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The fight is far from over….

Muriel2017They’re talking about brilliant female scientists on the radio. It reminds me of an experience I had in approximately 1971 when I was planning to enroll daughter Susan (age 6/7) into a summer program at our local community center.

Identified as a highly gifted child, Susan was totally into science. She loved learning about insects, snakes, lizards, shells, rocks and dinosaurs — you name it.

susan:Carrie in tree

Susan (front) about that time

Reading the available programs, I saw a cooking class for girls and a science class for boys. I recognize that cooking is a science, but it wasn’t Susan’s thing and I knew it. I was  upset. Would I accept that? Of course not!

angrywoman

Would I accept that?

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I threatened to march outside their doors

I visited the center, had a discussion with the program director and threatened that if they didn’t allow my daughter into the science class, I’d march outside their doors with signs complaining about their old-fashioned thinking. Yes, I WAS really angry.

The female program director caved. Susan was allowed into the class, however, I hadn’t foreseen what followed. When she turned up for the class, the surprised boys loudly complained. “Yuck! A girl!’ ‘You’re not allowed in this class.’ ‘You don’t belong here!’

bully

You don’t belong here!

The poor kid. I’d placed Susan in a position where she was not welcome. The boys bullied. They pulled her hair. They saw her as an intruder. I didn’t argue when Susan very soon didn’t want to go anymore.

hairblkwht

They pulled her hair.

I also still wonder what that terrible experience did to her. Would she have followed a different career path if it hadn’t occurred? What did I accomplish after all?

What I do know I accomplished was I did convince the community center to change their policy. I told them they were unfair and outdated. They changed their future description of classes for children and no longer classified them according to sex.

freecutegirl

I’d like to think things improved later for girls

I’d like to think that later perhaps one or two girls, luckier than Susan, had the opportunity to become excited about science in a class — and who knows? Maybe one or two of them has or will win a Nobel Prize after all. (However, the fight is far from over.)

P.S. Susan has found her own way of using her scientific interests and ability in her life’s work in any case.

Who will talk to our children?

Muriel2017

Chandra took this photo

During one of my usual breakfasts at a local cafe, I sat next to a father, mother and son. The child seemed about seven or eight. Dad was busy on his cellphone. Mom was busy on hers. The boy stood next to his father and tapped the man on his arm. He wanted to say something.

The father impatiently pushed him away, saying: ‘Leave me alone.’

I see this kind of thing too often. I don’t like it, but usually don’t intervene. It isn’t my business, but I was so sad and angry and bothered by it this time, I took the liberty as an old crone to butt in.

fatoldangry

Your son needs to talk to you

‘Excuse me sir,’ said I, ‘Your son wants to talk to you. They grow up so quickly, before you turn around, he’ll be married. Please listen to him now.’

Much to my surprise, the parents didn’t tell me to shut up and mind my own business. Instead, the dad explained he was working.

boredchild

What will happen to all these children?

I suggested he take a little time off during breakfast to listen to the child. Then I went back to my coffee and book. The next time I looked up, all three were on their cellphones.

What will happen to all these young children I see who sit quietly while parents are attached to technology and are encouraged to do the same?

I also worry about the damage being done to the vision of toddlers I see on the bus in strollers, kept quiet and occupied with mom’s cell phone.

tooyoung

I worry about the damage to their vision

Parents are so attached to those blankity-blank phones everywhere — walking, in restaurants, and one can safely assume, at home as well. Will their children even learn how to talk?

2tooyoung

C’mon folks. Give me a break.

Will these quiet children ever know the pleasure of conversation which I so enjoy? Who will talk to them? I worry. Or am I just being cranky?

A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.

With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.

One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.

‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!

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You’re not interested?

‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’

I goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.

I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.

typewriter

It was long before computers

You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.

Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)

Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)

‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.

‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.

Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.

Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.