The Dreamer: Part I (of III)

My Only Regret

If ever we met
In a world newly blind
To the acceptance of
Maid-whore and man-
The idyllic couple . . .

If ever we met
In a world unconfined
By denial of our worth,
Woman and man-
Forever unequal . . .

If ever we met
In a world without lines
Drawn in anger and fear,
Man versus man-
Perceived to be normal . . .

If ever we met
In a world where our minds
Perpetually sought
Care, not control:
Perhaps I would love you.

After composing this poem I wrote a note to myself saying, “I cannot accept patriarchy as the basis of civilization.  Nevertheless, reality can’t be denied.  So I have lived: challenging and circumventing each barrier to my freedom as I encounter it.”

For decades I have played a little game with myself as I reflected on current events in my life.  For example, after a challenging day juggling my commitments I might say to myself, “Just one more day in the life of Sue, ‘Single Mom of Three’.”  Over the years my self-ascribed titles have reflected my changing life circumstances. Lately I have become “Sue, ‘Dreamer Extraordinaire’.”

And yet, I have always been a dreamer. My basic dream has never changed. I dream of a world in which all people are considered equally worthy and therefore all treat each other as they hope to be treated themselves.  But human civilization has not evolved in a direction conducive to realizing such dreams. The foundation of civilization was rooted in power, particularly the power of men over women.  [My assertion is most convincingly and eloquently documented in the prize winning book by UWM History Professor Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (1986).  Professor Lerner’s research is based on 10,000 years of recorded history of human civilization.]  So my dreams of late tend to revolve around imagining how the very core of our civilization might be overcome.

FLASHBACK:

It’s 1979.  I have worked in my first job as a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) for just one year, having completed both nursing and anesthesia studies after my divorce in 1972.  I’m sitting in our tiny anesthesia office with three male anesthesiologists and our female secretary. We have been discussing various personal financial concerns.  The eldest doctor looks at me and says, “Sue, what you really need is a sugar daddy!”  We all respond with surprised, nervous laughter.  Everyone glances at me to note my reaction.  Now he’s elaborating on his proposal.  One of the other doctors responds asking, “So how much should she get from this ‘sugar daddy’?”  The elder anesthesiologist names a dollar amount.  Everyone seems uncomfortable and all are making excuses and standing to leave.  Absolutely mortified, I’m walking out as well.  This was not my first such offer.

Long before I had remarried and divorced again; long before I had added a degree in Cultural Anthropology to my resume; long before I had visited and lived in exotic areas of the world, I had concluded my freedom relied upon becoming financially independent.  Despite the challenges I faced in attaining my goal, I was learning this first step was necessary but insufficient.  In fact it would become, in retrospect, an easier part of my journey. Society favors conformity and conformists.

Recently in a text conversation with my 21 year old granddaughter I told her, “By 1972 I became what they called a ‘bra-burning feminist’!”  Actually, I never burned any of my bras; I simply didn’t wear them much of the time.  As a quiet rebel, I hoped to escape the double whammy of being viewed as both an intimidating,  independent woman and a ‘man-hating feminist.’  Yet I didn’t escape much.  Many women seemed to fear I was out to grab their husbands.  Many men assumed I was eager to grab their . . . well, you know.  I cared about neither.  All I’ve ever wanted was the freedom to live my life as I chose within the law and with the rights I believe should be afforded to me simply because I am a human being.  Knowing revenge and retaliation against those who may wish to block my quest for freedom would come at too high a cost- namely, my integrity- I sought gentler avenues.  The path would be difficult.  But ultimately, the path would be my very own.

Part II of The Dreamer will be published Monday, February 3rd. I hope you’ll return to follow my journey!

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