1. I was four years old. I was being picked up from junior kindergarten by Mrs Schuler, whose son Matthew was one of my little friends. Even though my house was about a four minute drive from the school, I was convinced i was going to get thirsty on the way home. So I filled my mouth with water from the water fountain and held it there.
I can still remember Mrs Schuler staring at me and my chipmunk cheeks. I can still remember the desperate feeling of needing to get the water out of my mouth, but not letting myself do it because I’d need the water later. And I can still remember the look on Mrs Schuler’s face as I spit the water all over her coat.
2. I was 19 and had just moved to Toronto. I heard that Gloria Steinem would be speaking at a local bookstore, and having read her book “Revolution from Within” and found it very inspiring, I went.
Because I come from a small-ish city and was a) well-brought up and b) totally clueless, I wore a leopard print dress that I made myself, heels (at this time of my life I was insecure about my height, though now I’d rather be short and comfortable than still below medium height and miserable), and full makeup. I listened to her talk and loved it, though I can’t remember exactly what she said. Hey, it was almost ten years ago. At the end I asked a question:
“What do you say to young women of my generation who don’t identify as feminists?”
I asked because I really wanted to know. One of my new university friends was one of those girls who, while being a cool and fun person and agreeing with every specific feminist argument I ever made (I.e., equal pay is good, date rape is bad), refused pointedly to call herself a feminist “because she didn’t hate men”. As I was and am a highly literal person I was flummoxed by this and – given the opportunity – sought expert advice.
Once again I can’t quite remember what Gloria Steinem replied. If I recall correctly I think she said it was important to distinguish between those who didn’t identify as feminists but were and those who didn’t identify as feminists and weren’t.* It didn’t help me one little bit to understand my friend, and by the end of the school year we’d grown apart. Moreover, what didn’t occur to me for years was that Gloria – and probably all the other women there – thought I was talking about myself. Like I was a sort of anti-feminist mole or something.
* look up “feminism” in any dictionary if you don’t think this is possible.
3. Maybe a year or two later I was walking down Palmerston Avenue – probably going to work or something – on a Saturday afternoon. I was passing the garage sale leftovers from that morning (old armchairs and coffee pots etc) when my attention was arrested by an unusual object, just sitting there by the curb for anyone to take.
It was a more-than-life-sized headshot of Patrick Duffy. Yes, THAT Patrick Duffy. Dallas. Step by Step. Minor tv star of 1980-1995. And I, because I was living in a small basement apartment and had too much stuff already, left it there, and have been kicking myself ever since.