Life for a Woman in the 1970s

I finished university in 1971. I know, that’s a LONG time ago and how things have changed.

To me, the Internet has done a lot to promote change for women. We can talk with each other, get angry about why things are the way they are and the more we do that, the quicker change is made.

When I left university there were heaps of things that we look back on now and think, “How could it be that way?”  What’s worse is that nobody seemed to think it was wrong.

When I got pregnant it was just fine for my employer to give me the sack so he (and I use that word liberally) could hire a “full bodied worker.” I was required to step down from my office job at 6 months pregnant because “it’s better for the baby.” Yeah right.

It was perfectly all right for men in my office to call me honey or sweetie or tell dirty jokes. It was fine for men to have girly calendars on their office walls. It was fine for the men in the office to take off for several days fishing while the women stayed behind and did the work.  “Women don’t want to go fishing with a bunch of men,” they said.

I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name in 1971. I had a good job and was paid well but that counted for nothing at the bank in Tennessee. “Bring in your husband to co-sign,” the manager said. It was perfectly legal to discriminate against us.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that it was a criminal act to rape your wife. By law a woman had to submit sexually to her husband whenever he demanded it. Too bad if he was a drunken asshole, yes was the only acceptable (and legal) answer.

No legal abortions until 1973 and even then it wasn’t easy. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses to school until 1972 – no pants allowed for girls. Flight attendants couldn’t be married back then either. Get married and you get fired.

In 1976 – I remember it as if it were yesterday – I wore a pantsuit to work and then out to lunch with a friend who was a lawyer. By the time I got to lunch I’d been told that “trousers were for men and were very unladylike for women” and perhaps I should reconsider my work attire. I got to lunch and I was fuming and my friend couldn’t understand my anger.

In 1975 I needed surgery and before it could happen, my husband had to give his permission. I was outraged but I had no choice.

For women living today, you wouldn’t think twice about applying for a credit card in your own name or applying for a home loan if you were single. The complaints I see about boomers have wrecked it all for everyone – remember how times have changed. We complained, we burned our bras, we were the first to take the pill and we helped change the world for women.

Attractive People

role modelI was talking with a good friend yesterday and she mentioned a common acquaintance and said, “She’s such an attractive woman.”  I didn’t say anything but I did think that this woman, while not mud fence ugly, was not runway pretty.

All last night I kept thinking about what she said and why she had that perception of how this woman looked. As luck (or the Universe) would have it, that same woman called me this morning to talk about a project she’s working on.

We talked for about 30 minutes and I’m NOT a good phone talker. I’d rather have a root canal than sit on the phone. I’m not a good sitter either. Surprisingly, I didn’t notice how much time had passed until I hung up. That’s when the penny dropped.

She isn’t magazine beautiful but beauty comes through her voice. She’s happy, compassionate and truly focused on the person she’s speaking to and that’s what makes her attractive. She’s the type of person that instantly puts you at ease and says things that make you feel terrific about yourself.

I wanted to call my friend to tell her I understood what she meant when she called our acquaintance attractive but then I’d have to admit I didn’t agree. I do now.

Grumpy, whingey people might be magazine pretty but you wouldn’t want to be friends with them. This woman has chooses happiness for herself and her personality shines. I’m going to work on that. I’d love to be more like that and I don’t know her that well. You can bet that I’m going to do my best to spend more time with her.

It’s never too late to find a good role model for something you’re trying to achieve in yourself. Reminds me of when I was a university student with a young child. I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee and I had a neighbour across the street from me with a last name of Tweed.

She was like this woman I talked about earlier – always happy, always busy doing good things for her family and friends. My son called her Miz Tweet and he couldn’t wait to go to her house to play with her daughter who was the same age. She was a mother who got up before dawn to clean the house so she could play with her daughter all day.

Alan loved that. His mother went to university all day and he was in day care and then his mother had studying, cooking, cleaning and all the rest that goes with living. I wanted to be more like Miz Tweet and used her as my mentor.

Do you have someone that  you look to as a role model?

Don’t Salt Your Food Before Tasting It

over salting foodIt makes me argh when I’ve prepared a lovely meal and my guests pick up the salt and pepper and have a go before tasting it. I don’t often say anything but last week we had guests for dinner that I know really well and I let fly.

I placed the plate in front of Mick and before I could put my plate down, he had reached for the salt and pepper. I was irritated but I didn’t say anything.

The dinner was good, the company was fun and I was having a great time. John said, “Honey, that was really good, we should have that again.”

What did Mick say?

“I liked it too but it was a bit salty for me.”

I let him have it that how could he say it was too salty when he salted it before he tasted it.  He swore he hadn’t and I asked why the salt and pepper were still right in front of him. His partner agreed that he’d salted it before he tasted it (again) and how much it irritated her that he did it to her too.

Poor Mick copped it from both of us. Anita and I laughed but underneath the laughter was the knowing that we cooked good meals, tasting as we went along and they were well seasoned. Yes, I know, some people like their food saltier than I do and I have no problem with someone tasting and adding more salt to enhance their pleasure.

Please taste first — it will please the cook and she or he won’t get crankypants when you pick up the salt.

And while I’m at it, don’t cut a whole steak like you would for a child. Etiquette demands one cut for each bite. Bread should be eaten by tearing one bit off and buttering that bit and eating it. Buttering the whole thing is considered loutish.

Can Women “Have it All?”

good dadI recently read an article asking that question and it instantly angered me.  Actually it didn’t say women, it said why can only half the population have it all – that’s the bit that did the damage for me. With more than 80% of families having working parents, it’s time that child rearing was considered a two parent job and housework was a family affair.

Why do we assume that only mothers need to ask for time off to take Johnny to the dentist or Molly to get her broken arm set? Why are we still asking why women still do the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the ironing and the shopping?  I live with a man. I married him and he was a man back then too. He has never treated me anything other than as an equal.

He was a hands-on dad who never missed an event at school or anywhere else that his son was doing something. He supports me in anything I want to do, treats me as an equal in our business and has never said anything that he couldn’t take back. I’m lucky and I know it and I also know there aren’t heaps of women who can say that.

How many times have you heard it asked how a woman does it all being a wife, mother and job holder. Lots. How many times have you heard it said about a man? None. That’s because it’s assumed that the little woman will do all the work at home so he can go out and slay dragons all day. Hoop bloody do. Times have changed but society hasn’t caught up with it yet.

Parents should teach the children how a good family works by being one. Both men and women can have it all but both partners have to do their part. Women shouldn’t get less out of life so their husbands or partners can have more.

Can we have it all? Damn straight we can.

I Hate Buffet Restaurants

When I lived in the states, buffet restaurants were in every town and were certainly King and Queen in Las Vegas where the “Buffet and a Show” was on every visitor’s schedule.  The problem is, I hate a buffet restaurant.

buffet restaurant

I don’t care if they do have the big fat yeast rolls or enough food to fill Aunt Martha who weighs 300 lbs.  It just feels like bellying up to the trough.  No, I like my food brought to my table that’s been set with real dishes, cloth napkins and served with a nice glass of wine.

Cooking at home is no problem for me.  I like to cook and I’m pretty good at it, so when I go out to eat I want food better than I can make at home.  The buffet style restaurant just doesn’t cut it for a foodie.

I was invited to dinner at a local Chinese buffet restaurant the other day by a good friend who REALLY wanted to go there.  She said she was dying of hunger and could eat half of everything they served.

How do I say, “Sorry, can’t be bothered, find someone else”?

I didn’t.  I went along.

Honestly, I knew better that it wouldn’t end well.  And it didn’t.

We arrived and the place was 3/4 full which said that maybe I’d been wrong and maybe the food was pretty good.  I hadn’t realized that it was nearly full because it was school holidays and the winter holidays are when the folks who can’t afford to travel come to Queensland.  Yes, the place was filled with holiday makers who couldn’t afford more than an all-you-can-eat joint.

After being seated we were given plates and headed to the “trough.”  The man in front of me must have been 7′ tall and weighed way more than he should.  He was filling two plates.  He looked at me and said, “Someone my size eats a lot.”

Okay.

Then he sneezed and dropped one of his plates on the floor – all over one of my shoes.  I know, I should be grateful that it wasn’t both shoes but still, his germ laden food on my foot was gross.  I gave him one of those, “oh well” little laughs and tried to step around him so I could get to the food without any sneeze on it and stepped on something slippery and down I went.  I was fine but my dignity was definitely bruised.

So now I had a shoe covered in food and my bottom was now the same way.  Oh good.  What fun.

My friend?  She was on the other side and came through unscathed and ungermed.

I took enough food to last me until I got home and I watched as Jamie ate until I was sure she was going to explode.

“Oh, it’s so good,” she kept saying as if that was reason for going back for visit number three.  The food wasn’t that good, my shoe was ruined and my dignity was still in tatters with food all over my backside.

Remind me about this night if I ever say I’m going to a buffet again.

Have you always enjoyed a buffet?  Have I ruined it for you?

Living with a Bully

bullyAn old friend from my university days called me the other day just to catch up. It was terrific to talk about the good old days and what each of us had gotten up to in the gazillion years since we last talked.

She was tough as leather back then and a real drama queen so I expected to hear her tell me she’s been on stage all her life but no, that wasn’t it at all. After we graduated and parted ways, she married her high school sweetheart and immediately began having babies. That’s not such a bad life if that’s the life you want.

Sharon didn’t want that life. She got pregnant by a man she adored and that was that – her life was set for the next 18-20 years. If that was all the story, her life wouldn’t have been much different from the lives of many of the women in our class.

Her story differed because her high school sweetheart didn’t turn out to be so sweet and he didn’t have much of a heart at all. There was emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse that went on for years. “I didn’t know how to stop it,” she told me. “He kept telling me I vowed obedience in our wedding vows and he was going to keep me to that promise,” she said.

As I heard it I kept thinking, “Sharon?  This is Sharon telling me this?”  As young women everywhere we talked about her behind her back and called her ‘ball buster’ because she didn’t take crap from anyone.

I asked how it started and her experience fit in every textbook on domestic abuse out there.  He got rough, promised it would never happen again and little by little he whittled away at her self confidence and self esteem until everything he did was good and right and was done because she deserved it. How sad.

So many would say she just should have left but because this sort of abuse comes on slowly and over a long time, it’s really tough to tell who’s right because you BELIEVE what he’s saying.  You ARE worthless and incompetent and undesirable. I know. I lived with something a bit similar but not in any way that serious. I lost my sparkle but she nearly lost her son.

When her youngest was 17, she finally mustered up the courage and energy to leave him and that was the beginning of the real tragedy. He told her (as most bullies do) that if he couldn’t have her nobody could and he’d laugh when she crawled back to him on bended knees.

She didn’t go back. She got a job as a teacher (she hadn’t worked in years because her husband “wanted her all to himself because he loved her so much.”) and got a new apartment and was starting to get some confidence back.

“Then one day he called me and said that either I come to my senses and remarry him or I would force him to do something terrible and I told him I wasn’t going back.”

What happened next is too awful to comprehend. Sharon’s husband went to a fast food joint where his son worked and as the boy came off his shift and was walking to his car, his father shot him. Thankfully, he didn’t die but can you imagine how his mother felt?  Sharon said it was all her fault. If she’d gone back as she was told to, her son wouldn’t have been in the hospital for 6 weeks and wouldn’t be scarred for life.

Luckily for both she and her son, they found a great counsellor who’s helped them both through this. The ex is in jail, they moved to a different state and her son finished university and now has a great job and a family of his own.

Why am I telling you this?  Sharon told me that not one person who knew about what was going on at her house ever said, “Look, I know how tough things are for you and if you ever want to get away, I’ll be there for you.”  Maybe that would have helped and maybe it wouldn’t but I know if I ever meet anyone in that sort of situation, I’m going to say those words.

The Glass is Always Cleaner

This morning started like any other Sunday morning. I got up, took the 30 second commute to my office to catch up the work that accumulated overnight while John was in the shower.  The sky was dark and cloudy and I knew it would rain. After his shower, John asked if I wanted to go to the market in Caboolture and I looked outside and thought, “Nah, I don’t want to drive for an hour to schlepp around in the rain.”  Of course it didn’t rain. The clouds moved and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. I had planned a meeting at 11am via the phone and at 10:40 the dog started barking like crazy and that always means there’s someone at the door. We used to have a doorbell but it kept dying so now we use the dog. I expected it was one of the neighbours wanting to tell us we’d left a window open or would we water their garden but no, it was our friends Nick and Anita from near Toowoomba.
John answered the door and I stood there hoping the floor would suck me up. You see, Anita is a lovely woman but she’s the biggest neat-freak and well, I might be a freak but neat all the time, I’m not. If you want to visit me, give me at least an hour’s notice to clean up the baby coconuts that the dog drags in (he thinks they’re balls from God for us to toss). There might be a few dirty dishes, although I’m pretty good about that because I have a cooking blog and you can’t shoot photos in the kitchen if the kitchen’s totally crapped out. I also might have laundry in the chair to fold, ironing in a basket, the photographic lights are always up in the dining room and maybe even the props I used last session. Too much to do and not enough hours. I’m no spring chicken,  you know! Anyway, realising that we couldn’t entertain on the front doorstep, John invited them in while I cleaned up the newspaper, two empty glasses, and empty pill card and the dog’s ball off the coffee table. I apologised and said if they’d have called before arriving they wouldn’t have seen such signs of life. She threw her head back and laughed and said, “The glass is always cleaner at my house but I don’t have the fun you do. I wouldn’t cook like you do because it’s too much work to clean the kitchen and the oven.” What??  I couldn’t imaging not wanting to cook because of the effort to clean up. I told her to lighten up and make some muffins. They don’t mess much. Anita and Mick go out for nearly all their meals and I thought it was because she didn’t know how to cook but no, she doesn’t like to see her house less than perfect, even for a few minutes. I’ll happily stay in my lived-in home.

Old Friends

Maine WinterWhen I was busy raising a family or working way too many hours and I was much (much) younger, I would have fleeting thoughts of old friends and wonder how they were doing. I’ve been gone from my hometown in Maine (far northeast corner next to Canada) for a very long time. I left there at 19 and have never returned to live. Now that all my family has either passed on or moved away, I doubt I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

I keep up with what’s going on in my hometown through their local online newspaper and a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Waterville, if…”  I’m not actually from Waterville but from across the river in Winslow. I lived on the side with the paper mill and its sulphuric acid smell that we could count on spewing during the high school football games.

science club

We were only 15 & before Nancy had long hair!

You’re wondering if I have a point and I do, sort of. When I was in high school I had a good friend named Nancy Dyment.  Nancy was one of those girls with gorgeous blonde hair and a personality that could fill an auditorium. She oozed self confidence and I so wanted to be more like her.

This will certainly date both of us but I remember we went to the New York World’s Fair with the Science Club and Nancy, Dawn and I shared a room. We shared a room because we were the ONLY girls in the science club. I think the 3 of us were in everything that we could possibly join in high school. I even played basketball. I’m barely 5′ tall but I was feisty!

I headed south and went to university in Tennessee and I lost contact with Nancy except for one brief message several years ago. She was in Alaska and was leaving a job and then I never heard from her again. Every time I hear from some of the old gang I ask about her and get the same reply, “Me too!  I’d love to know where she is and catch up,” so I’m not alone.

I did catch up with Dawn a few years ago and heard about all the things that had happened in her life but she hadn’t heard from Nancy either.

Every once in a while I listen to Cap’n Barney’s (Pat Turlo) radio show MAYFLOWER HILL BLUES  www.wmhb.org playing some single-digit-temp-early-Friday-morning blues. Folks, if you want to hear a real Maine accent, catch Cap’n Barney. Tell him Bubbles sent you and he’ll know exactly who you’re talking about. My high school graduating class had mostly kids who’d gone to school together for 13 years so we knew each other really well.

Pat left school and went to the US Coast Guard Academy so he earned the title Cap’n. He married his high school sweetheart Linda, had a bunch of kids and now has a bunch of grandchildren. He worked as the Town Clerk and Deputy Treasurer of a small town in Maine AND he still does a great radio show. I’ve even called in just so he could abuse me. My husband said, “How can you understand that??” Maine people have a special accent.

My Facebook friends are dotted with friends from my home town. My bestie Anne is now retired from being a principal at a school in Maine so now she can keep up more regularly. There’s Camilla who has moved back to Maine, Julie, Bill, Becky, Betsy, Patrick, Paul, Mike, Pam, Barbara, Ken, Jim,  Eric, Bunny, Jayne, Glenna, Patricia, Peter, Bob, Robert…   and there are more. I try to keep up with what they’re doing and mostly I am envious that they’re retired and I’m not.  🙂

So if you know Nancy Dyment let me know if she still has long, flowing blonde hair? I found a Nancy Dyment in Alaska and she’s going to wake up to a text message from Australia that used a lot of words to say, “is this you??”

What’s up with the food stamp program in the US ?

dogWe all know times are tough in the state as they are around the world.  The high US dollar in Australia has strangled so many people, leaving us with a clear picture of what it’s like over there.

I read an article today at the Wall Street Journal by Al Lewis that really makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  It’s no surprise to anyone that I love my pets.  They are as much family to me as are my children.  To some that’s nuts but to me and millions upon millions of other people, we understand each other.

People doing it tough who’ve lost their jobs due to outsourcing or ill health without medical insurance, lost their homes due to foreclosure are often feeding their pets before themselves.  In the US 47 million people are receiving some sort of food relief called Food Stamps.  That’s one in seven people.

The bigwigs seem to think if you can’t afford your pet, have it euthanized but seriously, who can do that easily?  Certainly not me.  I’d do everything I could to keep Charlie fed and with me no matter what happened.  He’s my best friend.

Food stamps cover most food items but they don’t cover pet food.  Okay, I can hear some of you say that the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for your pets, that’s your responsibility and if you can’t afford a pet you shouldn’t have one.  BUT…  food stamps cover sugary drinks like Coca Cola.   They pay for FOUR BILLION DOLLARS of soft drinks a year through food stamps.  It’s a case of let’s get them fat and sick so they can not only be poor but sick with no insurance.

Coming to the rescue is Mr. Marc Okon, a former stockbroker, consultant and entrepreneur, has created a nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps that gives out pet food to those already on government food stamps.  Okon said he’d seen how the top end manipulates the the weak and he was sick of it.  He said his group has been swamped by requests for assistance so they can keep their pets.

My hat’s off to Mr. Okon. PetFoodStamps.org accepts donations. Okay they don’t just accept them, they’re begging for them. If you have it in your heart to make a small donation to help with the thousands of requests a day, visit their donation page.

Getting Older – Officially

It's My Birthday and I'm Officially Old!Today I am card carrying officially old. I hate it but the alternatives aren’t spectacular so onward and upward.

Getting older doesn’t mean you lose your sense of self, your sexuality and turn all invisible like the articles in magazines tell us. For me, it’s not going to happen. I have no intention of feeling “old” nor do I have any intention of no longer feeling sexy or flirting. I’ll flirt until they put me in a box.

The secret to staying young is having a good sense of self and knowing to your soul that you’re not any different now than you were when you were 30. Yeah, the bones are creakier and the face has more lines but the inner me is exactly the same. I just intend to keep feeling that way.

Another secret is keeping connected with friends. Don’t have any friends? I didn’t have any when I moved up here years ago but I’ve got heaps now. I started by joining different groups whose interests I share.

I like cooking, so I joined a weekly cooking class. All women my age and we have a great time. I’ve found some goddesses who’ve become good friends and I’ve found others through my blog.

How did I find others? Facebook, newspaper, meetup groups and Twitter. If I can do it, so can you. The best bit is once you start going out and being with new friends, your whole outlook changes. There are people to care about, to help or even to date but dating’s not been anything on my radar since I met John.

Another way to stay visible is to feel good physically. Get out in the sunshine, go for a walk, park away from the shop and walk a bit and breathe some fresh air. If your doctor prescribes medication, take it.  The number of people who tell me that they have meds but don’t take them and then complain that they’re sick all the time makes me crazy.

Finally, look in the mirror every day and tell yourself how much you like you. I do it every day when I get out of the shower and look at myself all dripping wet. I’m no pretty picture, that’s for sure but I really like who I am. When you like yourself, others will like you too.

Can’t decide what’s to like? There’s heaps. Are you kind? Caring? Thoughtful? Friendly?  Intelligent? Funny? Clever? Helpful? I could go on forever but everyone is special and has lots of reasons to like them. Grumpy or negative? Stop it. Nobody will want to be around you and why are you grumpy, anyway? Grumpy people have to choose to be grumpy so don’t choose it.

We all decide what our life is by the thoughts we think. When you are always looking on the bright side, bright things happen.