4.21.2006

And the discussion continues...

"What did you think of my blog post yesterday?" I asked my dad over the phone. "I mean, you didn't say anything about it all day. Did you read it?"

There's a pause.

My father and I are extremely close, and we speak sometimes ten times a day. We call to trade industry gossip (he's also in the New York advertising world); to share color commentary on TV shows (Hurley did NOT just say that); to point out very important breaking news stories (Did you see Katie Couric's new haircut? Horrible!); to rejoice in baby milestones (she said "ba!"); to notify one another about celebrity sightings (Liv Tyler in the bathroom of Bliss! I heard her pee!); or sometimes simply to say hi, just checking in and I'll talk to you later. I know him I think as well as a daughter can know a father. And while gaps in the conversation generally mean he's doing four other things while on the phone with me--hm, wonder where I get that habit-- this time I wasn't so sure.

"So, did you read it?" I pushed.

"Yes, I read it."

"Okay. Because I thought I said some nice things about you and, well, you didn't respond so..."

"I wouldn't call myself a feminist."

"Oh," I said. This was not nearly the response I was expecting. "Oh. Well...okay. Oh."

"Yeah," he said.

Even my father, my sensitive, politically progressive, loves his family so much that he tears up every time he reads his Father's Day cards father--didn't want to be called a feminist. Phooey, get that icky label away from me! Begone with you!

His rejection of the designation, one I had meant as the highest praise, hit me hard. In those few seconds while we hung silently on the phone, I considered many possibilities, none of them good. Was I too quick to label him? Was I giving him too much credit? Did it embarrass him somehow? Did this have something to do with my mother, even 28 years after their (pretty damn bitter) divorce? Or worse yet, oh my God--did I make something up entirely for the sake of a compelling sentence in an essay?

Why did I call him a feminist, exactly? I mean, he never used the word himself. We've never even discussed it. At the time it seemed perfectly suitable as I assessed his attitudes towards me and women in general. Now, I wasn't so sure.

"But you are, don't you think?" I asked. "I mean based on the way I defined it, don't you think you are? You didn't march or anything, but the way you brought me up...you always encouraged me and pushed me and never thought twice about bringing me to a baseball game with Jeff, or..."

"How long is a baseball game?" my dad interrupted, chuckling.

I knew just what he was talking about.

When I was seven and Jeff was five, my dad took us to our first Yankee game. I admit I was probably more excited at the prospect of eating hot dogs and Cracker Jacks AND ice cream, but still. Both Jeff and I brought our baseball mitts, as we had been told that fans do, but my brother took it to the next level by sporting full Yankee regalia--the jacket, the shirt, the cap with the perfectly creased lid. Adorable, of course. Who can resist a pre-schooler in full Yankee gear? (No comment from you, BoSox fans.) Apparently not the kindly old stadium groundskeeper.

In a scene swiped right from the fantasy of every American kid in history, this offical-looking man on the field spots my brother out of tens of thousands of people in the crowd, and waves him down toward the dugout where he's standing. The man rests his elbows atop the stadium's blue field wall and wipes his brow.

"You caught a foul ball in that mitt of yours yet?" the groundskeeper asks Jeff.

"No," my brother answers, wide-eyed.

"Then I'll tell you what," the groundskeeper says with a wink. "If you haven't caught a ball by the seventh inning stretch, you come up and see me in my office and I'll see what I can do about it."

Well the seventh inning rolls around and wouldn't you know it, Jeff has not yet caught a ball. And so we scurry on into the bowels of Yankee Stadium.

"Stand right there," the groundskeeper tells my brother as he backs away from him. "Now hold out your mitt," he continues, "and now...catch!" And with that he tosses my brother a genuine, honest-to-goodness, real live Major League Baseball, right there in Yankee Stadium.

Cute story, right? But it wasn't. You see, I was there too. Remember me? Yeah, me. Seven year-old me. I had my mitt. I had my scorecard. But I was just...the sister. I didn't exist to that groundskeeper. He never looked at me, never acknowledged me, never smiled at me with that twinkle in his eye.

He certainly didn't let me catch a ball in Yankee Stadium.

"You were so furious," my father reminded me, "I had never seen you that mad. And I felt terrible. I mean I was delighted for Jeff, but my heart just sank for you. And we went back to our seats, and you dug your nose in Mrs. Pigglewiggle's Farm, and you pouted the entire rest of the game. You wouldn't look up, you wouldn't do anything. You just read that book, incensed, until the game was over and then stomped on out of the stadium."

"Yeah, I still remember that," I said, still feeling the indignation all these years later.

"My heart broke for you," my dad said. "It was so unfair."

"Yeah," I said. "Yeah. It really was."

I hereby confess that I was not correct in my assessment of my father. I misspoke. He isn't a feminist at all.

But he did give me all the tools I needed to be one myself. I'll settle for that.

Question: How long is a baseball game? Answer: Nine chapters long.


48 Comments:

Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

My husband would probably be uncomfortable calling himself a feminist too. But he proudly wears the t-shirt I got him for his birthday. It says, "Feminist chicks dig me." Cause I do.

4/20/06, 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Chase said...

Beautifully written post, lady...as always. And I love the answer SO very much!

Of course, my answer would be "I don't know but it's as soon as I can grab the remote and change the channel because I hate it so that'd be like I dunno 5 seconds."

4/21/06, 12:03 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Substitute baseball with fishing and you have a post from my life...I still see a little red when I remember not being able to go on a trip because I was a girl. Sucks. But your post was breathtaking. I wish my dad and I were as close as you and yours. Good for you.

4/21/06, 1:25 AM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

I ditto t. but subsitute fishing with science. ROCK!

I loved that post. LOOOOOVED. Please write more about your family and childhood and all the wonderful stories of your yute. Those are my favorite kind.

4/21/06, 2:05 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Aw, man. You got me again.
I'd say more, but you spawned an idear for an entry, so I won't. :)All I can say is, aw, man.

4/21/06, 2:44 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

Wow. wow.

4/21/06, 6:36 AM  
Blogger kim said...

Incredibly vivid, I felt like I was the little girl at the stadium. I'm sure my father would object to being called a feminist too. I suppose I will have to settle for your feminist enabler description as well.

By the way, I loved Mrs. Pigglewiggle's book.

4/21/06, 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Kvetch said...

Great stories are often made of some of our saddest memories! Heartwarming and heartwrenching all at the same time. This post is a keeper --- I even see --- book? screenplay?

4/21/06, 7:59 AM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Mrs. Pigglewiggle's Farm???? That was my FAVORITE Mrs. Pigglewiggle book. I mean, I loved all of them but that one was my absolute fave. The Fraidy Cat Cure? Oooh, I still remember that one!

I have to say I'm envious of the relationship you have with your dad. That's so awesome.

4/21/06, 8:21 AM  
Blogger J's Mommy said...

great story. i hope my hubby can do that for my daughter - encourage all sides of her and not just the ones that he thinks a girl should have. kudos to your dad for raising such a wonderful mom!

4/21/06, 8:26 AM  
Anonymous reluctant housewife said...

Aww. I love this post.

4/21/06, 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I officially applying for adoption into the Mom-101 family.

And, that story makes me sad - and I soooo love that you were pissed.

Makes me glad to know ya.

4/21/06, 9:34 AM  
Blogger Marriage-101 said...

Amazing post! Let me know when you write a novel, or an autobiography, or even a short story. I'll be sure to buy it!

4/21/06, 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Christina/aka Kitty said...

oh mama, I was popping onto your blog to tell you how fabulous yesterday's post was when I saw that you had already put this new one up. now I have tears in my eyes, both for the honest conversation you are able to have with your dad and for the little girl who was ignored at the game.

Oh, and Yankees suck but you know I'd say that, right! : )

Ok, now on to my test of the morning: to see if I can type in the 'word verification' thingy right the first time.

4/21/06, 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Oh, how I love this post.

Nine chapters long. Sigh.

4/21/06, 10:19 AM  
Anonymous neva said...

my father, an avid dodgers fan & good ball-player himself, was in korea when i was born. since he already had one daughter, he had hoped for a son this time around. the telegram my grandfather sent to announce my birth read: dodgers not interested. better luck next time. (he wasn't)

f*ck the dodgers... and the yankees. oh, and for the record? you can actually finish "Kabumpo in Oz" in the time it takes to play nine-innings.

i'm sorry your dad doesn't think he's a "feminist"--tho' i'm guessin' he's more of one than he'd care to admit. people are funny about 'labels' that way.

lovely post--as usual! : D

4/21/06, 10:25 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You have such a great dad.

My dad once asked me "So when are you going to get a REAL job?" (I stay-at-home with my son.)

Sounds like your dad is very supportive. You are so very lucky!

4/21/06, 10:48 AM  
Blogger Pattie said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. It is heartwarming that you have such a close relationship with your Dad.

Oh, and if you were in Fenway, that NEVER would have happened! (Just had to get that in!) :)

4/21/06, 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a theory:

The reason that your dad may have reacted the way he did and the reason why the movement seems to struggle more than it should is because of the label. It's limiting. Simple as that. Did Susan B. Anthony or Harriet Tubman or Amelia Earhart need a specific movement to accomplish what they accomplished?

I'd like to give women more credit than the feminist movement chooses to give them. I'd argue that women would have strived for and achieved the exact same things in roughly the same amount of time without the term feminist ever seeing the light of day. Not only that, but they would have been able to do it without having to justify their lipstick and shoes and whatever other girly stuff women just like.

Go Yankees.

4/21/06, 11:09 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

My heart broke when I read this. (was happy for your lil bro at the same time.) I would wish upon a thousand stars to have a father like yours, mine was absent since I was three, trying to get back in now.
But please, please don't tell me you hate the Yanks because of this. (Raised in NY, die-hard Yankee fan here.)

4/21/06, 11:35 AM  
Blogger movin'mom said...

BRILLIANT- ONCE AGAIN...I GOTTA COME UP WITH SOME MORE ADJECTIVES FOR YOU. ALTHOUGH I HEAR THAT BRILLIANT IS A 2006 WORD(CUZ OF JAMES BLUNT)
ANYWAY WHEN I STARTED READING YOUR POST TODAY I COULD NOT HELP BUT CHUCKLE BECAUSE I REFERENCED TO YOUR NOT BEING LIKE ME IN MY POST TODAY AS FAR AS NEEDING TO ASK SOMEONE IF THEY HAVE READ YOUR BLOG. WOW- WHAT A FULL CIRCLE MOMENT FOR ME.

NOW YOU READ YOUR 9 CHAPTERS AND BECAME A BRILLIANT WRITER...DID YOUR BROTHER BECOME A NEW YORK YANKEE?

4/21/06, 11:35 AM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

All these years and I've never heard this story before. It is funny - because when you wrote that your Dad was a feminist yesterday I thought "not really, he's just a good Dad". I think that is something that our Dad's have in common... they are really great Dads of girls.

4/21/06, 11:46 AM  
Blogger Shalee said...

Things will be a-ok with your dad. He'll realize that he helped raise a great woman who is funny, sharp and insightful. Not to mention that you sound like a Daddy's girl... and it makes no difference whether or not he was a feminist.

Love that story girl!

4/21/06, 12:13 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

anonymous (who is probably one of my relatives) - I would argue that feminism is not limiting. Rather the opposite; the problem is that it's too broad and means too many different things to different people. I also would say that it's not the label that's responsible for a movement towards equality, but an expression for that said movement.

The problem with assuming that things would just happen on their own is that they don't. Most people in this world are not Susans or Amelias or Harriets. Did Harriet Tubman need the civil rights movement to do what she did? No, but the movement needed her! Visionaries are only visionaries in that there are so few of them. The vast majority of people need leaders or mentors (and sometimes an entire movement of them) to open them to possibiliites, push them to be more, show them what they are capable of--and what they are entitled to as human beings.

The fear I have of complacency with what women have achieved is that history can indeed repeat itself. As we speak, Bush is proposing amendments to Title IX that would set women's sports back 35 years. South Dakota is signing away women's rights. The divisive "mommy wars" is being incited by an irresponsible media. It ain't over yet.

So whatever you want to be called--feminist, humanist, or something else entirely--I don't really care in the end. I Just hope you'll help us fight the good fight.

4/21/06, 12:21 PM  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

Wonderful story. I try to imagine what I would do, though, if I were your dad overseeing the same scenario being played out with my two boys, one getting the ball and one looking on, and I have no idea what I'd do. You really made me think with this post... but I won't hold it against you.

4/21/06, 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

;)

4/21/06, 12:36 PM  
Anonymous kismet said...

Brilliant!
I so loved this post. We raised 3 daughters and have 4 (so far) granddaughters and I know just how hard it is to blur that line. We do take the girls fishing and to bb games. I'm afraid my grandson will actually get left in the dust sometimes.


~K!

4/21/06, 12:56 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Excellent response to anonymous.

4/21/06, 1:04 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

i am wondering what i can write here that is not just gushing sycohancy, but I so "Heart" mom101.

seriously, this is a beautifully crafted addendum to yesterday's post. how the hell do you DO it?

My husband--liberal, academic, encourages my son in his fondness for makeup, tutus and princesses--I think he does not like to be called a feminist either. I am going to ask him again, though. And if he says "no" I will bludgeon him.

4/21/06, 1:12 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

My heart broke for your childhood self! An accumulation of small events like this one that can still help galvanize a movement. Which we still need, labels or no labels.

4/21/06, 1:24 PM  
Blogger tracey said...

Funny how the "feminist" label can freak people out (men and women). My hsuband is PRO-woman (he'd better be there 3 of us chicks in the house!) but I'm really not sure if he'd be comfy with the feminist label either. No matter. What matters is "fighting the good fight" as you put it because damn, we need a ll the fire power we can get!
For the record, I had a baseball/dad moment too. We were at a Dodgers game and I too had my glove. My Dad went to the snack bar (I'll betcha to get me a malt and him a beer) and a foul ball was hit right to me. I would've caught that damn ball all by myself but the guy behind me reached down and caught it in mid air, less than a foot from my glove. I swear! I was hearbroken and I had a lump in my throat the rest of the game. Had my Dad been next to me, he would have given me to room to catch it (well, maybe he would've caught it himself-eitherway I'd of had that ball) and knocked that guy on his ass if he would've tried to snatch it from me. Those moments do indeed stay with us.

4/21/06, 2:06 PM  
Blogger Mega Mom said...

I don't know where to start. I know that I need to write my own post in order to express myself better, but I am not nearly as eloquent and all-encompassing as you.

Yesterday you referred to being really proud of the way that the commenters were able to express themselves, but you have to admit, almost every one was in agreement with you. Even the ones who were reluctant to label themselves were still supportive.

While I consider myself a strong woman with a strong will who was raised with NO gender limits whatsoever by extemely encouraging parents, I still cringe at the word feminist. It conjures up images for me (contrived maybe, but images nevertheless) that I am not comfortable with. I LOVE how much your post made me think. All day I tried to define myself, but kept coming up with the old cliche "I don't like labels". I agree that by parts of your definition I WOULD be a feminist, but by others, maybe not.

The thing that I am afraid of is that by NOT labeling myself a feminist, that people will assume that I am the complete opposite, which couldn't be further from the truth. There are just several issues in the movement that I am uncomfortable with.

Ooh...I'm running WAY too long here. I completely look forward to the continuation of this topic. I've really enjoyed exploring my beliefs because of your posts. I hope that you and I can enjoy a lively, thoughtful discussion this summer.

4/21/06, 2:15 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

MegaMom: You've called me out, fairly enough. I'm a pro at preaching to the choir.

I understand your perspective entirely (and clearly my dad does) which is why I want feminism to mean something good. And like other labels ("Christian" springs to mind) it's a bit tricky to say exactly what it means. I'm sure we all agree on equal pay for equal work, and career opportunities for women. Some women start to disagree when we bring up federally subsidized childcare. And obviously reproductive issues divide us to the greatest degree. That's probably where the real debate begins, huh. Maybe there needs to be a distinction between the "women as equals" camp, and the "women as sovereign over our own bodies" camp.

Check out Moms Rising. We're writing it up on cool mom picks next week and I think what they're doing is where feminism is heading.

I'm glad this has provided a forum in which you feel comfortable disagreeing. You're helping me shape my beliefs too!

4/21/06, 2:38 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

First of all, your father is awesome.

Second, you already know how I feel about the label. But I am all in favor of the action behind it. That is why one of my priorities this weekend is to check out momsrising.org. And that is why I have always pursued what interested me, with little (if any) thought to how it would be perceived.

4/21/06, 3:15 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

wiping at my eyes

Its just a speck of dirt, really.

I've never wanted to give a girl at a baseball game a hug so badly before in my life! There's something so in-your-face-masculine about baseball... Sons and Fathers, blah blah blah. I love your dad for remembering that day and for knowing the reason why you were so mad. My dad wouldn't have even caught on.

4/21/06, 4:08 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

The idealist in me would like to think that in today's world, if a brother and sister were at all ball game, and if they were both dressed in fan gear, that they would be treated the same way. When professional athletes visit children's hospitals do they spend more time talking to the boys?

What happened to you sucks. But it probably made you a stronger woman. Yes? I love what you write and I love that it leaves me pondering...

4/21/06, 4:19 PM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

I still think your Dad sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing that story. I was so feeling you. While it was sad and unfair - I loved your reaction. Even as a little girl you had it goin on!

4/21/06, 5:49 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I'm at a bit of a loss for words here (shocker); I was really just so moved by this. gush gush gush.

But it touched a nerve, because I was afraid (yes, afraid) of a similar thing yesterday. My mom *just* learned how to comment, and I was concerned that she might lash out publicly at my shaming by a feminist, thereby giving the impression - perhaps even stating - that she is not one. Not because she isn't - as she ended up saying in her comment, she did take my sister and I to marches - but because she might reject the label. Especially if it's a label to be shared with someone who shamed her daughter.

(I'm just noticing how defensive I am about her being a feminist, or having raised me as one. Why do my mother's feminist bona fides matter? Why do I care whether the internet appreciates that my mother was one, dammit? Hmm. You were brave, to my mind, to tackle this head on. Then I ask, why is this brave? Double hmm.)

What I do know is this: that, no matter what she calls herself, she is, and my dad is, very proud to have raised a feminist. By whatever name.

4/21/06, 6:52 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Oh my gosh. That was such a touching post. I can somewhat relate to that story. I am related to Joe DiMaggio and my father got him to sign a baseball for my brother many years ago, but not for me. He didn't think I would want a baseball. Cuz I'm a girl.

Hmph. When I got old enough, I told him what I thought about that.

4/21/06, 7:49 PM  
Blogger Stephanie A. said...

How heartbreaking and way too soon to be face to face with sexism. This was a great story!

4/21/06, 9:37 PM  
Blogger Jozet said...

Sustitute baseball with fishing and fixing cars....

As for "feminist", I'll check out the article.

It's a fine word with a fiesty history, just ready for a good redifining.

And maybe a basebal mitt.

Nicely done.

4/22/06, 2:37 AM  
Blogger kfk said...

Jeez, in retrospect, that story is pretty profound for you. The lessons of inequalities/presumptions/stereotypes in this world start so early in life. You were lucky to have such "progressive" parents who gave you the tools to be as strong as you are.

4/22/06, 11:26 AM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

Funny. I have memories of sitting out in right field during ball games at recess reading Nancy Drew. My dad (the coach in charge of the game) allowed it...

Mary, mom to many

4/22/06, 11:57 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Wow! I'm just freakin' amazed at the relationship you had with your dad. Most dads would require about ten conversations and an intervention by Dr. Phil to GET whey you felt so slighted by the groundskeeper. You are one lucky woman!

4/22/06, 2:53 PM  
Blogger Bobita said...

I have linked here from Mom Ma'am Me...and I love you and your blog immediately!

I can't wait to read more...I'm so happy to have found your blog!

4/23/06, 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Bro101 said...

Is it possible the reason that I got to catch the ball instead of you isn't becuase I was a boy, but becuse I realized we were in Shea Stadium, not Yankee Stadium :)

Moreover, is it possible that the fact that the groundskeeper didn't throw you a ball is the reason I'm a Yankee fan, and not a Mets fan today?

4/24/06, 1:38 PM  
Blogger shannon said...

Wow, amazing story.

4/24/06, 1:52 PM  
Blogger texas math said...

I saw Jennster mention you in her latest post so I decided to check your blog out...I haven't (yet) seen why she calls you "fucking.funny.bitch" but I really did love this story.

4/24/06, 4:13 PM  

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