Definitely Not Mainstream
My Life as an Astrologer

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“I never thought you would become someone who’d sell spiders and charms.” That was my dad’s reaction when I said I was going to be an astrologer.

He’s not the only person I’ve had a negative reaction from. Years later my unflappable and always-confident therapist told me, “I wish you’d have come to me sooner. I could have saved you from astrology.” When I meet new people and they ask what I do, they sometimes seem surprised when I tell them. I don’t look like what they think an astrologer should look like. No wild tattoos. No eye makeup. My Cher look: missing. (What happens next?)

What I Didn’t Learn in School

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In an episode of the “Cosby Show” that sticks in my mind, Vanessa Huxtable’s class has a science fair. For her entry, Vanessa creates a static model of the planets in the solar system. The day of the fair, she is shown up by her peers and comes in 14th place. The other projects are impressive, like a robot that works at the clap of hands. Another student brags that he created a model of the solar system where the planets orbited one another several grades ago. By the end of the episode, Vanessa decides to redo her model, not for credit or even to show to her teacher, merely to show herself that she can.

This episode stuck in my memory from my childhood because not because the moral sank in, but precisely because I couldn’t relate to Vanessa. “Why bother with the extra work?” I wondered.  Instead, I had learned to work efficiently and I calibrated my effort with the results.

(What happens next?)

What Went Wrong with Feminism?

Image of a women's liberation protest by Warren K. Leffler
Image of a women’s liberation protest by Warren K. Leffler

 

I was at the heart of the second wave feminist uprising when I moved to Manhattan in 1969 at the age of 22. The help wanted ads in the newspaper were still divided into men’s jobs and women’s jobs (hard to imagine now), but women who had made the coffee and bore the babies for the rabble-rousing men of the Free Speech and Civil Rights movements were beginning to get restive.  What about our issues?

The male revolutionaries didn’t care about our issues, but they HAD taught us to organize, so we pressed for equality ourselves.  It was a heady time. Gloria Steinem was constantly in the news and Betty Friedan’s “The Second Sex” was being read widely.  We held consciousness-raising sessions in living rooms in Greenwich Village and eventually in larger spaces like churches and synagogues.  We marched for equal pay for equal work, for the right to safe and legal abortions, for equal opportunities to advance in business and the professions, and for the Equal Rights Amendment which would enshrine our status as the equals of men before the law in the Constitution.   (What happens next?)

An Impossible Choice
Ambivalence about Parenthood

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It starts with a pregnancy test.

For Poppy Morgan, a 39-year-old San Franciscan, that plus sign in the view window was an answer to a decades’ old wish. As a journalist, Poppy’s prayers and journey were exactly what I was interested in; I was writing an article on pregnancies like hers and had interviewed another couple about their experience.

I had also, about six months before my first conversation with Poppy in 2012, woken up at 38 and realized I might be one of those women who never would see that plus sign in the view window, that I might be one of those women who ran out of time to have a family.

So it was that I would spend the next two years writing the Morgans’ story, and, eventually, deciding what my own story would be. (What happens next?)

Do Good Boundaries Make Good Co-workers?

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Recently at work I was asked to scan some documents by someone who: 1) is not my boss, 2), is not in my department, and 3) knows how to use the scanner. This person, we’ll call him Stuart, is older and senior to me in terms of experience, but we are both part of our company’s small management team.

Stuart’s inquiry about the scanning was weird and oblique. He explained that he was in a rush to finish something by the end of the day, and “was there someone” who could help him scan a few pages from his notebook to send to a colleague? I was flustered and unsure what he was really asking. We work in a small office without any administrative staff; everyone does their own filing, scanning, and copying. I said there was no one really to ask. He persisted. I asked if he knew how to use the scanner. Yes, he did. Finally, wanting to help out, but more than anything not knowing how to refuse, I offered to do it for him. I then seethed about it the rest of the afternoon. I was outraged that he had asked me to do something so unrelated to my job; I wanted Stuart to think of me as a peer and to treat my time as equally valuable to his. I was also upset at myself for having volunteered to do it in the first place. (What happens next?)