06 September 2007
12 Years Ago, I was a Rebel
Flashback: 1995.

A fourteen year old me (and incoming high school Freshman) enters the hallowed halls of the local Walmart to shop for school clothes. Before you roll your eyes, I was a poor kid. My family couldn't afford the Arizona jeans, Levi's and No Fear shirts that were in vogue at that time, and when you were in my station in life, you took what you could get.

So, onward through the maze of old lady clothes in Wally World I went. You know how in the Wayne's World movie when Wayne sees the 64 Fender Stratocaster (in classic white with single triple coil pickups and a whammy bar) in the music store window and he has that "it will be mine" moment? I experienced that very same feeling. Tucked on a rack next to an assortment of purple windbreakers was THE GREATEST SHIRT ON EARTH.

The shirt in question was a plain white tee with a screenprint of Margaret from the Dennis the Menace comics with the caption "Someday a woman will be President!" above her outstretched arms.

I absolutely HAD to have that shirt, because even then it was something my fourteen year old equal opportunity and budding Pro-Fem mindset firmly believed in.

...In 1995.
...Before it was cool.
...Before it was "acceptable".
...Before it was P.C. (Politically correct)

I carried it over to the buggy, and tried to sneak it in without my family looking, because at fourteen years old, I still had to gain familial approval of all body covering.

"What's this?" my dad says. He pulls the shirt from the buggy, takes one look at my dreams hanging on that rack and then...

"Absolutely not."

Being the excellent teenage whiner I had become by 1995, I shoot George, (my nickname for my Grandmother), the champion of my childhood wants and most awesome woman on the planet, my best rendition of puppy dog eyes and soon I hear "Cecil Junior, let her get the damn shirt."

I win!
George: One --- Dad: Zip.

I went home a very happy girl, and Dad went home complaining and teasing that there was no point wearing that shirt because it was dumb, and there would never be a female President.

Fast Forward to a week before school starts.

I saw a minute tidbit on the news about a shirt that Walmart had taken off the shelves because Family Values groups were protesting the message it sent out to young girls. The impossible message that someday a woman would be President.


I was more than determined to wear it now. After arguments with my Dad about wearing a banned shirt that had no business being worn to school, I wore it on the first day. Even more, I was the only person who owned that shirt.

...And I caught hell for it from my classmates, predominantly male. Jeers abound. I ignore.

It seemed like in 1995 in the heart of Appalachia, my Dad was a voice of popular opinion in the male crowd. But I persevered. I wore that shirt like a banner of girl power emblazoned across my chest. I was sure that a woman would be President someday, and girls like me needed a dream, inspiration to lead.

That shirt really inspired me to achieve.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a photograph of myself celebrating one of my first educational triumphs of my high school years:

Yes, that's me (...during my awkward phase), wearing the greatest shirt on Earth, bashfully accepting a trophy for placement(in Language Arts, if I'm not mistaken)at a Regional Governor's Cup Competition. That trophy was only one small dream realized, a tiny stepping stone in a path of many through my years.

That simple construction of cloth inspired me to stand up for what I believe in, become an achiever, and soon after, a student leader. Over a decade down the road and I'm still doing my part to inspire a new generation to dream, believe, and achieve.

So, twelve years ago I was a rebel. (I still am)
I had my own belief, and it shaped who I am today.

That same belief is now a very real possibility for someone else who was once a young girl.

38 years ago, another young girl had aspirations of doing her part to make this world a better place. That young girl became a young woman who spoke eloquently and true to her own beliefs, in defiance of a senator's address during her own college commencement speech at Wellesley college.

That girl grew up to become Hillary Clinton, the first major female candidate to run for the position of President of the United States. She is a role model for young women everywhere. Twelve years ago in my world, the thought was ludicrous.

The message on that t-shirt from 1995 doesn't seem so impossible now, does it? We've come a long way as a society, haven't we?

Yet, Walmart still refuses to sell it.

But thanks again to the wonders of modern technology, you can buy it here, from the woman who created it.

Support the foundation that supports the dreams of millions of little girls all over the nation. Someday your own daughter might dream to be someone who makes a difference.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
05 September 2007
Apron Strings and the Feminist That Tied Them.
The other day I was rummaging through my dresser for a runaway sock, and at the bottom of the drawer were a pair of aprons handed down to me from my mother when I was twenty one years old, shortly after I was married. She gave them to me because they were old, and thought that I might want to have them. My mother never wore aprons, so how and why she came upon these are beyond me. But I started thinking about what these aprons represented at the time they were given to me, and how I see them now.

Five short years ago, I was slightly (and silently) offended that my mother had passed down to me what I felt were the very symbols of feminine marital repression, the chastity belts of kitchen fidelity where a “woman knew her place”, and that was in the home. I reluctantly took them because they were a gift from my mother and I didn’t want to be rude. However, it must be said that it has never been my temperament to be the Happy Homemaker, content with baking pies and scrubbing floors while enjoying a small allowance from the hubby every week. Thus, the aprons got tucked away in the dresser.

The days of Donna Reed and June Cleaver are long gone.

I grew up in a home where my mother had performed the same household tasks her own mother had done, just like her grandmother before her. Dad wore the pants, brought home the bacon, and my mother kept the house spotlessly clean, sometimes scrubbing until her knuckles bled. She had never worked a “real” job or tried to get her driver’s license, and no matter if my father was in the wrong, she stood vehemently behind him.

As a result of seeing my mother’s life firsthand, when I was a teenager, my definition of marriage was equivalent to a lifetime prison sentence. My mother had dreams that she had never had the chance to achieve, she married far too young, never graduated high school, and then by the time she could have realized what she wanted to do, she had two children to raise and everything got put on the backburner. My mother has a voice that would bring a songbird to tears, and every time I heard her sing, it was as if she were that caged songbird longing to be free. To me, marriage nailed the self you used to be in a dark corner, and what you were going to prepare for dinner had stepped in its place. Housewives were shells of their former selves.

However, I’m nearly twenty seven years old, and I find myself living a similar life. Similar, yes; but not exact. In these few short years, I have matured, and now I see that marriage is definitely not the misogynist demon I made it out to be in my younger years. My husband works ten hours a day, and between my day to day creative projects, I clean the house and prepare dinner before he comes home. I am not a housewife. I am a maverick, a multi-tasker, and a domestic engineer.

We now live in the time of Martha Stewart and Paula Dean, successful businesswomen who make a living off promoting the home. The modern, Pro-Fem versions of Donna Reed and June Cleaver.

By all of my teenaged assumptions and definitions, my not working in a physical establishment for employment defines me as a housewife. Yes, I already have one degree. I am pursuing my own writing endeavors while working on a book of folk tales set in Appalachia. I still create artwork manically, and occasionally I make a sale or commission (occasionally is simply because I have a knack for painting things that don’t match the couch or carpet and back home that’s why people buy artwork). And, I continue to go to college part time to get my Bachelor's degree in Art History.

Yet still, I realize I am living the day to day life of my foremothers. And you know what? It’s not so bad.

I’m not a shell of my former self. If anything, I’m an upgraded version. I found a partner who fosters nothing but support for anything I choose to do, and sometimes he nags that I should be doing more because it would be a waste of my talents. I really hit a hole in one with him. Especially after my teenage self went against my own judgment of lifelong anti-matrimony because I loved him.

I am glad I didn’t listen to my younger self, because I am experiencing on the whole, a great life that has only been enhanced by his presence. If he loves me enough to support me while I am going to college and trying to get my name out as a writer and artist, by golly I will be happy to cook his dinner and wash his clothes till the cows come home. Not because he brings home the majority of the money in the house, but because we are a partnership, and he made a long-term investment by putting faith in me. That kind of faith and support means that bigger, better things will come. It just takes time, and he’s in no hurry. He’s scratching my back so I can scratch his later. I do my work outside of the traditional establishment, but that doesn’t mean that what I do is less valuable than what he does. It’s a 50/50 deal and thank goodness we both see things that way.

Back to staring at those scraps of cloth at the bottom of the drawer, I looked at those aprons for a few more seconds and saw that when I was young, I made the mistake of not putting value on my mother’s work. If I had been objective, I would have seen that she really had the hardest job of all. I only focused on all the things she hadn’t achieved, not all the great things that were a product of her running the home.

She raised two intelligent, mostly responsible kids who turned out well. She kept our family together when the only thing binding it was a strip of moth eaten cloth. She made huge dinners that kept our bellies full on less than five dollars a day. She changed diapers and wiped snotty noses, washed clothes and did the yard work. My mother deserves a medal of honor for what she’s done, and she isn’t finished yet.

When I was twenty two, my mother got her high school degree and started college. She’s been working ever since. She didn’t miss out on life because she married young and raised a family for twenty years; she was just a late bloomer. I am so proud of her and thankful that she sacrificed those twenty years of her life just to care for her family. That was the greatest love of all.

Those aprons are now a symbol of love, and remind me at every glance that I’m lucky to love and be loved. Your worth shouldn’t be measured by whether you are running the rat race or not. Equal value should be placed on anything you do, even if it does require getting your hands dirty every once in a while. To all the mothers and domestic engineers out there, I salute you.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button