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.”


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.

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.

It’s Time for Men to Cover Up Their Nipples

baby breastfeedingbaby breastfeedingIs there anything sweeter or more precious than seeing a mother breastfeeding her baby?  It’s what the boobage is for.  Centuries of sexualizing breasts ended up this week in a young mother at a public pool to move to a changing room or more secluded area to breastfeed her baby.

The woman has three children and her two little boys were playing in the water and mum was waterside watching them when the baby decided it was time for the milk bar to open.  Now any of you who’ve heard a hungry baby cry know that there isn’t a mother around who’ll do nothing when this happens.

So as discreetly as possible she began to feed her baby while keeping her eye on her sons who are five and six years old. One of the pool staff told her that other patrons were offended by her breastfeeding and she’d have to move. Liana Webster told the pool employee that breastfeeding anywhere in Australia was completely legal but argument ensued and the employee told the woman that it was perfectly legal for pool staff to ask her to leave.

Liana began to cry, the baby began to cry and the little boys couldn’t understand why their mother was crying. They were at a pool where people wear next to nothing at all and folks objected to a baby getting a bit of milk from her mum?

Back to this sexualizing of breasts. What is it about our society that causes some people to assume our bodies are something to be ashamed of?  Just this week in response to what happened to Liana Webster, TV presenter David Koch said that breastfeeding is something that should be done away from a public area. Like maybe the ladies’ room?  Sure, everyone wants to go to the toilet to eat.

To be fair, it’s not just men who object to seeing a bit of boob – and I say a bit because the baby’s head covers most of it. I’ve seen much more on a local beach. It’s the fact that the baby is sucking on a breast that sexualizes it and both men and women can be offended.  So I think it’s time we covered men up. Men like to have their boobs sucked and many women find men’s nipples sexually attractive so I think they should have to cover their nipples.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy.  All the comments that breastfeeding women “flop their breasts out for everyone to gawk at,” is just not the case. Yes, the baby has to find the nipple and the mother has to drop everything no matter where she is and feed the hungry baby. When I had my first child very few women breastfed their babies.

“It’s so hard”

“You have to do it in the restroom”

“If you’re in public you have to cover the baby’s head with a blanket or towel, regardless of the temperature”

Then there was a huge surge in the promotion of breastfeeding as it was better for the baby and would end up with healthier, more intelligent babies which would result in less money being spent on health care. But… they still wanted us to cover up and not be seen. It reminded me of the olden days when women were deemed unclean during their time of the month and had to remove themselves from society.

Times need to change and people like Koch need to catch up. Feeding a baby is natural, normal and wonderful and anyone who has trouble with it needs to look in the mirror for a solution.  Men, cover your nipples.  After you do that, read these words from former US President Jimmy Carter. I respected him as President but after this I love him.  Losing My Religion for Equality

Women Haven’t Come Far Enough

stop violence against womenstop violence against womenWe’ve all heard the horrid stories of how commonplace rape is in India.  We saw the news articles about that young medical student who was so cruelly tortured and then tossed onto the pavement and left to die.  We read about how long it takes to prosecute a rapist in India – often 10 to 14 years.   We are sincere and solid in our condemnation on this heinous attack but often we think, that’s “over there” and it’s not like that here where I live.  And it’s not, but that’s not the end of the story.

In India, the government says they are doing all they can to fast track this one case but since that rape of the medical student there have been several other rapes, one of a  young school girl of only 12.  The opinion seems to be that any women walking around at night are fair game.  The medical student went to a movie escorted by a male friend.  One person interviewed said she shouldn’t have been out at night because only men had that right. India seems so far away from my home in Australia.

When violence against women occurs in Muslim countries, we think that there’s nothing we can do because their religion teaches them that men are better than women and women are to be beaten by their husbands if their wives don’t do as they are told.   The Qur’an states that men are the maintainers of women and if they don’t have sex with their husbands or if they want to leave it’s perfectly okay to beat them.  Beatings are appropriate and necessary to keep women in their place.  Not all Muslim men beat their wives, let me be clear about this, but Islam permits it. It’s not a crime to beat your wife under Islamic law. As long as a major religion says beating your wife is okay, what chance do women there have?

A bit closer to home at our nearest neighbour in Indonesia, a candidate for the Indonesian Supreme Court (maybe I should type that twice for emphasis) was being interviewed this week by politicians to determine his suitability for the position.  When asked if the death penalty should be given for rape, he joked that it should not because rape victims enjoy the rape as much as the perpetrator.  It’s okay to pick your teeth up off the floor now.

We look at the issues in India and we think, “many poorly educated men, improperly taught about the rights of women,” and we can understand where they’re coming from even while condemning their actions.  The jerk in Indonesia going for the top legal job in the country is well educated and well respected.  What does that say about how the upper levels of government there feel about women?  To them women are not equal to a man, they have few rights and are on this planet to serve men.  That’s how I view this.

Now back home in Australia.  A heavily pregnant woman and her husband and child went to a car park last week so they could pick up some potting mix.  The woman was really tired so she stayed in the car while her husband and little boy went into the shop.  While sitting her her car she heard a man shout and then she saw a woman running past her car.  Following the woman was a man that looked really angry and yelling, “Get back here,” and raising his fist.

Another woman saw the incident and she got out of her car and along with the pregnant woman tried to break up the fight – the man had grabbed his wife by the throat and had thrown her to the ground.  The perp saw the women coming after him and dragged his beaten wife into his car and drove away.

You might be thinking that these women are to be praised for trying to help and you’d be right but that’s not the whole story.  Standing around watching the guy beat his wife were several men who seemed to be watching the show as if that was a personal problem and none of their business.  The man owned the wife, right?   He can do what he wants with her and it’s none of our business, right?

Where do these notions come from and what do we as a nation have to do in order to change this culture?  It’s no wonder women are paid less than men for the same work when the assumption by men is that we are somehow worth less.  Violence against women is preventable but it will take all of us to do our part.

We women need to do more to assert our equality.