Radiogurl a la Carte

Thursday, Apr. 22, 2004

As I sit awake and staring at the shambles of my bedroom-without-a-bed, I'm in one of those "why-am-I-not-married?" moments of life. Don't worry, it is over almost as soon as it begins, but for the moment I'll fall into a lapse of uncharacteristic and knowingly fantasy-based moments of nostalgia for something I never had.

Some days I think women ripped themselves off by asking for equal rights. Back when my parents got married, there was an assumed way of life. Men went to work, women stayed home to take care of house and kids.

Nowadays, I know there are some men who work to support their families, albeit none in my particular sphere of acquaintances. Boss has been unmarried for 30 years after a marriage disaster that makes even my dubious history with the opposite sex look good. All other men I've known have worked sporadically at best and not really contributed to paying for the minor details like food and rent.

I know there are women who think they want my job, at least in title. They never had to do this job while raising four kids and a husband, though. I did, and it stinks to high heaven.

My dirty little secret for the day? Yeah, I know, I've got lots of them. But this one is simple. When my children were small, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, able to see that the kids were fed, clothes were washed, and the house was cleaned. Instead, I went to work while hubby dearest let the kids stay alone in the house, while he was in the basement with various friends doing the drug du jour.

Yes, I'm fully aware of how nave it is to believe that my being a stay-at-home mommy and wife would have made a difference. I guess I rationalized it by the belief that if I was staying home, it meant hubby was holding a job and life would be better. I never really had the luxury of finding out what that was like because heroin/cocaine/meth addicts are notoriously bad employees.

I think in the thirteen or so years we were married, he held two separate jobs for nine months, a couple for maybe two or three weeks, and the rest of the time didn't even pretend he was going to work.

Whatever happened to men who had respect for themselves and their families? And I'm not talking about men like Dangerspouse, who talk big but actually love their respective families and understand concepts like responsibility and integrity. I stopped expecting respect long ago, and know that caring is a myth, at least insofar as it relates to me, but even I can remember a time when it was positively scandalous for a man to be without work for any period of time.

And I can't help believing the tsunami-wave of juvenile crime stems at least in part from children left to fend for themselves from the time they're infants, because mom either has to go to work or chooses to do so, electing career first, kids second, third, or fourth.

Okay, flashback over. I never did any drugs for that moment but I guess it was pretty hallucinatory.

In reality I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had to go into a predominantly-male field, to do a job that I genuinely enjoy, and to work with autonomy. I'm thankful for the fact that as a single woman, I can rent a house or buy a car - if I have money - without someone turning me down solely because I'm a woman. There are many, many reasons to be glad for the women's movement.

But there are some days I think back to the days when lines were more clearly defined and I wonder if in seeking something better, we didn't lose something precious. I'd like to hear from the men out there, and the women. If you had the opportunity, would you want to have a traditional family?

On days like today, I am not sure I see the step forward, but I can definitely see the two steps back.

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )