(Working women are a great revolutionary force -- Laodong funu shi weida de geming liliang)
This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, skip down to Read More. If not, here's links to background information in the sidebar to the right, third item from top.
Third Friday in June 1986
Myra and Ginny invited friends over for Friday night dinner. Myra roasted two chickens and steamed fresh peas with carrots, Ginny made salad and challah, Sima brought non-alcoholic wine, Chris made rosemary potatoes, and Allie scored big with a peach cobbler. Sima and Ginny lit candles and led the prayers, then everyone drank wine and ate challah before sitting down to dinner at Myra's tiny table. They passed around dishes, starting with Ginny who lifted each one from the counter behind her because there wasn't room at the table for anything besides plates to eat from.
Sima said "I heard from someone at Tikvah Chadashah that they're renting 'Shoah' to show next month, the weekend after July 4th, half on Saturday, then the rest on Sunday."
Myra said "I never got to see it when it released last year in the theaters. Is this open to everybody or just members?"
"Everybody" said Sima. Chris spoke up "I want to go, but I may have a conflict for Sunday."
"What is this?" asked Allie.
Ginny answered "It's a documentary about the Holocaust made by a guy who used hidden cameras to capture footage of people who had participated either in running concentration camps or turning over local Jews to the Nazis. Shoah is the Hebrew word used by Jews for the Holocaust. The film is almost ten hours long."
"Godamighty" said Allie. "No wonder it takes two days to see."
"Supposed to be incredible" said Myra. "Count me in."
Ginny said to Sima "Do we just show up or get tickets in advance?"
"I don't know. Call Chaya, she's organizing it."
Ginny continued "We should let everybody in the Jewish Women's Potluck group know, they'll want to come."
"I'll start the phone tree tomorrow" said Sima. "Which reminds me, our next meeting will be that week in July, too, and you said you'd host it."
"Oh, shit, I forgot. We may have a construction crew in my house by then. When I offered, I still had a house available" said Ginny.
"You do have a house, well, flat available" said Myra. "I mean, if the group isn't more than 15 or so, we can set up the living room to be comfortable."
Ginny smiled at her. "Okay. It's on Wednesday evening -- maybe you and Allie can plan something for yourselves that night."
"Or I can just hole up in my office and write" said Myra. "I won't come out and bother you."
Ginny looked at Sima, then back at Myra. "No, sweetheart -- you can't be here. It's Jews only."
"You mean, me even being on the premises is not okay?" asked Myra, wanting to add that it was her flat but remembering just in time that this was no longer true.
"It might make some of the women uncomfortable" said Ginny. "We need space that's completely Jewish for a few hours." She could tell Myra was upset about this, and getting more upset by the second.
Myra discarded most of the comments that came into her head. Finally she said, a little tangentially, "This is why I put that thing on my list about me not being Jewish. This is what I meant -- wondering when it would come up for you."
The rest of the table had gone very quiet. Sima was holding Chris's hand out of view.
Myra went on "I mean, I know I'm not a Jew, I'll never be a Jew, no matter what. It's not about what I was born -- "
"For some people it is" said Ginny. "For some Jews, it's about who your mother is, and while I don't completely agree with that, I agree with their right to define it for themselves."
"Okay" said Myra slowly. "But I think what I've heard from you, and other Jews I've loved, that it's a matter of how you were raised. And no matter how many years or decades I spend now living as a Jew, partnered with a Jew, whatever, my upbringing was as a Christian and that identity is not -- erasable. I guess I just don't know when the line is going to be drawn that excludes me." Her voice held pain in it.
Ginny didn't know what to say. Allie cleared her throat, then said "You're feeling it as exclusion, Myra, but that doesn't mean it is. Separatism is about focus and redressing balance, not exclusion. You of all people know that."
"Yeah. It is a feeling, not my thinking..." Myra trailed off.
Sima pointed her fork at Myra and said "It's that obnoxious 'all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten' crap." Chris began laughing as Ginny said "What? I don't follow."
"Oh, it's one of the places where I most agree with Chris about what white people share, this reverence for grade-school emotions" said Sima. "How our culture, at least the boy-run part of it, wants things dumbed down and emotions reduced to Play-Doh colors, a Dockers ad. I mean, if I don't aspire to more maturity than I had in kindergarten, my life is stunted, you know?"
"Reagan's made it cool to laugh at empathy" added Chris. "Liberal as a joke. He gets called folksy, but he's got Nazi eyes, have you ever noticed? If you ignore the make-up and accented laugh lines."
"So are you saying I'm trying to hang onto my whitebread 'Life was so much simpler then' mythology?" said Myra quietly. "Now that I'm up close to a wall other people know about but I've been able to sidestep?"
"No, honey" said Sima. "I know we're all seeing eye to eye. I meant -- come on, you know what I meant."
Myra could feel her eyes stinging. "Maybe. Like -- There's no faking or 'acquiring' the conditioning of being raised a girl. Or working class. Despite the American myth of self-invention being a hallowed tool designed to keep us all from doing the real work of becoming allies instead of choosing denial."
Chris suddenly said "Donna Hendricks."
Allie couldn't help but laugh, even as Myra winced. Sima and Ginny looked blank. Sima said "Who is that?"
"She's this woman who kept barging into this woman of color CR group that Allie and I were in" said Chris. "She was Southern white -- "
"Delta South" said Myra.
"-- but she had some great-grandparent who had been half Cherokee, or so she claimed. She was blue-eyed blond with that Deliverance kind of pinched white-folks face, but she rode her Cherokee claim into an identity of color."
Myra added "She'd been raised white middle class, completely, not even once having access to her supposed Cherokee ancestry -- and, I gotta say, every other white person in the South claims a Cherokee in the family tree, it's a badge of esteem, but there can't have been enough Cherokees to make it all true."
"A couple of times, folks complained about her presence at women of color gatherings" said Allie. "One time, Jaycee took her on, remember? And then that woman, Elan, from Lebanon I think she was, she got into a screaming match with her. But Donna insisted her self-definition trumped all of our discomfort."
"Which was in itself racist" said Chris, "But of course she couldn't see that."
"I tried to talk with her about it once" said Myra, "I tried to get across to her that every white person is devastated by racism, it isn't just nonwhites, but dealing with our pain based on how we were actually fucking raised and being an ally was a lot more honest and helpful to our sisters than trying to switch teams, so to speak. But she just didn't want to be white, didn't want to have to deal with racism as a member of the group she'd been born and raised in -- she said she'd always felt like she was Native since she was born and that was that."
"There was a guy like that at Evergreen, too" said Ginny.
"There's people like that hovering around every group that's target for discrimination" said Chris. "It's the curse of identity politics -- when you confuse identity as a victim of oppression with long-term reality, then there are some people who just can't cope because they feel excluded from some special club."
Myra said, very quietly, "So...is that why you brought her up? To say I'm like that about being Jewish?"
"God, no" said Chris. "I mean, I'd tell you if I thought you were -- "
"Somehow I don't doubt that" said Myra, with a bruised grin.
"I know you deal with your feelings as feelings, instead of making others rewrite their choices. I know that about you, Myra" said Chris, looking at her intently. "I just thought of her and said her name. Spur of the moment kind of thing."
Ginny had found Myra's hand and was squeezing it.
"The truth is..." began Myra. "I've not always been clear. Or clean. When I was lovers with Judit Pereira, we drove together with one of my roommates at the time, Dvora, so they could attend the first Jewish Feminist Conference in San Francisco. 1982."
Ginny made a small sound. Myra looked at her. "Were you there, too?"
"Yes" said Ginny, staring at Myra. "I drove with some friends, took a day off work. Bonnie didn't go with me..." Her voice trailed off. She was holding something back.
"What?' said Myra.
"I know Judit Pereira. I met her there, actually, and connected with her pretty intensely. I really liked her. I never knew she was one of your exes -- that she was actually with you at the time. I think she talked about you" said Ginny.
Myra felt increasingly hijacked. Chris said "I thought she was Latina, not Jewish."
"Sephardic" said Myra briefly. "Anyhow...it was extraordinarily hard to see my lover and my roommate enter that school building where the conference was held and me have to walk away from the door. I mean, I volunteered to do childcare and some security, and met some great San Fran dykes that way, Gentiles who were doing support work for Jewish liberation. And at night we'd all be together again. But after the first day, Judit was distant, and at dinner the next day, she and Dvora confronted me about why I hung out around Jews so much, did I have some kind of objectification or agenda, didn't I understand I really wasn't a Jew -- it was a hard conversation. And I did a lot of soul-searching as a result."
Allie said calmly "Well, maybe you just got a chance to do some more" and she put another piece of chicken on Myra's plate. "Eat."
Ginny looked around Myra at Allie and said "Can you cut her a little bit of slack?"
"I'm not her ooey-gooey girlfriend" said Allie, smiling a little to take the bite out of the words. "Not my job. She likes me for who I am, right, Myra?"
Myra looked across the table at Chris. "Help" she said in a small voice.
"I'm not your girlfriend either" laughed Chris. "Remember, I took a pass on that one."
Ginny gaped at Chris. So did Sima. "Not helping" said Myra.
She turned to Ginny. "We'll talk more later, okay? Just me and you. We have our own way of dealing with things and it works for us, don't sweat it." Then she turned to Allie and said "You're right, but don't even think about making fun of how Ginny expresses her commitment to me. You want to comment on it, do it directly to me."
Allie looked at Myra for a second, then said "Okay. Didn't mean to put her down, if I did."
After another second, Myra said "Okay. We cool?"
"Wanna date the Wednesday after July 4th?" Myra grinned at Allie.
"Sure. Come to my house, it's just beyond the Red Sea" grinned Allie back.
Myra retrieved her hand from Ginny after a final squeeze and began eating again. Sima and Ginny looked at each other, communicating something silently. Then Sima said "Whatever happened with that Cherokee wannabe?"
"Donna?" said Chris. "She finally got tossed out of a private sweat by some cranky elder and gave up trying to crash things, though not before she wrote some nasty letters to various publications. Last I heard, she and her white girlfriend had adopted two girls from China. They made up a Chinese-sounding last name, which wasn't the actual name of either of the girls, and Donna now goes by that. Wang, maybe. Which, on paper, makes her instantly nonwhite."
"Integration by adoption" murmured Allie. "Much easier than dealing with adults or real cultural communities."
"So, do you want to go to 'Shoah' with us or not?" Myra asked Allie.
"Yeah, but I"m bringing a pillow, my ass will go dead if I sit on it that long" said Allie with a sigh.
After a long silence filled with eating, Chris said "I have news too. I found out that Cherrie Moraga is reading at Red and Black in August."
"Awesome" said Myra. "When?"
"Day after your birthday" said Chris.
Myra looked at Ginny. "We were thinking about going to Michigan this year. But maybe we can do both -- we were going to fly and rent a car once we were there. Any of you want to go with us? I'll buy the tickets, for the plane and the festival."
"I want to get back there" said Allie. "Do you have the definite dates yet?"
"No, but I can get them tomorrow" said Myra.
"Let's talk then" said Allie. She looked at Chris. "How about you?"
"Nah. My idea of camping doesn't involve several thousand menstruating women and huge speakers blasting music into the woods" said Chris.
"I saw Cherrie Moraga read her poetry once before she was famous" said Myra. "She was going by the name of Cherry Brown then -- she has a white father, I guess."
"Cherry like the fruit? Where was this?" asked Sima.
"The summer Allie and I went down to San Fran, 1978, right after I'd moved to Seattle. We spent a couple of months there, and I went to a day-long open mic in North Beach. Cost a dollar to get in, I remember that. I got to hear a whole lot of poetry, good and bad. Cherrie stood out, not just because she was a lesbian. Or, actually, I think she was calling herself bisexual. But whatever, her work was noticeably different" said Myra.
"Why did you go to the Bay Area? Thinking about moving there?" asked Sima.
"No, I was determined to stay in Seattle" said Allie. "I came here originally following J.T., the girlfriend I had in Pensacola. She was in the Navy and got stationed here. But she was out on duty that summer, and Myra and I read about this thing going on in the Bay Area that we wanted to get in on, so we drove down, sublet a room in a big dyke flat on Valencia Street, got part-time work and had ourselves a summer of fun."
Myra looked reminiscent. "It was an extraordinary time to be there. Every night, it seemed like, there was a big anti-Briggs event with all kinds of cutting-edge performers and speeches. I joined this group called Lesbian Schoolworkers -- I wasn't a schoolworker but those lesbians were dynamite."
"Is that why you went down, to fight the Briggs Initiative?" asked Ginny.
"No." Myra swallowed her bite and went on. "We read this article in LC, maybe, about a group of dyke vigilantes in the Bay Area who were kidnapping guys who had been arrested for rape, clearly done the rape but gotten off on a technicality. The first time, they castrated the guy -- and somebody in the group had medical training, because it didn't kill him -- painted gentian violet on his wounds and dumped him naked on the steps of the county hospital. The next guy, they roughed up pretty bad in the genital area but not actually cutting 'em off, and dumped him the same way. They had t-shirts made that said 'Castrate rapists', and once they broke into a fucker's house, they'd just surround him silently, wearing masks and those t-shirts. More than one of their targets passed out in terror. They would always paint his genitals, which doesn't come off for weeks, you know, and dump him naked in public somewhere. After the first case, the local press went bonkers. All the leftie guys were outraged, I mean, foaming at the mouth about it -- the same guys who made jokes about rape all the time thought this was simply awful. So we went to try to track these women down and join 'em for a while."
After a pause, Ginny said quietly "Well, did you?"
"Nah, they weren't advertising who they were" Allie chuckled. "And we weren't in the kinda crowd who would have told us, strangers to town and all. But we did a lot of other stuff, and rape statistics dropped precipitously in San Fran for that year".
"I bet you cut a swath through all those revolutionary young dykes" said Ginny to Myra, not completely okay with it.
Allie continued chuckling.
"I...made some friends" Myra admitted. "One thing, though, they were so sure San Francisco was the center of the known universe, lesbian-feminism wise, and while the separatism was white-hot, the pace was like living in New York -- everybody was always booked down to the last 15 minutes of the day, and they weren't generous, they weren't -- kind, like I had experienced in Austin. And here. So I made sure to follow Allie on back here" said Myra.
"Well, I'm glad" said Ginny. Myra leaned over and kissed her. "Me, too, with every cell in my body" she replied. But tension was there, and not just between them.
When Ginny got up and went to the bathroom, Allie followed her after a minute and met her in the hall. In a normal tone of voice she said, "Listen, Ginny -- I know calling you the ooey-gooey girlfriend was not -- respectful. I'm sorry for it. I do not look down on the connection you have with Myra, I hope you feel that from me."
Ginny leaned against the wall, an earnest expression on her face. "I thought I did, Allie. But that came out of the blue."
"I...didn't like how you confronted me, about cutting her some slack. You'll never know the slack I have cut Myra and continue to do, every minute of every day. I know we're now all in relationship together, I'm not stupid about that. And you need to be able to talk to me about -- well, all of it. But I felt confronted, not just talked with. I didn't deal with it as directly as I am now."
Ginny chewed her lower lip for a minute. "You're right, I was coming from a place of protecting her. Which is just a bad idea, I guess, with Myra."
"Especially with me. She will never need protection from me" said Allie with an edge in her voice.
"If I had stopped and thought about it, of course I'd know that, Allie" said Ginny, putting her hand on Allie's arm.
"Myra walks this earth looking for her mother. The fact is, she did that before her mama died. It's a ghost quest. You can't be the one fill that role for her." The edge was gone, but Allie's voice was still serious.
Ginny turned and looked down the hall at Myra. Myra was watching her and Allie; so were Chris and Sima from the other side of the table. Ginny felt momentarily overwhelmed. She looked back at Allie, who finally put her hand over Ginny's.
"Big learning curve, huh" said Allie.
"We'll all arrive at graduation together" said Chris from the table. Ginny laughed and stood upright again. Myra's face was a mixture of shame and relief. Ginny let the ache of seeing that face bounce off her heart and sat down next to Myra, slipping her hand into Myra's under the table.
Later that night, as Allie was hugging Chris goodbye, she said "For once I'm really glad to not be going home with a girlfriend. I get to just turn on late night TV and scratch my ass without processing."
Chris laughed a lot harder than Sima did. After everyone was gone and the dishes they'd all washed were put away, Ginny said "I'm going to brush my teeth and I'll meet you in bed."
"We're going to talk, right?" asked Myra.
"We sure are" said Ginny.
When Ginny slid under the covers, Myra was sitting up against the headboard writing in her notebook. She had on a T-shirt instead of being completely naked as she usually was.
"Are you making a list of things to discuss?" said Ginny, trying to look over Myra's shoulder.
Myra held the page out of view. "Just notes for myself" she said. "We can begin anywhere."
Ginny struggled with herself for a few moments, then said "Well, might as well get this out of the way. You and Chris? Have you two had sex?"
Myra made a little tick mark against something on her list, then set the notebook aside with a tired smile. "No. We went out once on what I thought was a date, and at the end of it, when I crawled out from behind her on her motorcycle, I leaned in and kissed her. Like an end of date kiss."
"What happened then?" demanded Ginny.
"She kissed me back. Then we pulled apart, she looked me in the face and busted out laughing." Myra's voice still held a little pain.
"Oh. Oh god, honey."
"She said, nicely enough, 'Nuh-uh', gave me a little punch on my shoulder, and roared off. We haven't actually discussed it since. I wasn't especially hot for her, except as a friend, so the ripples were small. It's not an issue; in fact, so not an issue I never thought about bringing it up to you. I wonder if Sima knows."
"She does now, but it looked like tonight it was a revelation for her, too. Which is between her and Chris, I guess. So, Myra -- who else is there I don't know about?"
Myra stared at Ginny. "You're asking for a list now? I can't give you one right away, and what difference does it make?"
"It matters to me if it's someone who's my friend, or in our circle of friends" said Ginny. "I mean, what about Sima?"
"No, I met Sima through Chris, when they got together" said Myra. "Okay, let me think...Paula at Aradia, we dated a few times when Rain was a toddler. Not lovers. Annie Gagliardi at the bookstore, lovers briefly way back when. Jen, we dated and made out heavily once. Kate in Portland, we never did anything but I asked her if she would consider being partners with me, and she said no."
"Kate Bean?" said Ginny. "Wasn't her sister Kuyler one of your lovers?"
"Yeah, for a couple of years. But this was long after me and Kuyler broke up."
Ginny stared at Myra. "You think that makes a difference?"
"It did to me. It apparently didn't to Kate. I hate your tone of voice right now, Ginny. I feel -- defensive, more so by the minute."
Ginny was sitting well away from Myra, half-turned so they had eye contact. She realized her shoulders were bunched up and her throat was tight. She didn't feel able, at the moment, to hug Myra but she did try to drain away her anger. Myra was sitting very still, focused on her hands which were folded on the quilt in front of her.
"Okay, Myra. I am mad, but I don't think I have a right to be mad at you, not for your past. I mean, we can't help our pasts, we can only help what we're doing now and I really trust your behavior now."
"Well, great, you're willing to let go of being mad. How about being judgmental? How about being icked out? You gonna hold onto that?" Myra's voice was quiet.
Ginny got up and began pacing up and down at the foot of the bed.
"I can't help having feelings, Myra. I'm doing the best I can, I need a little room to sort it out, you know?" She let her voice rise.
Myra stood up slowly, reached for her pants and began pulling them on.
"What the hell are you doing?" said Ginny.
"I'm giving you room" said Myra in a flat voice. She began lacing her boots. Ginny came over to her side of the bed and stood a foot away. As Myra put her wallet and notebook into her back pockets, Ginny said "I wasn't asking you to leave."
Myra started around her and Ginny stepped in her path. A wild look came onto Myra's face. "Don't ever block where I'm going, Ginny Bates" she said in an unfamiliar voice. Ginny stepped back out of the way without hesitation. Myra headed out of the room, picking up her keys along the way.
"Myra, don't you walk out on me" said Ginny, beginning to panic. "Don't you shut me out, I can't stand it if you do that."
Myra stopped, then slowly turned around. "I'm not walking out on you. But you said you needed room, your entire body language is that of trying to get away from me, and I don't want to be around someone who wants to get away from me."
"I don't want to get away from you, Myra" said Ginny, fear pounding in her temples.
"No, just my past and my sick ways of relating to women, right? I mean, love the sinner, hate the sin?" said Myra. Ginny could tell, now, that Myra was furious and struggling with everything she had to control it, which scared her even more. "If you don't want to get away from me, then don't act like it. This whole middle-class bullshit thing about room, about keeping an arms-length away from that which you find distasteful because you need room, nice clean well-lighted spaces in which to have your purity untouched..." Myra's voice had become venomous, and she stopped herself.
Ginny's whole body was shaking. She opened her mouth to speak, not sure what was going to come out. "Oh, fuck. This is what my mother did. Every time we talked about things she didn't want to deal with, she got up and paced, wouldn't get near me. When I was little, I'd try to hug her and she'd push me away." She stared at Myra, who still wouldn't meet her eyes.
Finally Myra said, "Well, Ginny. This is what I do, when I'm trying to talk with somebody who wants to be safe at all costs and has decided to behave as if I am a threat to their safety. Not with someone who's target and needing space from me as non-target so they can think for themselves -- I'm talking about someone who is my equal acting like I'm not safe. You say what you can't stand -- I can't stand being confused with a perpetrator, Ginny. I'm worried about it myself constantly, I can't sort out your confusion from my own. So I walk. It's what I've always done. And...I guess I wasn't completely honest with you when I said I wasn't walking out on you. If you let me go, I usually don't come back. Not emotionally, not all the way."
Ginny wanted to scream. "So I'm not supposed to keep you from going, but I'm not supposed to let it reach this point, either?"
"I asked you to not block where I'm walking, Ginny. What feels like a physical threat." Myra noticed her fists were clenched and consciously relaxed her hands. "You're not responsible for more than your share of it reaching this point. You can keep me from going; you just did, didn't you?"
"You're still standing in the hallway" said Ginny. Myra opened her mouth to retort, then shut it without a word and came back to sit on the bed, looking at Ginny. Ginny realized it was her turn to make a move. Going against alarms in her body, she walked to the bed and sat down facing Myra again.
"I'm not fond of melodrama, Myra" she said. The minute it was out of her mouth, she regretted it and said "Oh, fuck, please ignore that. You're not being melodramatic, not any more than I am. Myra, I'm...clueless at this moment. I feel like I don't have -- well, I'm afraid to use the word room again -- I don't have whatever it takes right now to make this conversation work. To make my brain work and give me things to say."
"That's good information to have" said Myra. She was again very still, almost like a Buddha, Ginny thought.
"I-statements" said Ginny.
"What does that mean, that laugh? Are you making fun of I-statements?"
"Ginny...every single time I have a conversation with someone who wasn't raised in my class and my race, I am translating. When I talk with middle class white women, I filter every single thing I want to say. It's necessary to keep their buttons from being punched beyond endurance. A working class argument would have a lot of yelling and pounding on furniture and saying things you didn't really mean, for sure not using fucking I-statements. So please forgive me if I am not always completely proficient at it."
Ginny was stung by this. "Are you -- do you wish I was your class? Is this a major issue?"
"Of fucking course it's a major fucking issue, Ginny, it's class. We have a cross-class relationship. But no, I chose you for who you are." Myra took a long breath. "I really hope you're not asking me to reassure you right now, not after I've just been honest about how hard it is sometimes to have a conversation with you. I'm in the target group here, Ginny, I don't want to have to reassure you when I'm honest with you."
"Target for class, you mean." Ginny's eyes were a little flinty.
"Yes. But before you point out that you are not oppressing me, before you do that non-target song and dance -- " Myra was breathing heavily, and stopped to steady herself. "If you were actively oppressing me, I would be all over you or out the door, whatever it took to stop it. Set aside your guilt and just hear me for a minute. I'm staying in this exchange because I really, really want to connect with you and I believe you feel the same way. I don't want to have to remind you of that every time I start feeling slammed around class. I don't think you have to take care of me, either, at least not unless it's an emergency situation." Another long pause. "I don't think I can explain this any better right now."
Ginny closed her eyes for a minute, then opened and said "I hear that you are feeling slammed around class. I hear that conversation between us means you translating, most of the time or all of the time, not sure which."
Myra began crying. "Yes. Fucking yes, you got it, Gin."
"Do you feel like the need for translation means -- a distance between us?"
"Oh, sweetheart, I don't want to hurt you. But yes, I feel a distance when I have to do that. It's not your fault, it's just how things are set up. I do everything I can for that to not be there."
"Myra, I don't want it to be there, either. I'm not asking you to pretend it isn't, don't misunderstand me. How do I ask this? ... Myra, what is it that you're doing to not have the distance there? And what can I do?" Ginny moved closer to Myra and took both her hands in hers.
Myra had to cry for a minute before she could talk again. "I...I've walked away from my class, Ginny, at least in terms of communication. However working class I sound to you, I sound even more middle class to my family and the working class friends I have who are not trying to change their class expression. I don't fit anywhere. I'll never fit anywhere again, class-wise. I keep learning middle and upper class ways of relating, communicating, self-analysis -- I study them, I pick out what makes sense to me -- and a lot of it does make sense -- and then I change. Or try to change. Overcoming conditioning takes decades, if it is really possible at all. Like the middle-class value about not saying stuff you really don't mean when you're pissed off -- I agree with that, there's no percentage in possibly hurting people with your speech, even if they are working class and supposedly know to not take it personally. Being careful and kind pays off in the long run, no matter how much I feel like I'm having to shut down who I am really am, how I really talk."
She began crying hard again. "I get so lonely, Ginny" she choked out. "I mean, Allie's raised poor but she's black raised poor, it's a different language and I'm non-target there so the responsibility is mine to cross over to her, as much as I can. Not that she still doesn't do most of the work, I'm aware of that. And Chris, same thing, raised poor but Native. I've had only two girlfriends who were white working class in a way that felt enough like me that I didn't have to translate, and fuck me if we didn't fall apart over emotional communication anyhow."
Ginny wanted to ask who those two were. Instead, she said "We're not going to fall apart over communication, Myra. Not while I still draw breath and my brain is working."
Myra laughed through her tears. "Now, that's what I want to hear. That's what I'm offering, and that's what I want back from you. And listening, like you're doing now -- I could use that sometimes, too. Just listening when I'm trying as hard as I can to be fair and honest. Because you are who I want, Ginny Bates. Not in spite of you being middle class, but the whole package, pro and con."
"I want you too, Myra. Complicated looks gorgeous on you. And I've made the choice to betray my class, too, Myra. Before I ever met you. My mother is the more upper class person in my family and I rejected her values before I even understood what class was. I mean, Daddy is a lawyer and he passes and god knows he's got all kinds of privilege, but there's a lot in him that's still a poor farmboy raised by shtetl immigrants, you know? I'm not going to let you do all the translating and all the bridge-crossing." Now Ginny was crying too.
"Exiles together, babylove" whispered Myra. Ginny looked at her and kissed her hard.
Myra said "I'm going to hand you some state secrets here, Ginny: If things are going badly between us -- don't move away from me physically. Stay in physical contact, as close as you can. My body trusts you, on a primal level, preverbal, even. If you're touching me, I'll hear you infinitely better because I won't be wondering if there's something wrong with me. It's a magic key."
"I'm such a dope, honey. I know that about survivors. Hell, I know it about me." Ginny wrapped her arms and legs around Myra, who melted onto her. They lay back in the bed together, clutching tight and beginning to breathe in sync again.
"I'm exhausted" said Myra finally.
"Our first fight" said Ginny. "Not fun. But not too bad, either."
"I just want to be done with this particular rift. Can I say something without getting into huge mishigas?"
"The Jewish thing -- I agree with you, Jews gets to define their own identity, and since I don't believe any basis for discrimination is based on actual biology, it's all about conditioning for me. And early childhood conditioning is where it's at. The white boys with their drugs and their scalpels and their fancypants theories can't replicate it for us. I ain't no Jew." Myra hugged Ginny. "Just a Jew lover."
Ginny said "And...you are my partner, which does mean in terms of the oppression that some of it will wash your way. Not that the oppression defines the identity, either. In fact, the opposite. So, yes, I want you to go for the long answer, the precise one, when asked if you are Jewish, you know, 'No but here's these influences', etc. But you are part of a Jewish family, now, and you will be a parent to Jewish children, and it may be that at some point in the future, definitions change, who knows."
"Okay. One more question, on another topic: At the Jewish Feminist Conference? Were you attracted to my ex, Judit Pereira? "
Ginny pulled back to look at her. "How the hell did you figure that out?"
"I could just tell, Ginny. And the odds are that she came on to you -- She required me to be monogamous with her, but she never felt constrained by that boundary herself. Plus, she was really something."
Looking at Ginny's face, Myra couldn't help but quip "Don't worry, I won't judge you for your past sexual feelings."
Ginny gave a whoop and began trying to tickle Myra, who screamed and writhed with laughter. Finally they fell back into a tight embrace, still grinning. Ginny said "Take your clothes off so we can go to sleep, willya?"
The next Friday was a meeting of the Feminist Fund. After dinner, the group was back at the dining table, trying to agree on the principles they would use to select projects to fund. It was relatively easy to agree to a preference for projects headed by women and/or people of color. When clarifying the class background of project leaders, however, Myra was reluctant to institutionalize a categorical preference.
"There's nothing inherently wrong with being born and raised in any class" said Myra.
"No..." said Chris, thoughtfully.
"And every class has some pieces of essential truth" continued Myra. "I mean, yes, class as it's been defined has to go, it's a terrible construct. But it's going to take all of us to do that, not just the working class. We're not the only leaders in this effort."
"Myra has a soft spot for rich girls" Allie said to Ginny.
"Yeah, I do, but that's not why -- " began Myra.
"Like who?" said Ginny. "Besides Patty Hearst, of course."
"Tania" corrected Myra automatically.
"Those Bean sisters she wanted to marry one by one, Kuyler, Kate and Deirde" said Allie. "They come from old East Coast Quaker stock on their dad's side, but their mama was big Boston money that no doubt came from the slave trade. And Karin Barbaras, and Judit. And her friend Claire -- Myra and Claire's families both began at Jamestown, but Claire's line were the rich Southern aristocrats, and Myra's were the subsistence farmers."
As Ginny digested this, Myra, now a little peeved, said "I do like owning class women who are defying the Nancy Reagan role. I think the owning class sense of entitlement is something we could all use, when it's based on honest self-confidence and a willingness to share empowerment. And us raised poor, we know what it's like to be part of a class that everybody else would just as soon have scrubbed off the landscape, we share that paranoia with those at the other end of the scale."
Sima unexpectedly came to Myra's defense. "I've often wished somebody would make a chart of the class backgrounds all the biggest lesbian-feminist leaders -- I suspect a big chunk of them would turn out to be from the upper classes. And not just the Jews, either."
"Well, given how white that leadership has been -- " started Chris.
"Don't hand me that crap about how white equals upper class" flashed Sima. "That's as obnoxious as what you believed when you met me, that Jews were all upper class."
"White skin does translate to economic privilege in this country" answered Chris.
"Yeah, but privilege doesn't mean you can't fight injustice" said Sima.
"So my point, way back when" said Myra, wading back in, "was going to be that yes, I only want to fund projects planned to benefit those on the lower end of the economic scale, but I don't want to limit leadership of those projects to only people from the working classes. We can look at their ethics and strategy, and decided it if's likely to work, and if those things have come partly from the owning class, well kudos to them, they'll do a great job of implementing it. That's what I think."
After a silence, Allie said "I can go with that." Chris and Sima nodded, too. Alveisa, taking notes and unusually silent, looked up and nodded. Myra met Ginny's eyes.
"I agree, also" said Ginny. "But I'd like to have more conversation with you, away from meetings, about how this all looks in real life, at least from your perspective."
Chris laughed. "You want Myra to explain class to you? What a hardship for her." Everybody but Myra joined her in laughter.
Myra, still looking at Ginny, said "You okay?"
Ginny's expression was tender. "I'm fine. Happy to be here."
Myra said "I mean, I'm aware you're the only non-working-class person at the table."
"So far" answered Ginny.
"What does that mean? You think me having money is going to change my value system?" said Myra, stiffening.
"Shit, no" said Ginny. "I meant our children, when they join us at this table."
Myra was still looking at her in dismay. "Our children? They'll be half mine, which means they'll have my values as well as yours."
"Yes, Myra, of course. But they'll be raised with economic privilege. More privilege than I had, actually. They'll never be needy, materially speaking. That means they'll have at least a middle class reality, in a lot of repects." Ginny was still smiling, but Myra was not.
Myra didn't seem to be able to answer. Allie put her arm over Myra's shoulder and said "So -- back to your point, it's not about which class you from, it's what do with youself."
Myra turned to look at Allie. "Fuck, Al, I'm gonna have middle class kids!"
Allie and Chris both roared, unable to hold back any longer. Alveisa stopped writing, turning the pencil around in her fingers with a grin on her face. Sima stood up and said "I'm putting more water on for tea. Myra, it's gonna be okay. I mean, Ginny's handing over half of their Jewish heritage to you. You'll cope, all of you will."
Allie said "Can we finish off those ginger snaps with tea?"
Ginny said "Please do" and got up to help Sima, giving Myra a kiss on the back of her head as she walked by.
August 1988 -- Ginny is eight months pregnant with Margie
The next day, when the mail came, Ginny saw Myra stop in her tracks as she was walking back to the kitchen and looking through the letters. Ginny set down her tea and said "What is it, My?"
Myra looked up at her, a blank expression on her face. "It's from my father. Forwarded on from my old address."
Ginny felt a chill. "Do you want me to read it?"
After a moment, Myra said "No." She sat down at the table, handing the rest of the mail to Ginny. She slowly tore open the end of the envelope and pulled out a single handwritten sheet. She read it through twice before looking at Ginny, still with no expression on her face.
"He's out of money. He wants more."
"Shit, Myra. It's been, what, three years? Half a million dollars in three years?" Ginny took the letter gently from Myra's hands and read it.
"Bad investments, my fucking ass. And here he throws in about how he wants to pre-pay for a headstone so he can be buried next to your mother and Gil, that's just pure manipulation."
Myra lay her head down on her arms. "I know, Ginny" came from her muffled mouth. "My older brother got his mitts on it, I'm sure."
Ginny put her hand on Myra's neck and rubbed gently.
"What do you want to do, Myra?"
Myra turned so her face could see Ginny. "I don't know. If I send him more, it'll be like pouring it down a rathole. But I can't not give him something. I don't think I can live with myself if I don't."
"How old is he now, Myra?"
Myra thought for a second. "66."
"Then he's getting Social Security, and qualifies for Medicare."
"Yeah, but it won't be much. He never earned much."
"If you paid his monthly rent, plus anything medical that Medicare doesn't cover, I think he'd be able to manage the rest of his expenses with some extra, don't you?"
"Seems right." Myra sat up.
"Let's get Alveisa on this. We can get him money that doesn't ever go through his hands."
"I don't want to deal with him at all, Ginny. That's terrible, but I don't."
"You've already done your share, Myra. Alveisa can handle it."
"He'll be nasty to her."
Ginny laughed. "I'd like to see him try more than once."
Myra laughed with her. "Yeah, that's true. And she can charge me extra for the aggravation."
"And if someone needs to talk with him directly, I'll do it. I'll tell him I'm your spouse, about to give birth to your baby, and our primary obligations lie elsewhere now."
Myra sighed. "I love your indigation, Ginny. It helps. And I'll do the money plan, through Alveisa. But I have to be the one to talk with him. You can't co me here."
"Well, I can..." laughed Ginny.
"Alright, then, shan't."
"Okay, Myra. Let's see if there's any good news in this stack of mail. Yes, here, you got a letter from Kate Bean. Plus the latest issue of Common Lives/Lesbian Lives."
Myra took the treasures, kissed Ginny, and went to her desk to read her mail.
April 1993 -- Margie is four, Gillam is two
Saturday afternoon, Margie and Gillam were supposed to go over to visit Carly and Truitt, but Carly had some kind of gastrointestinal bug and Patty warned them off. Allie had an art date with Ginny, so Myra played blocks upstairs with the children until Margie got too frustrated with how often Gillam knocked over her towers, however accidental it was. She brought them down to her daybed with a handful of books and cushions, and began reading "The Hundred Dresses."
When she reached the end, where the popular girls in the story discover the effect, and error, of their taunting the girl who had worn the same shabby dress to school every day, Margie burst out with "They were so mean to her!" Gillam nodded, near tears. Margie added "It's 'cause they're rich. Rich people are bad."
Myra closed the book on her finger, dismayed, and said slowly "No, Margie, that's not right. Rich people are not all bad. Being rich doesn't make you bad."
"They're mean" argued Margie. "Like Nellie Oleson, she was always mean to Laura and Mary."
"And Cinderella's sisters" said Gillam. "Mean and ugly."
Myra noticed that Ginny and Allie's voices had stopped on the other side of the wall. Help she signaled silently. But she went on herself, saying, "It's not about how much money you have, it's what you do with it. And yes, it's about treating other people with respect. But that's just as important no matter if you are rich, poor, or in-between. Lots of rich people really care about the world and try to do good with their money, to help others. Like we do."
"But we're not rich" said Margie.
Myra looked deep into those smudgy blue eyes. "Yes, we are, honey. We're very rich. We're as rich as some kings and queens were in olden times."
Margie was shocked to the core. So was Gillam, when she looked at him; his fingers went into his wide, kind mouth.
"But we don't live in a castle, just this old house" said Margie.
Ginny appeared in the doorway. Thank god. She sat down next to Margie and said "This house is nicer than most people in the world will ever have, angel. It would look like a castle to most people in the world. We have water any time we turn a tap, and toilets inside, and hot baths, and a refrigerator to keep our food fresh. We have electric lights, and no roaches or rats. And many, many rooms, full of beautiful things."
Gillam's eyes wandered to the shelves of books lining Myra's study. She picked him up to hug him, just for that association. But Margie wasn't convinced.
"We're not as rich as Truitt and Carly are" she said. "They get to buy new toys all the time."
Myra said "Our family has lots more money than they do. We just choose to spend it differently." She could see Margie's indignation at the confession that she could be getting more toys than she did, and added "We give you things they don't get."
"Well, us, for starters. Pat and Patty both have to work for their money, at jobs outside the home" said Myra. "Almost every grown-up in the world has to work at a job and can't be home with their children. But Mama and I stay home with you two. You go to Montessori, Margie, because it's fun and good for you, not because we need somebody to be with you. And we never hire babysitters. We have enough money to take care of you ourselves, and to take care of this house, and still do our art. We're extremely lucky that way."
Allie had joined them. She said "And you mamas, they give away so much money every year -- they give away money to help make the world better. That's a present for you, for when you grow up. They give me money so I don't have to work, either, and can do my art."
"And help make the world better with it" added Myra. Allie's comments had scored with Margie, she could tell.
"Do we have enough money to have a pony?" asked Margie.
Ginny laughed. "We do, but ponies need a big piece of land to live on. We'd have to move way out into the country to have enough land for a pony." Myra saw that Margie didn't think that was a problem, so she added "So far away that Allie, Chris and Sima couldn't come over all the time, and you'd seldom see Truitt and Carly."
Gillam shook his head and said "We live here, in this nice house." No leaving Carly behind, he was clear on that.
"So I'm rich, too?" said Margie. It was a jolt, hearing it from her lips, but Myra nodded.
"Can I be a princess, then?"
"We don't have royalty in this country" said Ginny shortly.
"But you are the prince and princess of our hearts" said Myra. Lame read Margie's expression. But Gillam squeezed his arm around her neck.
"Okay, how about if read one of the 'Little Witch' books next?" said Myra.
"The Weather Box!" said Margie. As Myra pulled it from the stack, she said to Ginny and Allie "Thanks, my pecuniary elite colleagues." Gillam began giggling and trying to repeat "peCUniary". Ginny kissed all three foreheads and went into the kitchen to put water on for tea. Allie took her place on the daybed and pulled Margie into her lap so they could listen together.
1997 -- Gillam is six, Margie is eight
For Gillam's sixth birthday, he was allowed to invite friends from kindergarten and have a treasure hunt party, with increasingly difficult clues hidden all over the house. The ransacking that ensued convinced Myra to never try that idea again.
The day before, David called with his apologies and said neither he or Helen could come. Myra just handed the phone to Ginny, who talked with her father quite a while. When she got off, she came to Myra's desk and said "It sounds like she really is sick this time. She went to the emergency room the morning after New Year's."
"Hung over" said Myra bitterly.
"I'm sure, they had gone out to a party. But Daddy said they pumped her stomach, and when that didn't help, they admitted her. She's going to have a laparoscopy tomorrow, on Gillam's birthday."
Myra stopped trashing Helen in her mind and looked at Ginny. "Like, surgery?"
"Yeah. Daddy said something about her gall bladder, or maybe her pancreas. They've got her strung out on morphine, she's in so much abdominal pain."
"Do you need to fly back?" asked Myra.
"God, no. Cathy's there, and it may be serious but it's not terminal. Let's focus on Gillam, shall we?" Ginny's face was stony. Later that night, when Allie came over for dinner, her comment was "Yeah, gall bladders tend to blow in alcoholics. First that, then the pancreas, then the liver."
Which made Ginny's face even stonier.
The next day, while Gillam and his friends were screaming through the house, Helen's gallbladder was removed and found to be choked with sludge and stones. When David called, he said she was doing better already. Ginny asked him pointblank if the doctor was demanding that Helen stop drinking. David evaded the question, and Ginny bit back what she wanted to say because Gillam was within earshot.
Three weeks later, Ginny was gone to a daylong workshop on grantwriting taught by a local foundation. In the mail that day came a letter from Myra's father. He began by talking about how lonely his Christmas had been, then told her she was seriously letting down her mother's memory by refusing to share with him as "I shared whatever I had with all of you, it wasn't my fault it was so little", then complained about the color of the headstone Myra had bought for Gil's grave, then said he'd read an article about false memory syndrome and now he understood why she'd made up all that stuff about their family, and ending with the announcement that he'd met a divorced woman at his apartment complex and they were planning to get married, would Myra pay for a nice wedding?
She was beside herself as she finished this letter and set it down on her desk. She sat there, stunned and almost blank. After half an hour, the phone rang, startling her. She didn't answer, and when the message machine came on, she listened, hoping it was Ginny. Instead, it was David saying they were not going to be able to make it to Seattle for Ginny's birthday in a week, either, because Helen was not yet well enough. Myra pulled out the notebook where she kept secret tallies and noted that since she had asked David to spend more time with them here, three years earlier, and he had promised her he would, he'd come only once aside from the standard birthday visits. He had never been here for Chanukah, or one of the children's school events.
Myra went into a cold rage. Juju, with her nervous radar, came to stand up on her leg and whine at her questioningly. Myra looked down at her and, for just a split second, thought about pushing her away. Insteady, she rubbed her ears and stood up -- no poetry this afternoon.
She went into the study bathroom and scrubbed all the tile and porcelain vigorously with cleanser and brushes. She did the same to her and Ginny's bathroom, then Hannah and the children's bathroom. She polished the dining table, vacuumed the sofa and chairs, and changed all the sheets except for Hannah's. She pulled strip steak from the freezer, defrosted it in the microwave, and pounded it viciously with a meat tenderizer until it was flat and waffled. She set it to marinate in buttermilk, made a pair of lemon meringue pies, boiled potatoes, and began a loaf of seven-grain bread. As she went back to the freezer to pull out challah for tonight, she noticed a container of cooked lobster meat. She retrieved that as well and went to her cookbooks, finding a recipe for lobster Newburg, something she and Ginny had never eaten together.
By the time Hannah brought the kids home, Myra was so absorbed in kitchen multitasking she could barely say hello. She had decided to make green bean casserole from scratch as well, creating her own cream of mushroom soup and french-fried onion rings. She gave a plate of the onion rings and some Clementines to the kids as a snack and went on cooking. Margie refused to eat the onion rings, but when Myra didn't hear her complaint, she went to the fridge and got herself some tahini and bread instead. They gave up on trying to pull Myra into conversation and went upstairs to play with Hannah.
Allie arrived at 5:00 and Myra put her to work, mashing potatoes and setting them in a bowl at the back of the stove with a thin layer of milk on top to keep them from going stale. Then Allie took out the new bread and made toast points for the lobster Newburg while Myra began dipping steak in seasoned flour and frying it a skillet. When Sima and Chris arrived, Sima set the table and Chris made a salad, jammed into the kitchen with Allie and Myra. Myra still wasn't talking much. She said, briefly, "Got a letter from my fucking father today", and when Chris asked "What did it say?", Myra replied only "Later".
Sima opened wine to breathe and set out candles. Myra put a plate of chicken-fried steaks in the oven and began making cream gravy with the drippings. Allie steamed some greens at the last minute, and as food began to be set on the breakfast bar, Ginny got home, rumpled and tired looking. She went to the bathroom before hugging anybody, emerging with a washed face and more of a smile than when she walked in. She went first to Myra and hugged her from behind. Myra said shortly "Your father called, there's a message on the machine." Allie looked at her and said "I thought it was your father -- "
Myra said "My father wrote, her father called. Double daddy whammy today." Ginny looked at Allie with a question on her face, and Allie shrugged. Ginny leaned her head to Myra's ear and said softly "Can it wait until after dinner?"
"Oh, yeah" said Myra with bitterness. "Nothing new there."
Ginny called upstairs for the children, who clattered down joyfully. Hannah leaned her head over the railing and said she was going out for dinner and the evening. Ginny thanked her for the week and took the kids into her bathroom to wash up.
As they lit candles and started the prayer, Ginny slid her hand into Myra's and squeezed. Myra squeezed back, and stood closer to Ginny, the tension in her lessening a notch or two. After eating a bite of challah, she handed a covered plate to Gillam and challah to Margie for them to carry over to Ms. Schevitz. She went back into the kitchen and ran a knife under hot water for a minute to begin slicing the pies. Ginny followed her, exclaiming over the lobster Newburg and finally persuading Myra to kiss her. Myra relaxed another notch after the kiss.
The meal was spectacular. Every last scrap of the steaks and lobster was consumed, and only one piece of pie remained. Ginny told funny stories about the tedium of her training that day, Chris regaled them with bus commute anecdotes, and Gillam, sitting next to Myra, kept making her smile with his repeated "This steak is my most favorite, Mama." She ran her hand through his hair and said "That's the Texan in you, my darlin' boy."
After dinner, Gillam was instructed to put away the placemats and reusable napkins while Margie was given the compost to take outside. The rest of them cleared and cleaned. As Margie came back through the kitchen, she said "Mama?" Both Myra and Ginny looked at her. "There's a Valentine's party at school next week, and all my friends are wearing new dresses to it. I want a dress, too."
"You have two new outfits from the holidays" said Myra briskly, "You can wear one of those."
"But they're not dresses" Margie said, a whine creeping into her voice. "I want a dress, like the other girls. A pretty dress."
"Well, you'll just have to cope" snapped Myra. "You're just as pretty no matter what you wear."
"But I'll be the only girl there without a dress, why can't I have real clothes? Why do I have to be the one in bad clothes?" said Margie, her whine turning into a wail.
Myra wheeled on her, grabbed her and set her abruptly on the breakfast stool, then leaned into her face to say "You fucking don't know what bad clothes are, you have no idea how easy you've got it. When I began seventh grade, I had one, count 'em, ONE new dress, and it was homemade from a leftover piece of blue and white gingham, completely out of date. I wore it three days a week and the other two days I wore a dress from the previous year that didn't really fit me any more. By Friday that first week even the goddamned boys were laughing at me. So you can just -- "
"MYRA!" Chris's voice cut through Myra's venom and stopped it short. Margie's face was terrified, and Myra didn't know what to do when she noticed it. Allie reached between Myra and Margie and pulled Margie into her arms. Myra looked around. Ginny was staring at her angrily, her arm around Gillam's shoulders, and Sima didn't meet her eyes. But Chris stepped over to her and put one arm on each shoulder, looking at her intently and saying "What the fuck?"
Myra suddenly began shaking uncontrollably. She said to Margie "Oh, baby girl, I am so sorry." Then she burst into tears. Chris pulled her in tight and said softly "Time to stop feeling like shit."
"My Mama" Myra bawled. "My Mama, the only thing she could think of was to make me that fucking dress. And I couldn't let her see how much I hated it, I had to pretend like everything was okay, because it wasn't her fault!" This last was all but screamed. Chris kept holding her tight and saying "Not your fault, either, nothing to be ashamed of."
Myra let it all go, and it was only a few minutes later that the rage finally drained away. She pulled back from Chris, her vision blurred but her head clear again, and Chris grinned at her, then handed her a paper towel to blow her nose.
Myra looked at Ginny again. She was sitting at the table, Gillam in her lap, but she no longer looked mad. Gillam said "Mama?" and Myra crossed to him, kissing him and Ginny in turn. Then she faced Margie, who was wrapped around Allie, her head leaned on Allie's shoulder, watching Myra with a slight frown.
"I had no right to be mean to you, Margie Rose" said Myra. "I confused what you were asking with something from my own childhood, and I made a mistake."
Margie looked at her for a minute, with a level Ginnyesque gaze, then said "Okay." She reached her arms out to Myra, and Myra grabbed her gratefully.
Myra said "We can make Valentines tomorrow for you to give out to your friends, really fancy ones that'll knock their socks off. Just friends, no romance, okay?"
"Okay" grinned Margie.
Ginny spoke up. "And I'll take you shopping for a dress. But you have to wear it with tights until the winter is over."
Margie squirmed down to the floor, cheering. "A party dress? A dress-up dress?"
"I'll go with you" said Allie. "We'll find you a killer dress."
"Do you know about dresses, Aunt Allie?" asked Margie quizzically.
"I wore 'em every day of my life until high school" said Allie. "And my hair was in little pigtails all over my head."
Margie and Gillam both stared at Allie, trying to imagine this. Allie laughed and said "I'll bring you a photo, you'll see."
Sima stepped over to Myra and gave her a sideways hug, then murmured "With her coloring, Margie is going to look amazing in pink." Myra had to laugh.
As Sima and Chris went with the children to the storage room, to pick out games to play, Ginny walked into Myra's study and sat down at her desk. She listened to the message on the machine first, and by the time Myra got there, she had picked up the letter from Myra's father on the desk and was reading that as well.
Myra sat down on the daybed and remarked "They arrived almost simultaneously." Allie joined them, and Ginny handed her the letter when she was done. She reached across the desk and took Myra's hand.
"'It's the question of male domination / that makes everybody angry'" she said with a tired smile.
"Poor Margie, she just blundered right into the wounded bear's cave" said Myra guiltily.
"Ah, she fine" said Allie. "Everything got set right fast as it could."
"Are you really going to go dress shopping?" said Myra.
"Yep. I'd do the same for Gillam" said Allie. "And if he wanted a dress, you wouldn'ta jumped all over him like that."
"No, but I still wouldn't want to see him in one" said Myra. "I plain hate dresses."
"Another thing to get over" sighed Ginny. "Just why did we have children, exactly?"
"So you could prove you was real wimmins" said Allie. They all cracked up.
"Listen, Myra -- the kids have a week off at spring break. I think it's time we took them to Texas -- your part of Texas, I mean. Your mama's grave, the town you grew up in, tell 'em your stories. They're old enough to hear some things -- "
"As long as I'm not screaming it at them, you mean" said Myra ruefully.
"Yes, that would be best" grinned Ginny.
"Okay. It's a good idea" said Myra. She looked at Allie.
"Fuck. Well, count me in. But you better run cracker interference for me" Allie said.
"Always have, haven't I?" replied Myra.
Allie stood up. "I'm claiming that last piece of pie. And making coffee."
Margie ran into the room and grabbed Myra's hand. "C'mon, we're playing Trivial Pursuit and you're gonna be my partner, okay?"
"We'll wipe the floor with 'em, baby girl" said Myra, letting Margie tug her to her feet.
After picking up the children from a playdate at Pat and Patty's, Ginny told Myra "They've closed on a house."
"Really? That was fast. Where is it?"
"In Stevens, but almost in Montlake, apparently. On Galer near 21st. Within a bike ride of us when the kids are older."
Myra whistled. "Wow, that's an expensive neighborhood."
"Well, honey, we're an expensive neighborhood now."
"I know, but that's another whole order of magnitude, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I think so" Ginny conceded. "Pat makes a huge salary at Microsoft."
"You know, when I first met her and she told me she wanted to be a programmer, I had no idea what that was. I mean, I still have only a hazy notion of what she does."
"This means both boys will be going to Lowell this year" said Ginny. "Which will be wonderful for our two."
"That was the point of the move, right? To get Truitt into a better school?"
"Truitt and Carly. In fact, Carly needs Lowell more."
Myra looked at Ginny. "Is he special ed?"
Ginny snorted. "Quite the opposite. He'll be utilizing the other half of Lowell. His test scores are comparable to Gillam's."
"Carly?" Myra was incredulous. "Last week I saw him dig around in his nose, pull something out on his finger and hold it up to Gillam, saying 'You might think this is a bugger but it's snot.' Gillam fell over laughing."
Ginny giggled. "Intelligence takes many forms, Myra, you should know that."
"Whatever. So, tell me again, why is it if our friends have so much money, we can't hit them up to donate to the Feminist Fund?"
"We do send them the newsletter, Myra. But I don't feel comfortable making a personal pitch to them. They know what we do, and if they're not asking us more or volunteering a donation, then we already have their answer."
"Feels like class bullshit to me. Pat comes from money, right?"
"Yeah. And Patty is solidly middle class, but it's Jewish middle class."
"Chicago? German Jew, right?"
Ginny replied "Chicago is where she grew up. And French Jews, I think her grandparents were. Pat's father is not Jewish, and her mother is but I don't know from where. But both her parents went to Ivy League schools, so not new money."
"Ivy League" said Myra speculatively.
"Don't say one more word about Pat being dumb, please" warned Ginny. "She's not an intellectual -- "
"-- And her interests are very different from ours, but she's not dim. And neither is Carly. I especially want you to cut Carly some slack."
"Okay" said Myra, after a moment's hesitation. "But I am -- if not offended, then at least tense about the money stuff with regard to the Feminist Fund. And I will intervene about any class shit their kids try to pass on to our kids."
"So will I, Myra."
"Listen, on another note -- there's a new restaurant opened up Allie wants us to check out with her, not far from Volunteer. Coupla Louisiana sisters started it, and Allie says they've got gumbo, grits, and collards. Called the Kingfish."
"Tell her yes. Is it too fancy for the kids?"
Myra shook her head. "I don't think so. Maybe lunch on Sunday?"
Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
(Working women are a great revolutionary force -- Laodong funu shi weida de geming liliang)