Notes From the March

Note: You’ll see and hear a lot about the 2019 Women’s March Jan. 19th in Washington, D.C. Here’s my first-hand account:

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The Connecticut chapter of NOW holding the historic banner pushing for the ERA at Saturday’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

It’s 6:35 p.m., and I just hopped on a charter bus after spending the day at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. I’m freezing, and so is everyone else. It feels like we just came in from a blizzard. In Siberia.

Our bus driver is 35 minutes late, leaving us shivering in the shadow of the Washington Monument. We hug each other to stay warm. We sing “The Wheels On the Bus.” Toward the end, our fearless leader Cindy Boynton leads us in the Hokey Pokey. Hey, desperate times.

We get to our right leg in when the bus pulls up, and we storm it. We can’t get in fast enough. We must be the last protesters to leave town. We’ve never seen so many charter buses that weren’t ours in our life.

It’s the kind of bone-chilling cold that won’t leave. I can’t get warm. Every bone and joint in my body aches, and I can’t get my sneakers back on. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. Remind me why I signed up for this again.

Just kidding. I’m here because of the Women’s Movement, something greater than myself. I’m unhappy with this country and its direction under President Trump. I’m here because I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and now I’m even wearing a button proclaiming it on my purple ski jacket.

I’m here because I have a 17-year-old daughter and nieces whom I adore, and I want to show them I’m not afraid to stand up – or even chant – to fight for what’s right. I’ve been silent and complacent for too long. At 60, it’s my first protest march. What took me so long?

The day – or should I say night? – begins at 1:45 a.m. when we board the bus in New Haven. An hour into the ride, I’m still trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. I’m grateful to have two seats to myself, but still. This is awful. 

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The view from my windshield of New Haven Harbor.

What made me think I’d sleep on the bus? The last time I was on a bus I was in college and could sleep anywhere. I finally notch a few fitful hours, but give up at the Delaware line and spring for a Starbucks’ Grande at 5:30 a.m. Ready or not, here we come.

When we pull up at 7:45 a.m. in front of the Washington Monument, the woman behind me cracks an eyelid and says, “I need to find a Dunkin’ Donuts ASAP.” When I tell her that we’ll need to get off the bus and kill time before the 10 a.m. rally in Freedom Square, she cringes.

“You mean the bus isn’t staying here?” she asks. “That’s not really something I want to hear.”

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Scenes from Freedom Square.

No one in our group of 34 – I’m number 11 – wants to kill time, but we’re upbeat and pumped. Most of us don’t know each other, but we become fast friends and even snag a huge table at a coffee shop. Score!

Though this year’s march is panned for disorganization and division among women’s groups,  protesters in pussy hats and carrying signs with clever slogans converge on Freedom Square. What we lack in organization and numbers we make up in creativity and endurance. At 4 p.m., about 100 protesters are still in the square, holding hands singing and dancing in circles.

Everything and anything is protest sign fodder: The Wall. Women’s reproductive rights. The ERA. Mueller. Trump’s tweets. Trump’s tiny hands. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman at the center of the Kavanaugh hearings.

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But my favorite’s a handmade sign in black Sharpie:  “UGH, Where do I even start?”

And then the miracle: NOW leaders ask members of the Connecticut NOW chapter to carry an historic banner advocating the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment during the march. Cindy told us about the banner, but we had no idea we’d get the chance to hold or carry it. It’s thrilling being so up close and personal to history.

The giant green banner was last unfurled during a protest march in 1977 – a year after I graduated from high school. Do I want to be part of history carrying one of the wooden poles supporting it during the march? You betcha.

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As we march the banner through the streets, I feel like one of those Chinese dragon dancers. With one exception: the Chinese dancers work in unison and appear to know what they’re doing. Getting everyone to hold a gigantic banner at the right height and width is harder than it looks. And other groups with banners are cutting in front of us, trying to steal our thunder.

It’s hard staying in step and keeping the banner level and readable. It’s difficult to keep the poles at the same height. It’s challenging to maintain our positions as pole holders because others want our poles.

A lot of other people want to be part of history, and repeatedly offer to take the poles. My buddy Barbara Paight even loses her spot when a woman takes her pole and gives Barbara her protest signs to carry. Barbara isn’t happy, but doesn’t know what to say.

“What are you doing?” I ask Barbara, a former co-worker I met 30 years ago at my first newspaper job. “Just tell her that you’re going to hold the banner because your friends are doing it. Get your pole back woman.”

Barbara is much calmer and generous than I am, even giving me a cozy hand-knit scarf from around her neck as we wait for the bus. But she wants to hold the banner, and I’m proud when she stands up for herself.

“Look, my friends are carrying the banner so I’m doing it too,” she says. “You can take over for me in a little while.”

The woman gives Barbara the pole, instead running interference for her as we work through the crowd. The banner grabs its share of attention from march participants, who crane their necks to read it and snap photos of us hoisting it skyward. But ultimately, all good things must end, particularly during a march with more stops than starts.

“Anyone want to carry this banner?” I ask after about 90 minutes. A woman takes my place, and soon Barbara, her friend Dom and I get to the outskirts to capture the scene. How many people are here? Maybe 100,000. Nothing like the 2017 march when more than 1 million people showed up, but a good crowd of true believers.

Some highlights:

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A guy in a giant air-filled Trump suit was a big hit.

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A pup wears a protest sign: Trump is not a good boy.

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Our president Cindy, left, discusses the status of the ERA with a NOW leader.

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One of the few men on our bus, Dom, had fun wearing a fluorescent jacket and gloves that made him look like a traffic cop. Here, he tries to order me around at the World War II Memorial.

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The flip side of the balloon suit.

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We were well-stocked on provisions.

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The Washington Monument with the Capitol in the distance.

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An wall engraved at the World War II Memorial paid tribute to women and their contributions to the war.

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Dom and Barbara outside the White House. Trump arrived by helicopter a few hours later for his 4 p.m. speech about the Wall and government shutdown.

We arrive back in New Haven around 1:15 a.m., and I  head for my car caked in snow and ice. I forgot my ice scraper, and am convinced I’ll be sitting here for 20 minutes while the car thaws, but I turn on the wipers and it’s just slush.

No one else is on the road, and I follow a plow that clears the way home for me.

What’s Cooking?

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The Connecticut chapter of NOW at an advance screening of “On the Basis of Sex” Jan. 10th.

The “kids” are still home from college, so a few of our son’s friends and their families gathered the other night to catch up.

It was a low-key affair on a weeknight to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Our host’s Christmas tree and decorations were still up and a fire burned in the family room fireplace, lending a cozy feel to the evening. A cat perched on a sofa arm, and wine was consumed before and during dinner. So much for the January Experiment, a new book advocating abstaining from alcohol during the month of January.

So nothing that extraordinary except one thing: the main course was prepared entirely by my son’s friend, a college senior. Let me clarify that. When the dinner was slated for a Monday night and his mom had to work all day, he also shopped and prepped the meal too.

I have college-age nieces who love to cook and food shop, or “source” as they say, and have been turning out incredible meals for years. But the boys? Not so much. And though I’ve over-parented my son in many areas, I’ve failed miserably in the cooking department.

He expects me to cook every night. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Breaking down gender-specific roles like cooking and care-taking was at the core of the early women’s rights movement. The new movie “On the Basis of Sex”  spotlights the issue, telling the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fight to change a tax law that prohibited a man from taking a caretaker’s tax credit.

The case ultimately resulted in overturning 178 laws that discriminated on the basis of sex and were declared unconstitutional.

While prepping the landmark case with her husband Marty, Ginsburg notes that the tax law is antiquated and discriminatory because it assumes only women are caretakers and eligible for the deduction.

“Our client is a man. We can’t lose sight of that. Men are also harmed by these stereotypes,” Marty tells Ruth. “Boys are told they’re not supposed to be nurses, or teachers . . . ”

“Or cook for their families,” Ruth says.

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A rare sight: my son grinding spices for the Thanksgiving turkey.

I’m not sure what RBG would think of my parenting skills when it comes to raising a modern man, but I suspect she wouldn’t be pleased. She divided household and parenting chores with Marty in the mid-50s when most women stayed home and raised families while their husbands went off to work. She’d probably be shocked that in 2019, some boys (and men) still expect and assume women will do all the cooking.

I know I could have done a better job, and I hope it’s not too late. In about 18 months, my son will graduate from college and will probably (hopefully) be living on his own. He needs to know how to cook. Everyone needs to know this important life skill.

I bounced this off some women I know with older children. They said I should chill out, noting cooking is something kids tend to gravitate to like any other hobby. Some also said they enjoy being the sole cook in their household, noting they enjoy having control of meal planning and what they eat.

They have a point, I suppose, but it’s nice to have a meal prepared for you once in awhile, and not have the burden of cooking every day. It’s nice when other people pick up the slack, freeing you up to do other things in the early evening.

I started out with the best of intentions. When my son was little, he sat on a kitchen stool or counter and “helped” me. One of our favorite annual traditions was making homemade sugar cookies, cutting them into different shapes for Christmas. After they cooled, we covered them in colorful frosting and doused them in various shades of sprinkles.

But our kitchen time diminished as he grew up and became interested in sports and video games (I know. X-Box was another huge mistake). He wasn’t interested in cooking, so we didn’t do it. I forgot that like a lot of things in life, such as cleaning and laundry, it’s important for parents to lead the way and demand participation.

A little background:

When we first got married, my husband cooked. He was 30, and had been living on his own for about seven years. He knew how to cook a limited menu – chili, tacos,  hotdogs, Shake & Bake chicken and spaghetti with sauce – and cooked a few times a week. We were both working full time, so it made sense and was fair to divide cooking chores.

Things changed when he went to law school, and began commuting an hour to and from campus. He had less time and inclination to cook and was swamped with studying, so I picked up the slack. Eventually, I began doing most of the cooking, which was OK because I was a better cook. In exchange, he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. It seemed like an even exchange because I hate cleaning the kitchen.

Cooking fell entirely on me when I decided to stay home with my kids about 20 years ago. Splitting household chores becomes impractical when one person is working at least 60 hours a week and carrying the full burden of the family’s finances. It wasn’t practical for him to cook when he was arriving home between 7 and 7:30 every night.

My evolution into chief cook was gradual, sort of like the weight that accumulates around your hips after age 50. Slowly and steadily, I took on the role of primary cook while he became the main breadwinner. I remained a freelance writer, but my “career” was not how I’d envisioned things back at my liberal arts women’s college.

I take comfort in the fact that some of my most liberal and full-time working friends are also the primary, um only, cooks in their house. Their husbands wait until they walk in the door late at night and ask, “What’s for dinner?” too. But I hoped I’d do better with my son, raising a guy who knows his way around the kitchen.

I didn’t realize my oversight until my friend’s son cooked steak and roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, even asking everyone how we’d like our steak cooked. When I suggested that my son make a similar meal for us, he waved me off.

“He just threw a couple of steaks on the grill,” he said. “What’s the big deal?”

You could say I spoiled my kids, but that doesn’t fully explain it. Our 17-year-old daughter cooks and bakes, and has been doing so for years. Some of it is necessity: she’s the most finicky eater I’ve ever met, and often doesn’t want to eat what I’m making. But sometimes she thrills me and makes enough zucchini noodles and sauce for all of us, and it’s such a relief to have a night off.

Our son has no interest in cooking, unless ramen noodles, canned soup and microwave popcorn count. He’s never been terribly interested in food, even as a baby. I used to call my mom in tears when I’d make and throw out 21 meals every week during his first two years of life. I’m not entirely sure how he’s gotten to be the size he is, but I guess he got some nutrients along the way.

It’s only with hindsight that I realize I dropped the ball. If I could do things over, I’d spend less time at my son’s tennis matches, and more time with him in the kitchen. I’d teach him knife skills, how to marinate meat, how to make a hearty soup and how to bake a potato so it doesn’t come out like a rock. I’d teach him how to pick out eggplants (always pick the lightest ones for the fewest seeds), how to grill fish and how to bake and frost cupcakes.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. He’s only a college junior, so I still have time to show him the ropes. And somehow, I think RBG would approve.

 

Alone Time

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Photo courtesy of vox.com

Ever since I watched Lady Gaga’s documentary Five Foot Two on Netflix, I’ve been dying to see A Star is Born.

Gaga got the gig during the filming of the documentary, and I was anxious to see how it turned out. I was also curious to see her without her wacky costumes and make-up, which often detract from her beauty and incredible voice.

But the stars were not aligned for me seeing this movie, which has been in theaters since Oct. 5, 2018. A friend who initially planned to go with me in early November couldn’t make it. The Curmudgeon refused to go. My children politely declined. And most everyone else I know has already seen it.

So I did something I’ve never done before: I went to the movies alone.

I took my seat at the end of an aisle during the 4:05 show Saturday, and was stunned by the packed theater. Like me, these folks probably assumed this movie would be on Netflix by now, and they could watch it at home. But there are apparently a lot of hold-outs like me who got tired of waiting for it to stream.

I assumed I’d have the theater to myself because the film has been in theaters for three months. But no. Nearly every seat was taken. It didn’t hurt that it was a rainy and miserable Saturday in New England.

As I settled into my seat, I took comfort in the number of people who appeared to be at the movies alone. Growing up, I always went to the movies with my sisters or friends. When I got a little older, it became synonymous with date night. Few people except the most die-hard movie buffs dared to go alone for fear of being perceived as a loner.

But people do a lot of things alone today, and that’s a good thing because they would miss out otherwise. I’m always impressed by people who eat out alone, though I haven’t mustered the courage to do that yet.

As the film rolled, I began to relish being alone watching my chick flick. I could hear all of the dialog, and wondered why the woman next to me had to continually ask her husband to repeat lines. I was relieved that I didn’t have the Curmudgeon next to me making snide remarks like all of the men around me. The most irritating:

A guy in back of me: “Where do they come up with these stupid movie ideas?” during the previews about Beautiful Boy, which is based on a true story about a father trying to save his heroin-addicted son.

Another guy in back of me: “This is really starting to drag on,” about half-way through the movie.

The man two seats over from me: “Who is that guy?” about a background character. I was relieved when his wife snapped, “I have no idea!” and he finally shut up.

I didn’t hear one woman’s voice before or during the movie. We were too busy focusing on how different Gaga looks without make-up, the incredible voice coming out of her tiny body, and Bradley Cooper’s dreaminess despite his drunken ways. The guys? They felt the need to comment, perhaps because some were there under protest and wanted to make their presence known.

What I noticed watching the movie alone is that I was fully engrossed and could enjoy it because I wasn’t worrying about someone else accommodating me and suffering through something he didn’t want to watch. There’s nothing worse than feeling guilty dragging someone to a movie they don’t want to see.

There’s a great divide in what men and women want to see at the movies, and it’s gotten worse with time in my marriage. I don’t like blood, gore, war movies or action thrillers with violence. I refused to see Dunkirk despite the Curmudgeon trying to tempt me by noting it had some cute actors in it.

He went to see Dunkirk with our son and a couple of his friends. I stayed home, proud that I finally held my ground and refused to see a film I didn’t really want to see. We don’t go out to the movies much any more, mainly because we can’t agree on a film that appeals to both of us.

A recent exception was a family outing to see The Mule. I enjoyed the movie starring Clint Eastwood as an elderly drug mule and thought I might build a little good will with the Curmudgeon sitting through it. But he had no interest in accompanying me to A Star is Born.

“I have a great idea,” he said. “Go on Saturday afternoon. It’s supposed to be lousy out, so go see it then.”

When I came home and told him that the movie theater was filled with men who accompanied their wives, he was defensive and unapologetic.

“I know why it was so crowded,” he said. “There wasn’t a football game on TV yet. If you went to the later shows, you wouldn’t find a guy in there.”

I pointed out that I often accompany him to events to keep him company. For example, on Sunday morning I agreed to go with him to a nearby tennis club to watch our son compete in a match.

“Why should I go to the match when you wouldn’t go to A Star is Born?” I asked.

“Because (our son) is a star and he is already born,” he said.

Huh?

“Listen, I’m not crying or holding a grudge because you didn’t go to Dunkirk,” he said. “And you were never that clear about when you wanted to go. You always just floated the idea, but never suggested a specific day or time.”

He does have a point, but I think a part of me wanted to see this film alone. I didn’t want to be distracted, and I wanted to soak it all in – everything from the love story and Gaga’s nose to the fluffy dog and the songs. I got my wish, even cried at the end.

I can’t wait to go alone again.