Category Archives: feminism

She’s a brunette, by the way



10082010950.jpg, originally uploaded by The Single Rider.

I googled Mary Quant – she practices what she preaches!

I don’t happen to think that God gave me the right hair color. I look so much more natural with the one I invented with my colorist after chemo. I am way too pale for ashy-brown-dishwater-blond hair. Pretty much everyone I’ve asked agrees that strawberry blond was the way to go for me.

There’s this school of thought that says that you should accept yourself the way you are and that everyone else should, too. But I disagree. I think we are all empowered to change what we don’t like about ourselves, to improve, to grow. Let’s face it, we have precious little control over anything else in life but we are ALL masters of our own destiny. We can ALL make ourselves over in our OWN image.

Too few people, especially women, realize that it’s within their power to reinvent themselves either continually or until they are satisfied. I think it’s one of the things I have loved about Madonna over the years. Self-reinvention has become something of lifetime practice for her. We never, EVER have to settle if we don’t want to. We are all lumps of clay in our very own hands.

Start sculpting 🙂

(took a picture of that in a magazine and now I cannot remember which – pretty sure it was either Real Simple or else it was O.)

Critter management – curse of the terminally single

Owing in part to the fact that I am not an iAnything fan, I got a kick out of this morsel from the September issue of Wired magazine. The other reason I liked it is because of my long, colorful and quasi-famous history with the management of in-home critter invasions.

I’ve only mentioned the snake in the garage once here at The Single Rider, I believe. lately I’ve taken to signalling the onset of invasion by changing my Facebook profile picture to that of "Morrigan" the Irish warrior queen and snake killer etraordinnaire. Alas, self-sufficiencies in realms usually managed by men is the occupational hazard of the terminally single woman. One must open one’s own jars with one’s own two hands – and those same two hands are responsible for all matters of wildlife removal and/or extermination.

I’ve been fond of saying over the years that nothing which has scales, fur, wings, feathers or more than two legs – or doesn’t pay rent – gets to live here .

Now you know why I am terminally single ;o)

Sent from my Nokia N97

My “cougar” days, part one

IMG_0917What a ridiculous term by the way – “cougar”. 🙄 Where the hell did that come from? I’ve been googling around to find out how a woman who pursues relationships with younger men has come to be known as a “cougar”, but no one seems to know. I even looked up some facts about the actual feline known as “cougar”, also known as puma, panther, or mountain lion, depending on if you live in Texas, Florida or Wyoming. I found no evidence that the female cougar prefers younger male cougars for mates, but did find reference to adults being more or less solitary and meeting for one reason and one reason only – mating. Perhaps this is the basis for the terminology – hunting for a mate, then going home alone. I know, it’s a stretch, but aside from that I got nuttin’ !!!

A survey conducted by AARP asserts that 34% of women surveyed responded indicating that they were dating younger men, thereby fitting the definition of “cougar”. The survey is 6 years old at the time of this writing. Spurred on by high-profile romances such as that of Ashton Kutscher and Demi Moore, I imagine that statistic has only grown in the intervening years.

Guess what? There was a time when I fit the “cougar” definition, too. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – I was cougar before cougar was cool 😉 I once calculated it and came up with a startling statistic – I am older than 80-something percent of all the guys I’ve ever been involved with. Age differences have ranged from 3 months all the way up to 8 years.

(As an aside, I also calculated that 80-something percent of all the guys I’ve ever dated and/or married were also Jewish. Yes, we detect a pattern here. No, I haven’t really tried to analyze it. I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Queens, so I’m not shocked that I’ve got an affinity for Jewish guys).

I began my auspicious career as a cougar circa 1975-76. Harry was in 9th grade and I was in 10th. He was exactly my height, sandy brown hair, blue eyes, with freckles. A class-clown type, Harry really knew how to make me laugh, and he was just adorable. Soon after we met, he got his braces removed, a fact which relieved him no end. I’d privately thought that they only added to his adorableness factor.

We were both in the high school chorus, and both had 5th period free, during which time we ran errands for the people working in the guidance office. One day, the student body decided to stage a “walk out” during 5th period over some (no doubt) burning, socially relevant issue, and Harry and I decided to walk up to McDonald’s instead of hanging out in the guidance office. I guess that was our first “date”.

Soon after that, he proposed to me amidst the melee that occurs periodically each day at every high school across America – otherwise known as the break between classes. We were passing on the staircase. I was trapped in the throngs heading up, while he was heading down. There’s no stopping when you’re in the crush of humanity on the staircase in an over-crowded New York City public school. He was looking for me; he saw me and thrust something rather sharp and pointy into my hand. As the crowd swept him away, he hollered over his shoulder, “Marry me!”. I opened my hand to find a copper-colored paper clip, bent pretzel-style into the likeness of a ring. Despite the fact that the ring eventually left a greenish tattoo on my finger, I was da shit for the duration of the school year. A boy, a CUTE, nice Jewish boy (all my friends were Jewish – I was the token shiksa) had proposed. With witnesses! It seems like half the school was on that staircase during the first (but not last) proposal of my life. This is how I came to be the sensation of the 10th grade that year.

I received my first-ever kiss – with tongue! – from Harry. I suspect it was his first as well. We were riding in the back of a car driven by the senior boyfriend of one of my pals, on our way to a party. The sun was shining on a fine spring day, and the Beatles crooned All My Lovin’ as we practiced our exploratory maneuvers, entirely neck-up, on each other. Thereafter, just walking down the halls or ambling hand-in-hand down the street, one or the other of us would spontaneously burst into All My Lovin’, while the other harmonized. To this day, when I hear that song all I can think of is Harry and soft, first kisses in the warm sunshine.

When my friends threw me a girls-only Sweet 16 party, Harry and some of the guys from our crowd crashed. The hostess was my friend Denise, God rest her soul. She was rather put out, but I was delighted. They came bearing gifts. One of the boys gave me Wings At The Speed Of Sound and another Endless Summer. Only, they were LPs! You actually needed a record player to play them! These remain staples of my music collection. Harry, however, chose to come bearing jewelry. He’d petitioned his grandmother for funding and presented me with a tiny, perfect sterling silver cross. This was a grand gesture coming from a nice Jewish boy and his bubbie! 😉 I treasured it and wore it always, even after we moved away, which ended our relationship.

Fast-forward one year, which can seem like a thousand at that age. I was a junior at my new high school and a senior asked me to accompany him to his prom. The day after the prom, we went to see a show on Broadway in NYC, and who should we bump into outside the theater but Harry. It seems a senior had asked him to the prom too, at our old high school. We were ecstatic to see one another, but that made our dates antsy, so we had to be brief. A year had made a huge difference – I could tell he was now officially WAY taller than I was, and he was even cuter, if that was possible. His parents had relocated him, too – to California. We wrote to one another a few times, but as often happens with young love, one or the other of us stopped writing and that was the end of that.

I don’t know what became of the “engagement ring”. It probably disintegrated and went to paper clip heaven. But I do know what happened to the silver cross. Fast forward another year, to the magically golden summer of 1978. Our town sponsored an outdoor summer theater workshop, and during rehearsals for a dance number, the chain I wore the cross on somehow got caught on someone else. The chain snapped and it all went flying into the night. Several people helped me look for it. We found the chain, but the cross was lost forever. I probably would have been inconsolable, had it not been the magically golden summer of 1978 and That Boy.

Oh, and the show we were doing? Fiddler On The Roof – OY! 😉

NEXT TIME: His name was Jeremy…

Further reading: Here’s the article that inspired me to explore my inner cougar 😉

Click to read The Cougar: Progressive or Exploitative? on BlogHer

The choice to be childless

Niece No. 2, aka my God-Niece, updated her status on Facebook this morning and has not been back to elaborate. Her status currently declares that she “never wants to be a parent”.

Never is a pretty long time. I’m intrigued, and looking forward to asking her what brought this on when I see her next. She’s coming to spend a week with me “doing nothing” on the beach next month. I’m sure it will be an illuminating conversation!

It started me thinking, though, about all the reasons I’ve had over the years for not wanting to have children. All these years, I’ve given the impression that it does boil down to that simple, declarative statement – I never wanted to be a parent. But in reality, nothing is ever that simple.

Growing up, my dolls were never really my babies – they were my friends. I never clamored to be the mother whenever the kids in my neighborhood played “house”. I just never had the drive toward motherhood when I was little.

I was babysitter of choice in my neighborhood when I became a teenager.  The kids adored me, and I them.  I wrote fabulous tales of adventure and heroism, and put them in starring roles in these epics.  I played the best games, and kept their secrets while still keeping them out of harm’s way.  I was their friend and guide – but NEVER their mother-figure.

In my late teens, I indulged in a little pipe-dreaming with a particular boy (yes, THAT boy) about “some day” and how it would be when we established our home and our family together – right down to “two cats in the yard”.  The scenario included a vague quantity of children, at least two judging from a sketch he drew for me one time.  At this point, though, I feel it fair to point out that for me, it really WAS dreaming; I felt very little real identification with the possibility that it could actually come true.  At 17-18 years of age, I’d already had a number of experiences that taught me the rug would be ripped out from under me as soon as I became comfortable and happy, so I don’t think I ever actually believed that “some day” would manifest into reality.

Later in life, I had what turned out to be an ill-fated marriage, to someone else.  But in the beginning, when I still had every intention of going through life with him, I picked out names; Julie for a girl (Julianna, actually, like the queen of the Netherlands) and Jordan for a boy. This was a nod to the name of the female lead in the musical Carousel. It was my first role after starting to study with Gloria, a radical departure from the roles I’d been playing – I’d learned how to sing like an ingenue.  I thought it was neat that “Julie Jordan” had two first names instead of a first and a last.  Anyway – eventually, I accepted that I was married to the wrong person, and actively sought to prevent the manifestation of children. I believed he would not pull his weight as a parent; he wasn’t pulling his weight as a partner, and I saw no reason to believe a baby would change any of that.  I already felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being an adult, having a household to tend to along with a full time job and a budding stage career.  I felt responsible for everything, and I didn’t see the sense in adding to those responsibilities.

I recognized, fortunately, that many men want children for the same reason they’d like a Porsche in the garage.  They love being able to brag about having one, but they want nothing to do with the maintenance.  I further recognized that a woman who is married to this sort of man is in for 18 years (minimum) of indentured servitude, self-sacrifice and subjugation of all her wants, needs and desires, always putting the needs of the children first, never getting an assist.

I grew up in a very restrictive environment.  I didn’t get to make the simplest of decisions for myself; everything was controlled to the nth degree.  I had no say in the clothes I wore, the way I styled my hair, the friends I was allowed to have…. no freedom of choice at all.  I was tired of external sources dictating every little detail of everything for me.  I wanted freedom.  The idea of living under restrictions again was not at all appealing.

I feared that, under virtual single-parent conditions, I would become resentful and miserable. This would leak over onto the children. I’d been on the receiving end of something similar. I knew what it was to really hate being treated that way.

Bottom line: I knew it would break my heart to have any child of mine hurt so badly that they would come to hate me.  I could not bear the thought of it. I’d been trying to prepare myself for a long time to not make the same mistakes my parents did. I started a diary at age 13 or so, for the express purpose of never forgetting what it is like to be a kid. I thought that would help me to be a better parent. Probably, it would have.  Definitely, under the “some day” scenario, with the right partner, it would have worked.  But once I piled the wrong partner on top of my fears that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… there was no way I was going to introduce children into the scenario.  They would only suffer for it.

So, all these years, many of you reading this have had the understanding that I didn’t WANT children.  That is not necessarily the whole truth.  As is typical for me, I knew far better what I didn’t want.  What I didn’t want was to feel used and trapped.  What I didn’t want was to make children who were destined to suffer and to resent me for it.  What I didn’t want was to gift someone with a Porsche that I would then be forced to maintain solo. 

God is good.  Some women who go through chemo lose their ability to reproduce.  I was 33 when they finally decided that those episodes whereby my head felt like it was spinning into orbit were actually hot flashes, and that meant I was entering menopause.  I was not a candidate for estrogen replacement, because that’s what my tumor ate for a living – estrogen.  Therefore, I believe that God picked the right person to visit with this condition.  It would have been a real tragedy if God had picked a woman who would have been devastated by infertility.  From that perspective, I’m glad God chose me.  And it really kind of settled the question once and for all.  Want or not want, it was moot – “can’t” was now the operative word, and aside from a mild twinge now and then, I’ve really been ok with it, with the finality of it.

All of this led to my ability to focus some individualized attention (not to mention disposable income) in the direction of my nieces.  And now I’m wondering if it also led to an example being set for them of an alternative option.  Even growing up in the 60s and being exposed to media coverage of “women’s liberation”, Gloria Steinem, fish having no need of bicycles, etc., I still had some notion that one grew up and got married and had children because that’s what one did.  I’m sure the extremely conservative way in which I was raised contributed to that; my parents often said that a young woman did not leave her parents house unless it was to move into her husband’s house. 

This hasn’t been true for my nieces, thankfully.  They actually get to leave the house and go away to college – without first having to get married!  Although I would never want to discourage them from having a family if that’s what they wanted, I do hope that my life has somehow served to let them know that a person can be legitimately productive and happy leading an alternative lifestyle, that there is another choice besides wife and mother.  There’s the choice to be childless.  When I ask about the mysterious Facebook status update, I might find that this is the case, or I might find that she was just in a very bad mood.  Either way – it’s satisfying to know that there are children in this world whom I love, that I’ve not made them suffer and they don’t hate me 🙂  So maybe it was the right choice after all.

Having a life and still being successful

How Women Are Redefining Work and Success – BusinessWeek.

Found this article in BusinessWeek and realized I had stuff to say about it!

They yearned for a path to success based on results, not hours clocked.”  This resonates with me because I have felt the pressure to stay online until the boss logs off, regardless of whether or not there was any work that was pressing enough to dig into MY time.  And yes, at my rung on the ladder, overtime is MY time, which I generously donate to the Firm on occasion.  How much and how often can be the result of a trickle-down effect.  If the boss is doing it, the worker feels some obligation to do it, too.  If the boss talks about having a life and leaves early sometimes to attend a school function, the workers will feel comfortable doing that too.

All of you who are The Boss, remember this – you are leading by example!  If you want your staff to be well-rounded and able to perform at peak, you must model the right behavior, the behavior that says it’s not only OK to have a non-work life, it’s mandatory.

burnout and the “enormous lattitude to move sideways, backward, in and out” – I might be one of the few downshifting success stories at the Firm.  Normally, one would have to change firms if they wanted to downshift, but I was fortunate enough to have management that recognized burnout didn’t mean I wasn’t any good to them any more.  It meant I needed to not work so much any more, to put some perspective back into my life, to have the luxury of down time.

So rather than try and get them to conform to rules and guidelines from the 1950s, we should listen to them, and let them lead the way for what this future will look like.” – I don’t see this happening in the current environment.  Jobs are not plentiful.  It’s not like the worker has another place to go, at least not easily or readily.  The worker will have to conform to the mores of the workplace, whatever decade those mores are from, or they will be fired and replaced with one of the thousands poised to step over the bodies and take their places.  In a less competitive environment, the workplace might very well need to conform, but as things stand, I think the workplace will continue to be “my way or the highway”.

additional expectations of the single rider – Yes, it happens.  We, the single and childless of either gender, are often expected to pick up the slack.  I’ve actually been told, “Well, it’s not like you have to pick up the kids or anything like that” – as if that’s any more legitimate than my own non-work priorities and obligations.

backlash against telecommuting – currently happening in my firm, and the reason I won’t be transferring back into the technology group any time soon (I’m currently in corporate finance).  Apparently, there was a moonlighting incident.  So now, in the tech org, all of the “outlyers” (yes they actually call us telecommuters that!) are slowly being brought back into the offices.  This incurs cost – real estate, phone lines, LAN connections all cost money.

Honestly, I view the moonlighting thing as a management problem, not a telecommuting problem.  How could you not know that your people aren’t on the job?  How can you not know that they are not producing the way they should be producing?  Still, management has become allergic to telecommuting, and removing this as an option is going to throw people back into imbalance between work and home life.  When I started telecommuting full time in 2005, I was able to reclaim four hours of my life a day.  FOUR HOURS.  A DAY.  Incredible, isn’t it?  I cannot imagine going back to that old life.  Ever.