Now I know we're not supposed to use the dread F-word anymore, despite Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner's excellent efforts at revival (in her book The F-Word, which my 6-year old daughter can't believe is a serious book about women and not just a book about how to say curse words without getting your mom's eyebrows raised at you). But I am feeling a great deal of serious feminist depression lately.
First, even though I swore off the marriage announcements in the NYTimes style section, I did read today, since I was in NY, attending the wedding of a younger cousin I rarely see and barely know. She and her new husband were passing around a framed picture this morning with their wedding invitation on one side, and their TImes announcment on the other. I'll leave you guessing who they are, except to say that it wasn't Andrew and Kyle's event.
Close friends know that weddings annoy me, but it's not even the wedding that got me down. When I checked out the announcement later this evening, I saw my cousin referred to as Mrs. Her Husband's Last Name. Yes, at this point, I'm supposed to be all liberal and tolerant and say that of course we all get to choose our names, even if some women choose to give theirs up for their husbands. Whatever. These days, though, I'm tired of being tolerant. Tolerance is usually the word invoked to tell people with progressive opinions to stay quiet. Be tolerant. Don't raise a fuss. The only people who still believe in tolerance are liberal feminists, and believe me, anything goes tolerance is not helping us.
It's just that my cousin is now the anonymous Mrs. Her Husband's Name, 27. It's that her mother doesn't even appear in the announcement. They all live together. They're a happy enough family. My aunt even has a fancy PhD behind her hame, though she's been a homemaker for decades. In the space of those few paragraphs, paraded around so happily this morning, and available forever on the Times archive, two women's identities were shifted, and one disappeared all together. What happened to my aunt's contributions from the home front? Am I allowed to be depressed about that? What is happening to us women, to us mothers. Are we all just going to fade away and disappear from public life?
Bright spot: young teen city girl, flamboyant daughter of an old family friend, comes to babysit. I'll call her Martine to protect her identity. Martine thinks the formal wedding is bullshit. While I'm culturally confused by an event filled with 20-something bankers and young doctors, little Martine is whispering comments in my ear and telling me how she thinks her grandmother was a drag queen in a former life. It's a moment of cultural queerness that I appreciate, since this wedding looks remarkably traditional, and similar to a wedding I attended at the Plaza in 1972, only then I was 6 or so and curled up to sleep on a lounger in the ladies room, the attendant looking out for me, and this time I was able to make it through the event, happily drinking many glasses of my own and everyone's champagne.
In the midst of all this musing, I read the bit piece, "Mr. and Mrs. Bothofus," that runs alongside the wedding page. We're told that fewer than 5 % of married women in America keep their names or hyphenate. Now, readers, friends, know that I'm not doctrinaire on this. There's more to life than a name, and though I bear my full birth name, I use my husband's name sometimes, and my daughter carries his name, unlike our more culture-challenging friends who do give their kids the mother's last name, or switch off. It's not about purity, or correct practice. But 5 percent? That's all? Only five percent of married couples even try to resist the old trend in which married women just fade away?
It makes me sad.
One last comment, before I sign off and take this weary body to bed. On the writing front, I do love Maureen Dowd's column today. "Dish It Out, Ladies" asks Where are all the female newspaper columnists, and not just the sex-family-relationship-gardening columnists, but those whose bylines appear on our nation's prestigious and well-read Op-Ed pages? Yes, where are we, indeed. Thanks, Maureen. I even wrote her a fan letter, thanking her.