A BALLOON IN CACTUS
By Maggie Van Ostrand
Reprinted by Permission
of Maggie Van Ostrand
Ed. Note: As with the late Mildred Boyd, it seems our readers do not want to let go of Maggie so we plan to indefinitely run some of the columns she wrote for us several years ago.
Dear Dr. Freud,
I heard you were a pretty smart guy, but even you couldn’t answer your own question: “What does a woman want?” Some say men and women should live on different continents and procreate by getting together once a year in a neutral country like, say, Switzerland. However, Sigmund, I think you men still have hope, so I’m gonna tell you what we used to want, how we wrested much of it from you, and what we want today, in the 21st Century.
Waaaay back when we collected nuts and berries and you were having contests of who had the longest loin cloth, we didn’t ask for much.
Little things, like you should bring home a steak to go with the salad. And we wanted you to invent fire for the barbeque. Nothing big.
After that, we allowed you to put our bustled and petticoated selves on that pedestal and treat us as dainty flowers who only accepted gifts of candy, cracked our Gibsoned heads against steel ceilings, suffered mightily for the vote, investigated cold sodas at the corner drugstore and hot jazz al the speakeasies, bobbed our hair and our skirts, and Charlestoned our way into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby.
When you went off to fight wars, we wanted you to notice how well we performed the jobs you had left behind, how well we raised the kids all alone, and how well we hid our loneliness without you.
Then we wanted you to take the bra-burning seriously and not object if we chose to return to the workforce. We wanted you to volunteer to do some of the grocery shopping and childcare, without our asking.
We wanted you to retain your masculinity while cooking and diapering.
We wanted to be like you, but not. We wanted you to be like us, but not.
Having gone through all that and lived to see the solid steel ceiling converted to breakable glass, Hillary Clinton turns out to be a counterfeit feminist, and Martha Stewart seduces us back into the kitchen. It seems that we got much of what we wanted, but don’t quite know what to do with it. Perhaps the point all along was just to get it. So here’s the skinny on what we want now:
We want you to be stronger than we are but in a gentle and tender way.
We want you to respect our whims of iron.
We want you to open doors, light cigarettes, and never accept our offer to pay the restaurant check.
We want you to take yes for an answer. We want you to take no for an answer.
We want you to leave us alone. We want you to pay us attention.
We want you well-bred, well-read, and underfed.
We want other men to look at us. We do not want you to look at other women.
We want you to be sensitive as well as rugged. We want you to break broncos if you care to, but don’t try to break us.
We want you to ignore our frailties and praise our strengths.
We want to be partners, with one of us holding 51 % of the stock. We’ll decide which one.
We want your loyalty, devotion, love, care, time, and attention; we’ll give the same to you.
These things are pretty much written, maybe not in stone but in clay, so we can change our minds.
Only two constants remain through the ages: (1) Be there when we need you and (2) take out the garbage.
Just tryin’ to help, Sig.
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