- Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
- And they’ll sing in grateful chorus
- Well done, Sister Suffragette! — Mrs. Banks
By Elizabeth Speth
A woman of a certain age — let’s say she was just about to turn 48 — was walking through a deep woods, enjoying the loamy smell of undergrowth, and flecks of blue sky visible through ancient treetops. She breathed deeply, eyes closed, and nearly squished an enormous frog directly in her path.
The frog fixed intense, bulging eyes on her. His throat throbbed as his wide mouth opened, and he exclaimed: “Kiss me! Kiss me, and I’ll turn into a handsome prince!”
The woman’s own eyes widened. “You spoke!” she marveled.
“Of course I did!” said the frog. “I’m a handsome prince. Kiss me and release me, and I’m yours! Hurry up! Let’s get on with it!”
The woman just stared at him.
“What’s the matter with you?” demanded the frog, and he seemed to snap his tiny webbed fingers at her. “What are you waiting for? Kiss me, damnit! Don’t you want a handsome prince?”
“Truthfully?” said the woman, “At this point in my life, I’m really more interested in a talking frog.”
I am, unmistakably, a woman. There is just no hiding the fact. There have been times in my life when I have regretted it. When it seemed that men were having all the fun.
I am older now, and smarter, and fortunately, I live in a world where that is mostly no longer true. There are still some holdouts — places, people and situations try to cast femaleness as synonymous with misfortune. In my life, though, there is an H.R. Department that takes care of holdouts.
The thing that I eventually figured out is that men don’t really have all the fun. ‘Fun’ doesn’t belong to anyone — it is actually just a matter of permission. We have to give it to ourselves. Permission to say and do what we like. To have opinions that may ruffle or surprise. To sprawl, to occupy and claim a space. To be loud sometimes, vigorous. To take risks. To take time for ourselves. To protect ourselves. To put ourselves first. To say no. Or yes.
It has taken me the majority of my life so far to learn about permission. Which is fine. Having fun toward the end of the party is better than having no fun at the party.
It cheers me, looking at our grandmothers, our mothers, our sisters and our daughters, to see that women are coming into themselves a lot sooner with every generation. We have hundreds of years of women before us to thank for that. Knowing full well they would not see change in their own lifetimes, they grimly did battle for us. We owe it to them to own what they won.
Now, I’m a bit of a hypocrite, touting equality while occasionally batting my eyes to get what I want. I love a door opened for me if my hands are full, and I usually won’t take a seat when it’s offered, but I appreciate the gesture. I may need it someday. I suspect I am still entitled to first rescue from a sinking ship (although I share a lifeboat with the children).
But I know there is a quieter, gentler way to get where I am going, because that is who I am. Thank goodness for red lipstick, and hats with flowers on the brim. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being womanly. Many men adore us for a reason.
And I love them back. Boy, do I. They are wonderful. I love how they think. I love their deep voices, their vigorous humor. I am pleased about all the ways they are different from me. They certainly make life more interesting. We go fairly well together, men and women, once we learn to synthesize ourselves. Once we figure out the choreography.
But thank goodness I know trying to be a man is a waste of a good woman.