Feminism: A short sotry
I was born during the idyllic ages of the 1950’s, 1951 to be exact. It was the climax of high heels, Donna Reid, and homemade dinners. Mom and Dad had only been married for a year before I came along. They always told me that I yanked them out of the honeymoon phase and into reality. We lived in a two-story brick home, complete with a white picket fence. Dad left at eight o’clock every morning and waltzed into the door precisely at five in the evening. We would sit together and eat dinner while Mom and Dad talked of the news and the economic climate. My name is Elaine McIntyre and this is my life.
Mom’s luscious skirts swooshed all around me as we danced in the kitchen. Bing Crosby serenaded us while suds bubbled over from the sink and dishes were dried. That was the decade of the family. We went everywhere together. Dad took me to work sometimes and mom welcomed my company at the grocery. Both of my parents were very well educated. They enjoyed the finest literature and every night after I went to bed they would sit on opposite sides of the room and discuss philosophy.
We grew together into the next decade. Life remained much the same. Family dinners were unchanged although I, quite a bit bigger, conversed more with my parents. Some nights I would sit with them while they had their nightly philosophical discussions. One night will be ingrained in my mind forever. The date was late December of 1960, the fire roared in the fireplace, while we each held a cup of decaf coffee, mine was a special treat. They were discussing a recent publication from a woman in Illinois. Apparently she was causing uproar in houses across the state. The effect was not great upon us New Yorkers, but Dad caught some wind of it at work.
The lady of discussion pushed for women in the workforce and equal rights. Mom didn’t believe in any of these things, no written condensation of their logic was in print, so she cared little for their ideas. That changed just three years later. The Illinois lady, Betty Friedan, wrote the best seller The Feminine Mystique. Like most people of those days, Mom believed what she read. She bought the book and instead of discussing philosophy with Dad every night, she was enveloped by Miss Friedan.
Slowly, family dinners became more irregular, mom left me at home while she grocery shopped, and Bing Crosby serenaded us no longer. Mom and Betty wrote to each other everyday. When five o’clock rolled around and brought Dad home, Mom was found at the writing desk pouring over her letters. Dad bore her obsession well because he thought it was just that, a short obsession. The obsession was many things, but it was not short. By 1965, Dad was done being second to a woman who Mom had never met. They didn’t divorce, for that was still very frowned upon, but he left. One day I came bounding down the hill from the bus stop excited over a new economical term I’d learned, eager to share it with Dad. When I arrived home, he wasn’t there, and neither was Mom. I was fourteen years old, and that was the first of many times that I would come home to an empty house.
Mom got a job working for the newly founded National Organization for Women (NOW). The job she held was simple, protest organization. Unable to understand the ramifications of her new job, I was drug around town to events. It wasn’t until the first organized protest in front of the Buffalo courthouse that I realized what my mother was doing. The concept was foreign to me, women working, just like men. But, it was not the feminist idea itself that hurt me, it was the fact that I no longer saw my father, the increasing store bought dinners, and the emptiness of our once joyful home.
“Elaine” My mother once told me, “you will follow in my footsteps. The NOW will be lucky to have you.” No other words have ever haunted me so much. Seeing what my mother’s job did to her life made me want to stay as far away from that organization as possible.
I finished high school and was eager to be the woman my mother was when she got married. In school I was the strange girl who wanted a brick home and white picket fence with a husband who came home to me every night. However, the tide was changing and this decade was not like the former. In order to fulfill the idyllic dream of a 1950’s life, I left to live with my father.
It wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made, but I would not change it for a moment. Mom never called to see if I was ok. In fact, I never saw her again. She died of a heart attack in 1972 and as her post-wife will stated, she was not to have a funeral.
I wish my story on no one, but I do believe that an important lesson has come as a result. My mother, and women in general at that point in history became enveloped in the world. The result? I spent the greater part of my life without a mother and father. The feminist movement has some legitimacy, but none to justify the tearing apart of a family.