I believe in womanhood, womanly arts, childbirth, and sexual activity between opposite sexes.
This is my own belief, not to be made public, universally or used to defame any group. It is not anti- gay. It is not anti- men. And it is certainly not meant to upset any other splinter group of non-conforming people. Having said that, here is why I think it.
From babyhood I loved being a girl. I suppose it may be that my mother was happy when she had a daughter. She wanted to have a daughter. ONE. She never wanted to have any more children because she herself was an only child. And a lot of her friends were only children, too. She thought that if she had Only one, she could pay all her attention to that child.
But my father had other ideas and wanted a son. So, they tried again, and got another daughter. I bet my father was worried, because his own mother had three daughters before producing him. And after that, they had a fifth child, a second boy, Avon.
When I was born, mother loved having a baby girl to dress up. She bought me everything that was ruffled. Lots of colors, too, and laces, and ribbons and always, ruffles. I like pretty things. As early as I can remember, I liked them. Especially shiny silky fabrics, or soft, comfortable, smooth velvet. I also like fur. Very much. I believe mother may have given me some things made of fur very early. She had loved to play with her own mother’s fur muff. And so, she probably made sure I had something like that. Fur makes me happy, even today when it is frowned upon by young people who don’t believe in killing animals for any reason at all.
From my earliest memories, I realized that it was the females who got to wear all the pretty stuff. Clothes, hats, coats, and any other decorative object; they were all much prettier for girls than for boys. It was everywhere obvious, then, that boys were supposed to care about guns and bows and arrows and balls of every type. Sports and rough- and- tumble things that got them dirty and sweaty and smelly were the domain of boys (and men). To me, there is nothing pretty about a ball used for sports. A sphere is lovely, a globe, fascinating and colorful, even a snowball is interesting, but a soccer ball? No. Nor are any other sport balls pretty to look at. Not to me. Who designed the football, anyway? And baseballs and golf balls are the same, plain and utilitarian. So, they did not interest me.
As I grew up, jewelry crept into the mix. Mother was a jewelry aficionado. She loved it in all its forms. She made sure I had jewelry appropriate for my age. Small gold bracelets and tiny rings, silver- enameled hair clips and small gold and enamel pins to wear on my dresses. All during my childhood, jewelry was a standard birthday and Christmas gift. The pieces grew larger, and the stones larger and more plentiful as I became a woman. It was part of my persona, though never as much a passion with me as it was for my sister, Dede, or our mother. They had an obsession with jewelry that I have never shared. To me, it was just an adornment, something to enhance my appearance in any of my dresses. And dresses were what I wore. ONLY dresses. Except, sometimes, as I grew up, I had culottes for riding and later, riding britches. I did NOT like pants, slacks, or, horrors, blue jeans.
I wore ultra- feminine clothes in those days because my mother shopped for me. She would come home with armloads of clothes for me and lay them out for me to see. I began to have definite ideas about which ones I would wear. I am actually much happier in more tailored clothes, than Mother.
When I went to nursery school, I remember, I did have to wear overalls. I hated it. I can remember screaming and jumping up and down in anger and anguish because I did not want to dress like a boy. This may have had to do with the fact that my baby brother arrived two months after my fourth birthday. And he was the “son and heir,” and my father was thrilled to have a son at last. Perhaps some instinct made me jealous of this strange animal: “a boy”. So, I fell back on all the positives of being a girl. This result was raging antagonism toward anything which threatened to mix up my gender. Being a girl became a banner to wave. Wearing coveralls was abhorrent to me. After leaving that nursery school, I remember I refused to wear any pants ever except riding britches.
I was serious about this. It lasted until I was about ten years old and met Marcia McCardle. She became my best friend, and she wore jeans. I thought she was very cool. She was a year older than I. I wanted to do and be some of the wonderful things I saw her doing and being. So, finally, I realized that it was okay for girls to wear blue jeans. There were all sorts of ways to gussie them up; scarves for the belts, or pretty blouses and jewelry.
Back when I was first learning the difference between girls and boys, it was war time. The second World War was ever present in my life in my earliest years. I was born five weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The War in Europe ended in 1945 when I was a few months past my third birthday, around May 8th. Later that summer, I remember being in a car with my mother when we heard on the radio (over static) that the Japanese had surrendered on August 15th, 1945. She was excited and people around us were excited, too. There was electricity in the air that day, and I still remember it. Everyone felt relief. It was so wonderful not to have to worry about war anymore. And people who were serving overseas would be coming back home. That brought happiness to so many people, and it signaled the beginning of a resurgence in the economy. And before too long, rationing would be over. Mother hated rationing on shoes. She bragged that she had more shoes than all her friends because she used the ration tickets meant for the three of us to buy shoes for herself. We wore hand-me-downs from her friends’ children. We never owned a new pair of shoes until after the war.
The key thing to remember was that women did not serve in the military unless they wished to. There was no draft for women. And if they did wish to serve, they could NOT go into combat. To me, this seemed like such an obvious “plus” that I could not imagine why anyone would want to be a man. No fighting in a war for women. It was not allowed. I did not think it sounded fun to go to war, even though I played cowboys and Indians for hours at a time. I always wore either a skirt or my calfskin culottes, and my guns were lodged in a white leather double holster with red, cut stones and silver dots decorating it. I was a cowGIRL, not a cowboy. We played elaborate games where we shot the bad Indians and won. Sometimes we were the Indians. I loved being an Indian Princess. The movie Broken Arrow with Debra Paget and Jeff Chandler and Jimmy Stewart was such a favorite of mine, I wanted to live it. I spent hours pretending to be the female heroine. I LOVED it. It was fun and easy, and we had a wonderful big yard to play in. I had a playhouse and swings and a stable and a pony. There was a fish pond and a rose garden planted in a pattern with straight beds and surrounded by semi- circular ones. There were English borders along the brick wall that separated two parts of the garden, and a grassy lawn on which to run or play games. There were a variety of trees to climb, particularly apple trees and a beech tree, which I climbed a lot, in my dress. Often, I was scolded for playing outside in my “good clothes. They were just clothes, as far as I could tell. I hated having to change my clothes all the time.
When I was seven years old, my mother brought me home from school early one afternoon. She wanted me to witness the birth of puppies for myself. Our female Cocker Spaniel, Butsy, was having puppies and they were coming soon. This particular day, my mother and I got home in time to see several of the pups born. It was a fantastic experience. The bitch was a blond dog with a calm temperament. And she let us stay there in the doorway of the space where mother had set up a whelping box for her, in the room beyond the garage. Seeing the puppies emerge with little effort on the mother’s part and looking like cellophane- wrapped packages was thrilling. Then Butsy would bite and lick the sack off the pup with her teeth and tongue. From this strange material emerged a moving puppy with four little feet and a tail. The eyes were tightly closed. They were so cute. I believe she had a total of six puppies and I was able to see three of them born. That stayed with me. A fascination for childbirth was born along with those puppies. And it grew as I grew up, expanding and refining itself until I became a mother, myself.
That miracle convinced me once again that there is no contest between being a man or a woman. Who wouldn’t want to give birth? The most miraculous miracle of all. The perpetuation of the human race, the power to give birth is the greatest power of all. Poor men. They cannot do this. in fact, I eventually learned that men played such a tiny part in the whole process that one man could theoretically service thousands of women, certainly hundreds. But his service was minimal. Could be carried out by any man, but the woman was key. She carried the baby to term and when it was born, only she had the power to feed it. To sustain life, the mother had been given the structure and interior equipment to feed her infant until it was old enough to feed itself. Such amazing superiority made me feel sorry for boys everywhere. How embarrassing for them that they could not reproduce the way a woman can.
So, yet again, I was reminded of the benefits of being female. It was so much more fun, so much less trouble. Back then, and for some, even now, we got to choose to stay home while the men worked. It seemed their problems would never end. They had to go out and work to be able to support themselves and us. We women did not have to work outside the home. As a home lover, this seemed like a miracle to me. How did we get so lucky!?
And then, of course, there were the clothes. As I grew older and understood more about my wardrobe compared to that of my brother or other boys, there was simply no contest. It was pathetic to see what they had to wear. My closet was brimming with colors, materials, ruffles and sparkles that no boy could ever wear. I felt so sorry for them.
And then there was the female figure. So much more interesting than the male. Men were not curvy, not sexy that I could tell (except for Tarzan, but he was an anomaly in the 1950s) Women had breasts, and rounded rear ends, narrow waists and broader hips, lovely legs and narrow ankles. Men did not have any of these. They were straight up and down and boring to look at, their bodies dressed in muted colors and unimaginative styles. Men used to be able to dress in a more interesting costume historically. But not in my time.
At any rate, I believe I have explained why, for a multitude of reasons, women appeared to me to be so much better off than men.
Add to that the fact that I knew from early childhood that my mother could get her way with my father almost 100% of the time. And most of that time he did not even know she was doing it. None of this was lost on me. It was the way of the world. Men were stoic and somewhat oblivious about relationships and “what women want,” and that made it all the easier to influence them and manipulate them. My mother was a master at it. She never nagged or whined. Yet she nearly always managed things to her liking. So why on earth would I wish to be like my father when my mother was so much more in control of our daily life?
Women were physically stronger, too, I learned. We did not have the same amount of upper body strength. And in those days few women lifted weights or did any bodybuilding. However, we were much better at bearing pain, and most of the time more resilient and recovered faster from illness or injury. If we had a cold, we could continue on with what we were planning while a man would be sent to bed with the same illness.
There was absolutely nothing, I felt, that a man could do that I could not do better, except play sports, and that did not interest me.
Still, I wonder, in the year 2018, why there is an argument about this. The fact is that we used to keep our power to ourselves. We did not shout it from the rooftops while demanding equal opportunity. In so many ways, we had more power when it was less well- known, or so loudly-advertised, that we were capable of so much. I often want to say to women, Be Quiet. You are hurting your own cause by demanding equality. We women have always been more than equal. And we still are.
Bonnie B. Matheson 2018