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3:19 a.m. - 2013-04-21
Making Space

Today in the car since Wolf wasn't sitting behind me I had the seat all the way back and room to stretch out. Somewhere along our drive Mick patted my leg and said, "Good knee moving, Baby." Huh? He explained that every time he went to shift I moved my knee out of the way. I hadn't been aware on it in my top mind but his saying so made me see I was doing it. This called up a memory file of several articles and whatnot about women and their space awareness. The 'Take Back Your Space' movement on public transportation where women were encouraged to insist on their entitled space and to not be encroached upon by men and their spraddle-legged way of sitting so their knees ate up at least half the space belonging to the seats to either side of theirs. How men automatically assume control of both armrests in a movie theater. Etc, etc. Cynthia Heimel's column about trying to cross a crowded room and how no matter how engaged a woman looked to be with her conversation as someone approached the woman pulled in her legs or turned to let the person pass, all without missing a beat. However the men had to be flagged before they'd move. Harrumphed at, even tapped on the shoulder and told to make way. They stood and owned their space without the slightest consciousness of anyone else. Even Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In' is about women sticking up for their space, though in this case it's more about mental space, public acknowledgement and using our authority to be seen and heard in the business world with the same effectiveness as men.

All of this shot through my mind in a speed rap and before he needed to downshift again to take the next curve I gave Mick the gist of my thinking and said I'd just now realized something about this, women's body awareness and our keeping tabs on everyone else who might come near isn't us just being polite, it's not simply us more evolved half of our species being so much more in tune, it's about fear of male violence. On some gut level every woman is aware of danger. This is why we don't stand around oblivious to the other people in the room. We keep tabs because we have to. A woman not paying attention is a woman who might be overpowered. Groped, butt pinched, fondled, raped, dragged off, killed.

Women aren't polite. We're scared.

Again, not in a top mind all the time on red alert way, but history, evolutionary and societal history (even if so far your life's been easy breezy safe) keeps women on yellow alert. Hell yes, we see you coming. Okay fine, you're just on your way to the john, but we can't truly know that. Not until you're safely past and closing the door behind you.

Mick startled, thought on it and agreed I was onto something. "It's like what you said to Wolf the other night at dinner. The testicle thing."

Oh yeah, another of our famous dinner convos...Mick was joking about going outside in the buff now that spring was here after a long cooped up winter. On the night in question the weather had turned off damn cold and I sassed back that instead of his dingles swaying in the breeze as he was talking about it was so cold they'd be drawn up tight somewhere around his navel. I cocked an eyebrow at Wolf and smirked, "I know I don't have testicles myself but I do know how they work."

Wolf muttered something about what a nuisance they are and I should be glad I don't have them.

I leveled a look at my kid and replied, "Oh sure. I'm delighted to be female and not have to put up with those annoying balls. Why I love paying more for everything from haircuts to t-shirts! I had a fabulous time getting my period 13-14 times a year for over 4 decades! Bras? Love 'em. Lugging around these ridiculous sandbag boobs in some harness that's hot, sweaty, restricts my breathing and has made calcium spurs on my collar bones is great! I adore being paid less for doing the same work. Really! Being morbidly aware of the potential for male violence and adjusting my life accordingly so my job choices, where I go and what time I go there, never being truly free to live where I want and how I want, it's wonderful! Nope, wouldn't trade a minute of this joy for something as annoying and uncomfortable as testicles."

Sounds cranky but I kept my tone light and made plenty of eye-rolls.

Wolf nodded that he'd taken my point. But he looked sad. I reached across the table and patted his hand. "Sweetie, no need for guilt and angst, there's plenty of good guys. You're one of them. We need the differences between the sexes. For real. It's about balance. If women have traditionally gotten the short end because men can usually physically overpower us, that time is passing. Our gender roles become less dependent on biology all the time. You are so much freer today than men were even 20 years ago. If someday you get married and have kids you and your wife can decide together how best to arrange your family. Who goes out and earns the money, if you can afford it who stays home with the kids. Whether you divvy everything down the middle. It's up to you."

Mick concurred and waggled his fingers at me to keep going. "Wolf, how you are measured as a man isn't solely based anymore on how much money you earn and how many other men you can beat up or boss. Men used to have a really raw deal too. Even though we grew apart and wanted different things later on, one of the reasons I fell in love with your dad was because he could kiss a cat. In our time men weren't even supposed to like cats! Or show physical affection for anything or anyone. So when your dad scooped up your Grandma Virginia's cat, cuddled it and gave it a kiss on the head I was smitten."

I looked at my son and smiled. "Life is scary and hard sometimes. For some more than others. But raising a child in the 21st century is a gas. Your old mom the hippy is thrilled with all the choices you have in front of you. This is why I keep quacking on about all this stuff at dinner. So you know. You can't make things right until you acknowledge there's a wrong."

And in case anyone is wondering, hell yes I shove Mick's elbow off the arm rest at the theater. I might be a graceful space-minding passenger in the car, but I will own my space and be comfortable at the movies.

It's all about compromise and sharing, ~LA

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