[My dear friend F. James Dagg has sent along a short story of his early years. It possesses the sort of surprise punch that characterizes his short fiction. Enjoy. — FWP]
I was almost thirteen, and a contradiction. Short, still childlike at a glance, no one took me to be nearly a teenager; but I was bright beyond my years, or so the tests said (I was a year ahead in school), and, perhaps, older in ways not so easily measured. I read a lot, and, for the first time, I was in love.
Her name was Meghan, and the silent “h” enchanted me as much as her perfect Nordic face, her thick blond hair sculpted in a jaw-length bob, and the way she walked. She was a senior, and if the small college town we lived in hadn’t built the middle school and the high school nearly on top of each other I would never have known her. But then, “known” isn’t right—if Meghan was aware of any eighth-graders, I’m sure I was not among them.
My parents—I had two, according to the times—taught me the quaint values: don’t lie, don’t steal, be considerate of your neighbors. And the smaller, civilizing things—table manners, don’t shout, hold the door for a lady—even as the times changed all around us.
I wandered downtown one early autumn evening, coming as I was into a boy’s age of curiosity about things social, drawn to the ever-changing liveliness of the college. As young as I was, and a local, I was of small interest to the freshmen with their getups and their self-conscious loudness, and I was invisible to the smug upperclassmen who slummed among the newcomers. I took in the circus of the new academic year as I walked on.
The auditorium’s marquee read, “Steinem, Abzug, Tonight, 6pm.” I had heard those names, and knew a little of what they were about, and had wanted to know more. But I had missed the evening’s program. It was about nine, and time to head home—my parents would be starting to worry.
Then my eyes dropped from the marquee and fell upon…Meghan.
An electric thrill surged through my chest. She was halfway across the lobby, ahead of the crowd that poured from the lecture hall inside. She wore a tight sweater, a short, pleated kilt, and a supremely determined look, which her confident stride reinforced. She came straight toward the tall glass doors right there before me, and she was, in that moment, the world to me—past, present, future—forever. As my heart and my ancestors bade me, I opened the door and held it for her.
“Men are pigs,” she announced, loudly, as she strode through, her head high.
Three more steps in her knee-high boots, and she threw a glance over her shoulder.
“All of them.”
That was the only time our eyes ever met.
I don’t know if I looked like a pig, but I’m sure I looked like a fool as I stood there holding the door, staring, mouth half open, as the click of her heels on the sidewalk receded into the night.
It’s late in my middle years now, and my parents are gone, with most of their generation. I’m modestly successful, and don’t want for much. At the odd times I socialize with those of my age, when talk turns from business and television to children and grandchildren, among those who have them, I’m sometimes asked how it is I never married. The reasons are many, and most, perhaps, are my fault. But always, when the question arises, I remember Meghan as if it were yesterday.
What seemed like such a harmless, even laudatory goal, that of ensuring that women who wanted to work, and learn, on the same terms as men did, ended up DESTROYING so many female lives.
Those who fell prey to men who used them, and tossed them away – often with children to support, on their own. The less fortunate ones were persuaded that those children would be a burden, and aborted them. Many never did marry or have children (or, shed them in their pursuit of male-like success), and are now trying to fill their lives with compensation for those missing people – husband, children, grandchildren.
Those who gave up large parts of their lives to ‘climb the corporate ladder’ – only to find that, save a few (generally the well-connected, privileged children of the Elite), those top rungs would never be reached. Many left, downsized in a corporate culture that deemed their position replaceable (with younger, often foreign-born competitors). Some found their health – mental, emotional, physical – broken beyond repair.
A few even hit the summit. Many found the journey not really worth the reward (as have many men).
They found that their worldly successes made them less attractive than the less educated woman who provided more traditional comfort in the home.
They found that – despite all the experts’ advice – no, older women were NOT going to find their Prince Charming, once they had time for him. Amazingly, some men preferred less jaded companions. Some just wanted a younger woman. And, some were truly cads.
They found that children brought up in ‘non-traditional’ single parent families started out with a huge disadvantage. That only a Herculean effort on the part of the mother could reduce MOST of that lack. And, most women did not put in that effort.
They found that older women were FAR less likely to be able to conceive and bear healthy children. Many were dumbfounded that society’s advice to have your children young was not just a way of keeping women barefoot and pregnant, but sound advice for healthy pregnancies (and, a lot less exhausting than late motherhood/fatherhood).
They found that children didn’t really care about your work successes, but wanted you home when they needed you. That, no, nannies and other child care workers were not a replacement for Mom and Dad.
I ended up without most of those sad outcomes affecting my life. I credit a husband, my children, and the many blessings of faith, committment, and just plain good luck for that happy turn of events. I do look at those who are suffering now, and mourn the way their lives have turned out. For most, they were just following what the ‘experts’ said about life choices. How were they to know that they would become cannon fodder in the Leftist War on the Family?
So true Linda, following the “expert” advice without thinking it through for yourself, in most cases, doesn’t work nearly as well as they tell you