A few days ago I was talking to my best friend from college who is seriously doing the math about marriage and kids and when, and if, it is going to happen. Then this morning, I received a make-your-own Word Puzzle ala Wheel of Fortune and again, my college friend (also news producer and bizarre-of-the-internet sleuth extraordinaire) proudly displaying one of my nicknames. Funny, I thought.
Scrolling further down my inbox, I read a forward from a mutual friend of ours, a recent meditation from a British blogger apparently disdaining modern women who “sell out” into the world of marriage and babies because it is society’s next step, those who wait until their thirties to have children and proclaim, as the provocative, one-sided and often heartless essay states, I took a year off and went to Thailand after Uni, so now I deserve IVF! as if because they were different once they can now give up and make the same choices as everyone else. My friend says in response, and I agree: to assume life stops for all those who choose to live it with someone else is ridiculous and pathetic.
This, and the approach of V-day this month, has got me thinking (and delaying my work on 6 reviews due next week). I grew up in a traditional-enough family, but one that also espoused feminist ideals. It began with my grandmother Madalyn. She was born in the ‘20s and wanted to become a doctor, but wasn’t able to simply because she was a woman. So she took second best and became a nurse, and joined the Army Corps of Nurses. One day during a particularly disorganized march formation training, she muttered Who dealt this mess? and the officer in charge was smitten. Eventually the officer, Bud Turnbull, became my grandfather, and my grandmother became a housewife and mother. She put all the energy she would have expended to become a doctor into becoming the best ‘50s wife, cook, mother, and hostess she could, and succeeded. My earlier post about the joys of Christmas explains one result of this intense regimen.
But it wasn’t enough. By the time I was in school, my grandmother was on to her second masters degree, this time in Women’s Studies, volunteering and marching on the Capitol for AIDS sufferers, trying tirelessly to convince me to go to an all-women’s college and to ditch my serious high school boyfriend (she was so right about the latter), and giving me homemade business cards she typed out which read: You’ve just made a sexist remark to a woman. In 10 seconds your penis will drop off. It was an odd convergence of remnants of post-war frugality, housewife ingenuity, and gender frustration.
My grandmother’s message–that a woman doesn’t need a man, that my writing, my career, my self should remain paramount, that marriage means losing something, giving up something to man who only wants to take it from you–has been swimming around in my consciousness, or perhaps subconscious, all these years. And this, alongside my love of novels, is partially why I found “Novel Reader,” the Comic Valentine included here and archived in the Library Company of Philadelphia quite amusing (bringing me back to the funny part of the word puzzle I mentioned at the start).
Hats off to Caleb Crain who discovered these. Click here to do an image search of for your own favorite comic valentine, perhaps to send to someone of whom you aren’t fond. He recommends searching for “tom-boy girl” or “gay author” for particularly funny specimens, but use your imagination. For, as Caleb discovered, within these valentines, no one escapes—all aren’t worthy enough to deserve love.