middle of the room, twirling a sling psychrometer above my head like a cow roper with his lasso. I will never forget those words, sling psychrometer, not because it measures relative humidity, but because as I was swinging it, I felt an unusual, unforgettable twinge in my gut. Knowing something was wrong, I set the instrument down and carefully walked to the lavatory, only to discover a stain on my underwear.
Oh that, I thought. I walked home to my mother, who was thoroughly prepared for this day (and I knew it was coming too, but shut it out of my mind).
All I could think of was, well, darn it. What price a woman? I adored hanging out with the boys (I have 3 brothers); their lives of action and adventure and robust activity was a very desirable place to inhabit. Why, or why was I born a girl? No more sliding into second base. No more crawling on my belly in the backyard ditch, or rolling down hills in giant, truck-sized inner tubes. No more tackle football (my father instructed). No more dodging slap shots in my brother-dictated, life-long assignment of the goalie in every single ice hockey game they allowed me to play in.
They ruled the sports and outdoor play kingdoms, and I was a happy, willing participant.
Life had been so perfect up until then. What was I supposed to do? Sit around and play gin rummy? Clean the house and cook? Is that what women did? Play Barbies and kiss pillows pretending they were boys, as my girlhood peers did? Pretend I was shaving my hairless legs (where’s the thrill in that?) Check out books from the library? Even Nancy Drew held no appeal; it still meant staying indoors and sitting on your rump all day.
Then it dawned on me the importance of creating a ritual for girls to help them cross over into the next stage of development. Wouldn’t it be lovely to mark the occasion with an acknowledgment of how special this time of life really is? There were no hallelujahs or “welcome to womanhood” rituals to help me cross into this brave new world with an element of joy and appreciation. Or just plain acceptance. All I could think about was what was to be lost. I was simply put on notice that “you will start to bleed” and the reason is to create a “nest” in which to bear children someday.
Well, bearing children was a couple decades off into my future…couldn’t the curse of womanhood just wait a little longer? Holy cripes, talk about yanking away my freedom in one fell swoop. I didn’t want this womanhood.
I’ll never forget the brand name printed on the side of that sling psychrometer: Red Spirit. No kidding.
Turns out I never had daughters. Not that I didn’t try. I experienced two glorious births; both sturdy, healthy boys. But knowing the odds were 50/50, I wasn’t about to continue trying knowing it was a hit or miss proposition (though my mother urged me on, saying, girls are so…different…to raise). I think she meant difficult; the boys, after all, gave her no trouble. I was a headache and a half.
What I do have is a friend’s child I truly love and adore.
Bless her little 7-year old heart, she has four younger brothers.
And because of the Women’s Movement and the passing of Title IX legislation, and because her parents let her play outside all day with her brothers and get super dirty, she won’t have to worry about being banned from sports, just because she was born a girl.
She can become a basketball player rather than a cheerleader. She can become a model or clothing designer when she grows up. She can dance around in front of amateur judges in pretty, scratchy dresses if she chooses. She can write plays, study karate, or fly a 747. She will grow up knowing she is NOT the “weaker” sex. She can become a scientist, or a teacher or an artist…and still be a competent mommy.
She will experience a host of opportunities and have a fair chance at jobs with equal pay for equal work. She will develop skills that interest her, decide when and whom to marry, or not marry at all if she chooses.
Today is a great period in time to be alive…as a woman. In our country, that is (an important distinction).
|joyfully falling into life
Still, enjoy your childhood, girls. Because things are going to change in a strange, curious, and most remarkable way. Starting somewhere around your 12th birthday…