Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Mysterious Christmas Card

The envelope had my name on it, but I wasn't familiar with the return address. I took out the Christmas card and I didn't recognize the toddler twins pictured in their Santa caps. Or their names for that matter. When I read the greeting, it was from Carol and Jim. I didn't recall knowing any couple named Carol and Jim. 

Finally there was a photo of a bride and groom standing next to a couple who looked like parents. I had no clue who any of these people were.

But, there had been a wedding, some children had been born, and people I didn't seem to know apparently wanted to tell me all about it.

After going through the other cards from yesterday I took a look at the mysterious card again, this time with my reading glasses on. While staring at the pictures for a time, I realized that the first name of the bride was vaguely familiar. A very unusual moniker, it was the same as my older daughter's best friend in first grade.  It WAS my older daughter's former friend. Her two front teeth had grown in quite nicely.

Then I looked at the parents. Wait a minute, that's her mother with a different husband. Or the old one had grown a foot. She had been MY friend. But that friendship waned many years ago following a strange holiday party with several other female friends.

A group of us decided to get to gether to exchange presents a couple of days before Christmas. Everyone else received smelly soaps, scarves and other girly things, but I was presented with gifts more suitable for an armed and dangerous feminist. For some reason they all thought I would like receiving bizarre anti male slogans, meticulously handpainted on driftwood, suitable for hanging in the bathroom. Of what?  A lesbian stronghold?

This was the late seventies, a breeding ground for many empowerment groups, none of which I had ever had an interest in joining.But all these other women espoused them. Maybe they assumed my confidence came from consciousness raising. As if it couldn't come from someplace else. Clearly they had the misguided thought that I felt men were the enemy.    

Were the odd "feminist" presents because I was newly divorced and about to return to work? Was it because I already talked the talk and walked the walk of women who had fought sexual harassment and deserved equal pay for equal work, blah blah blah?

It was clear to me that they had confused my politics with who I was. 

I thought I was tall, beautiful and athletic. Since I was dating attractive persons of the male persuasion, the men thought so too. WTF were these babes thinking? That my stand on equality precluded anything feminine?  My only thought was that those women didn't know me. My feelings were hurt and I withdrew from their company almost overnight.

A few years later when my ex wanted to go through annulment proceedings -- the Catholic's church's homage to divorce -- I went to the archdiocese for an interview.  This was an option I didn't have to exercise, but I was curious. 

After a battery of personality tests and a strange series of questions from a priest who made several sexist inquiries I wouldn't answer, I finished up the day having a long conversation with a young, empathetic male psychologist. 

As our conversation wound down he made reference to several feminist writings, which he just assumed I was familiar with. I think he was proud of his ability to make a connection with a woman emerging from the ancient beliefs of an old system into the revolution that was currently underway.

I told him I had heardof a few of the books he referenced, but never read any of them. He looked at me, quite puzzled, since he had just assumed from our discussion that I had taken women's studies in college or done extensive reading in the area of feminist teachings.  I was having a flashback to the perceptions of my former friends.

"No,"  I answered.  "I didn't have to read about any of that stuff. I lived it."

My politics aren't me. Nor are the sports I played. Most recently a guy I know, who is gay, which may or may not be relevant, said he just assumed I was a lesbian when he heard I had played softball. Now that he knows me, he just laughed at his assumption and felt comfortable telling me about it. Nevertheless, my feelings were still a little hurt. Too often perception about me has become somebody's reality. 

All this reflection because of a Christmas card from someone I haven't spoken to in decades. Now I can reflect on why they decided that this year was the time to reconnect. 

The holidays can do that to you.



geminiwilder said...

Christmas season does weird stuff to people, doesn't it??

This was an interesting read.  Thank you for sharing.


mombzbe said...

What's that little saying about the word "assume"?  

If it's any consolation, Mrs L, I never got the impression that you were a radical lesbian feminist, although I definately could picture you setting a few bras on fire.
Afterall, friction can be a dangerous thing. ;p

mombzbe said...

P.S.  I guess you could count your blessings that it was just a mysterious card--as opposed to the dreaded Stepford Christmas newsletter, where everyone is a world-traveling Nobel nominee whose children are prodigies and no one gains weight, gets old, or has to pay bills.  :)

suzypwr said...

Every year I get a card and family newsletter from someone I don't know to someone who has never lived at this address (this house was built for us, so the address never existed before). I was just thinking yesterday that it hadn't come yet, and I am sort of hoping to get the newsletter to see what has gone on with these people I have never met. This has been going on for almost 10 years.

Your therapist should no more expect that you have read all feminist literture than to assume you have read all literature written about tall women. Sensitive, indeed.


sdoscher458 said...

You and I are of a similiar age.  What had to be dealt with back then I think shaped us as we are today.  I've gotten accused of being as stubborn and tenancious as a pit bull...which really does offend my feminine side. If you stand up for yourself, take no crap...you automatically become a pushy B...h or Lesbian. I don't understand it either.  Sandi

thisismary said...

Mrs. L,
Perhaps the reactions to you from people are because they realize that with effort on their part, they could be more like you (minus the tall beautiful and funny part), but if they paint you as a lesbian or a feminist, well they could never be that! Lets them off the hook.  Sigh.  People.

Keep on keepin on Mrs. L! Generations of women are riding the wake of the ship that you piloted though some stormy waters.  Thank you!

helmswondermom said...

Sometimes some people are just not going to "get" you, no matter what.  They see something superficial, assume they know everything there is to know and forge ahead with those assumptions.  Then they seem offended when their assumptions are shown to be incorrect; as if it's your fault.  Then there are those few, like your friend, who realize they've erred, can correct their judgement and then laugh about it.  Wish there were more like that.

onemoretina said...

    This entry reminded me of my father telling me that old saying about ASSUMING.   I have had many instances in my life when people made assumptions about me that were waaay off base ...  people who assumed that if I believed in THIS, that I automatically espoused THAT.  If I dressed like this, then I must like this kind of music and date this kind of man, and belong to this political party. But people are complex creatures.  The interesting and intelligent ones are, anyway.  Thanks for a thoughtful entry.  Tina http://journals.aol.com/onemoretina/Ridealongwithme

psychfun said...

Thanks for the entry & thus the lovely comments. I can certainly relate! I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets this crap! I just can't believe how many people make assumptions. No wonder there are so many people who actually believe those tabloids! Ugh! Next time someone says something like that to me I'm going to say wow....well I' not surprised they thought you were gay too & see how they like it. Ha!

sunnyside46 said...

I have been in some of those situations too
I know how you feell