Eccentric Feminists I have Known Part 1 (Continued)

November 27, 2010

Then I met Maria. She was a social studies teacher; she was very interested in international relations; she traveled the world. She was intelligent, and dark and pretty in a Southern European sort of way. Her parents were from Croatia.

She was also a fierce feminist. Neither Kip nor I were over the top sexist pigs, but occasionally we would make piggy joking remarks, and Maria would take us severely to task.

However, Maria also had a charming, wry, self-effacing sense of humor. She told me once about going to the Portland Zoo with her mother and father. The lions were “getting it on,” at the time. She was telling me about how conservative her Croation mother was.

“My mother turned to my father and me in bewilderment, and asked what the lions were doing,” she said.

I didn’t ask if she knew how she was conceived with a mother in such denial about the facts of life.

In high school, Maria told me, the quarterback of the football team had chosen her to be his girl friend. To me, Maria was attractive enough that I could imagine that happening, but Maria indicated she was surprised and shocked when football star woo’ed her. In any case, apparently, after that experience, Maria had decided she was oppressed by dominant males.

At the time I met her, she had a gentleman friend, named John. John was very intelligent. He was a professor of Internation Relations at a university in the Portland area. He was distinguished. He specialized in the Middle East. When Henry Kissenger was Secretary of State, he hired John to be Assistant Undersecretary of Something.

Maria told me, “Every so often, John has an ‘audience’ with Secretary Kissenger. He hates these meetings.”

She told me, “I picked John for my boyfriend because he is not very demanding. In fact, I picked him because he just doesn’t give me any shit.”

Maria also made it clear she was not big on the institution of marriage, as it was mostly a way for men to oppress women. Maria’s sister was married, and she made it clear she did not particularly think much of that relationship. She indicated she had no intentions of marrying John or anyone, ever.

The next summer, Maria and John went on a trip around the world. They were serious about not being “tourists.” Every so often, I would get a postcard or a photograph from a country such as India. They rode as regular passengers with ordinary Indian citizens  on trains with the people across India. They did not want to be seen as “ugly Americans” by riding in separate compartments with the other American tourists.

A few days before Maria was due to return from her trip around the world I accidentally encountered (new to me) somebody who knew Maria. During the conversation, she said, “Maria and John will be arriving at the PDX (Portland airport) in a few days. I am going to meet her there. I am looking forward to meeting her husband.”

I said, “Maria is not married.”

She said, “Yes, she is. She got married on the trip.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “Maria told me that she intended never to get married.”

She replied, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Maria and John got married on the trip.”

When Maria actually got back, she wore no wedding ring and said not a word to me or Kip about being married for a least a month or more. I think we never said to her, “I thought you were never going to get married.” Somehow she “merged” the fact that she was married into our working relationship without every making it apparent that her views on marriage had changed.

Eventually, she and John had a couple of children, and bought and remodeled a large house in Portland. I believe my daughter and her partner and I visited them once at their house and met their children.

While I haven’t kept in touch with her, I have looked her up on the web a couple of times. She has become president for a while of an organization promoting international relations in the Portland area. Apparently, she and John are still married. (Happily, I hope.)

To this day, I remain bemused and rather entranced by the memory of the woman who was such a strong feminist that she kept it a secret when she got married.

8 Responses to “Eccentric Feminists I have Known Part 1 (Continued)”

  1. Norwichrocks Says:

    As a feminist myself I hate to say this, but I know a few women who have been vocally ‘anti-marriage’… until the man they love actually asks them to marry him.

    Which is why I particularly admire the character Harriet Vane in the Dorothy L Sayers novel ‘Strong Poison’.


  2. A while since I read Sayers’ novel. I am incoherently thinking of Tolstoy, who said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Also it has been rumored that Tolstoy’s wife poisoned him as he was about to wander off to be an ascetic. I can’t imagine why.

  3. Grad Says:

    I’d like to think I am a feminist. But I also love all the domestic bits about life. Although it eluded me (or perhaps because it did), I am awed by people who are able to sustain a happy, close, life-long marriage. It must be one of the great joys of life, together with motherhood (which I have enjoyed). Is a feminist who minimizes these experiences of life a true feminist? In my opinion, no. P.S. I loved Strong Poison and think Harriet Vane would be someone interesting to have as a friend.

  4. Average Jane Says:

    That was an amusing story alright.

    • modestypress Says:

      Jane, good to have you visit! I do imagine this true tale would amuse you. Perhaps when Maria was traveling in India, she encountered you. After all, India is a small country with only a few people and probably everyone knows everyone else.

      • Average Jane Says:

        Indeed India is a place where everyone knows everyone else. We are all pretty much family. So I wouldn’t be surprised if I have met Maria. She sounds like so many women I know.


  5. I always think it’s kind of weird when people feel that feminism and marriage/domestic nesting are somehow incompatible. Marriage doesn’t have to be oppressive, and homemaking/child-rearing doesn’t make a woman lesser than her partner. I would think the ultimate feminism would be to embrace the things that are unique to womanhood — such as mothering — and shout them from the rooftops as being just as important, if not more so, than any stupid thing men are doing (like making war for no good reason).

    That being said, I don’t believe in marriage either. We’ll see if I stick to that, or marry the Amazon in secret and never tell anyone.


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