By Nicole Cater
I mean the race for gender equality. The funny thing is I always assumed this was a problem that was getting better, not worse. But the more I read, the more I see, the more absolutely pissed off I become. There are now “manly” restaurants. As if women somehow can’t appreciate a fabulous juicy burger or a perfectly aged steak. Meninism is actually a thing, where men have the audacity to claim they don’t have the same rights as women. But I think the one true thing that brought home to me just how bad gender relations have gotten is when I took a trip to my favorite coffee shop.
It was at night, after dark. The parking spots in front of the shop were full. Unfortunately, women are no longer allowed to walk alone at night. So I parked around the corner and down a block. Before I exited my car, I grabbed a six-inch cylinder. Would I really be able to mace a man if he dared to bother me? No, I didn’t think I could do that. Instead, tucked up my sleeve was a stylish pink collapsible police baton. This was my city. I may have felt the need to arm myself with a non-lethal weapon, but I was still going to live my life, lurking men in the shadows or not.
So I decided to study up on some of the most common Meninism complaints. To be honest, I was very confused. And before we delve into this sticky issue, it must be pointed out that no, every man is not like this. To believe so is stereotyping. However, it does seem as though these so called “Meninists” are fond of stereotyping themselves. But let’s break it on down, shall we?
“I want a woman to take me out on a date and wine and dine me and pay for everything.” Okay, that’s fair. But here’s the question. Did you ask her out? Yes? Then pony up. If she asked you out and you’re still paying, you don’t have a problem with women, you have a problem with A woman, specifically the one who decided to ask you out in the 21st Century and stick you with the tab.
“The movie Magic Mike promotes unreal expectations of how men should look.” Every minute of every day promotes unreal expectations of how women should look. There’s a reason plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s not abdominal implants to give men six packs. Its breast augmentations, tummy tucks, liposuction to achieve that all important thigh gap, butt implants, collagen injections to plump the lips and cushion feet for high heels, Botox in the brows. Why do women pay so much to enhance their bodies? Certainly not for themselves, but because some (notice I did not say all) men have the bad habit of changing out their wives for a younger model. So who really has to deal with unreal body expectations?
“Why aren’t there more men in history?” I can only assume this person can’t read. I have no other explanation.
“What do you call a man under 6’? A friend.” “Where does a man whose 5’11” live? The friend zone.” No matter how many women say this, it never seems to sink in. Size doesn’t matter. Personality matters. If you have a wonderful personality that a woman connects with, she doesn’t care about your height. She doesn’t care about your weight. And surprise, surprise, most often, the size that matters most to men, really only matters to men. In general, when a man hears a woman has a great personality, he assumes she’s ugly. When a woman hears a man has a great personality, it’s exciting. The brain is the biggest sexual organ. Men, stimulate that and the rest will fall into place.
This gives me a lovely segue into another pet peeve, the friend zone. Because let’s call it what it is, an unrequited crush. Most likely that woman does not see you as a friend. She sees you as an annoying guy who keeps hitting on her and thinks he’s entitled to date her. Women are much more honest about this phenomenon, thanks to Sex and the City. We call it “he’s just not that into you.” So gents, news flash, every person in the world is allowed to have a certain “type” they are commonly attracted to. If you don’t fit that type, she’s just not that into you. Since time began, women have been conditioned by their mothers to be mindful of the fragile male ego. (It’s my opinion that if we stopped being so mindful of it, perhaps it wouldn’t be so fragile, but I digress.) Therefore, this woman is allowing you the chance to be her “friend.” But chances are good she doesn’t even really want that. It doesn’t matter how nice or wonderful you are, if she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you. Accept it and move on. It’s not a personal flaw on her part, so quit acting like she’s wronged you. Bow out gracefully and stalk less.
And then there are the unbelievable Meninists who loudly proclaim that “Men can get raped too.” This is a statement that can’t be argued with. However, it is misleading in the extreme. First of all, just because men can be raped does not diminish the horrendous effects of the crimes perpetrated on women. No one in their right mind will ever say “Jill was raped, but Joe was also raped and so that makes Jill’s rape not so bad.” At least one would hope that this never would happen but the world is full of horrible people and sadly we still can’t tattoo “Horrible Person” on their forehead so that the public at large is warned. And the glaring fact that omitted is that men are by and large statistically much more likely to be raped by other men. Nice try at giving females a black eye Meninists, but you just punched yourself in the face.
Men will never know what it is like to be a woman. From a young age you are taught to behave like a young lady. This means you don’t get to play rough and tumble, you shouldn’t get dirty, and you can’t play with boy’s action figures, even if they are cool. Instead you should practice in your fake kitchen and fake laundry, drudgery that you must get used to for you’ll be saddled with it for life. You should be smart in school, but not too smart, because everyone knows top grades go to boys. Athletics will make you dirty and smelly and are definitely not lady-like. When you mature, you must do everything you can to look absolutely stunning, but shun all attention from boys. Your entire self worth is tied to whether you are a virgin or not. And if you lose your virginity, you are damaged goods. From puberty on your feelings are constantly invalidated as merely an effect of hormones. You walk down the street and strangers feel entitled to make all sorts of comments at you. As you become an adult, you are most certainly not supposed to enjoy sex, but once you get married, you are supposed to have it frequently and if you don’t, your husband will leave you. If you don’t want to have kids, you are told you’ll change your mind. If you really don’t change your mind, people tell you how much you missed. If you try to establish a career first, people hassle you not to wait too long. And then once you do, everyone else knows how to raise your child but you. And any opportunities at work, no matter how hard fought for, should be met not with celebration that you succeeded, but with thanks that you were actually able to accomplish something. As a woman, your whole life is never good enough. And now we have to deal with men bitching about not having doors opened for them?
Feminism has gotten a bad rap. It had become associated with man haters. This simply isn’t true. Yes, you can bust out the Webster’s dictionary definition of Feminism. But here’s what it really boils down to. If men treated women they didn’t know like they treated men they didn’t know, we most likely wouldn’t have any of these problems. And the truth is all men should be ashamed of Meninists. Because unless they are wearing a shirt, which I hear has become very popular, women can’t tell who they are. These Meninists are disrespectful to women simply because we dare to exist. And since we can’t tell them apart, we are forced to treat all men as guilty until proven innocent. Are you a Meninist? I don’t know. So I will continue to walk around the corner with my police baton. Because until real men stand up and say that is someone’ daughter, sister, wife, mother and take back your good name, you will all suffer the Meninists shame.
By Nicole Cater
Lucy left all the comforts (both real and imagined) of Schaumburg behind when she split off Interstate 90 onto US Highway 20 outside of Cherry Valley. It wasn’t so much that she minded skirting Rockford, it was more the knowledge that she was traveling west. West in Illinois toward the Mississippi River. It was the last direction in which she wanted to head.
Her silver 2005 Honda CRV was crammed full. She was thankful that the car gods had smiled on her and given her SUV had a towing package. She had never needed to use it before. She had never thought about the tow hitch after the second month she bought the car and stuck a fancy heart cover into the hitch socket. Now the CRV and the U-Haul behind encompassed all she owned in the world. With rent so high in the Chicago suburbs, and her elementary teacher salary below average, she hadn’t had much extra to spend on frivolous items. Most of her money went toward her three bedroom apartment in the Legend Park complex in Schaumburg. She splurged on the extra room so her family could visit her and always have a place to stay. It was worth it to stay on the east side of the state, never returning west.
Besides, her apartment complex offered just about any amenity she could wish. Between the lush and immaculately kept grounds, the swimming pool, athletic center, sport courts and clubhouse, something was always happening. She had a ready-made social life. Not that she socialized all that much. Even her West Highland White Terrier, McTavish, was welcome and had his own pack of friends. And the complex was close to her school, Edwin Aldrin Elementary, just on the tip of Eagle Park. She was a highly respected sixth grade math teacher, covering both regular and accelerated programs. She was one of the faculties responsible for the STEM club and its high achievements. She was most definitely on the top of her game.
At eighteen, she had entered Chicago’s DePaul University, pursuing a teaching career with laser-like focus. For four years, she lived on campus, in various dorms, until she worked her way up to a single, where she wouldn’t be bothered by other students. She didn’t care that the students around her called her “the nun.” She worked in the library for extra money, and the rest of her time was spent studying for her major in Early Childhood Education and minor in Mathematics and Computer Sciences. She didn’t join any sororities or clubs. She rarely socialized, unless it was over a meal in the common cafeteria. As smart as Lucy was, she knew the other students thought her snobbish, aloof, elitist. In truth, she thought herself no better or worse than any of them. She just displayed a level of dedication that her fellow students couldn’t comprehend. It was almost as if she were on a military tactical mission: get in, complete the objective, get out. And it was how she lived her life. The payoff was walking across the stage, collecting her degree as the announcer called her name, her major and then added Summa Cum Laude. The principal at the school where she performed her student teaching deemed her smart, capable, deferential and quiet. At twenty-two, she had her pick of schools, and she chose Schaumburg.
But her years of self-enforced solitude had one unintended consequence, a drawback she never noticed. Lucy was bright, gifted even, and had an incredible work ethic. But all that was on the inside. On the outside, she was an average height of 5’6”. And that was where the average stopped. Her long wavy blond hair cascaded down the middle of her back like a cloud. She was an expert at pulling it back into a braid, bun or twist. But when it was loosened, it had a life of its own, and an unimaginable allure. Her high apple cheeks set off her overly-large deep blue eyes. Every aspect of her face was perfectly proportioned, from her button nose to her lips, just shy of plentiful. Lucy had no say in her genetics, she was beautiful. And when she smiled, which was not often, she was gorgeous, her whole face and eyes glowing with an interior fire that couldn’t be extinguished. Lucy abhorred makeup and wore just enough to look professional and presentable to her colleagues and the parents of the children at her school. She didn’t ask for her beauty, nor did she want it, so she wasn’t about to accentuate it. Similarly, she chose clothes that hid the willowy natural grace of her body. She wore oversize sweaters and blouses, long skirts and ballet flat shoes. Her disguise attempts were her one total failure. She continued to look exactly like whom she was; a beautiful woman desperate to hide that fact, even from herself.
Matthew Reynolds took one look at her his first day of orientation at Aldrin and saw Lucy for what she was. It was his first year as the new science teacher, and the reserved math teacher was assigned his tour guide and unofficial watchdog. He was immediately besotted. Lucy was not impressed.
At 6’2”, with his strong square jaw and sandy blond hair just a shade messy, he was quickly the talk of all the ladies in the teachers’ lounge. He fixed his chocolate brown eyes on whoever was speaking to him with such intensity, even some of the men felt they might melt. Matthew was a cross fit enthusiast and made sure that every outfit showed his hard labor. He wasn’t conceited or cocky, in fact most time he was quite earnest and sincere. But his good looks and amazing physique labeled him a jock, and he didn’t much care about arguing with the stereotype. He was also a man who knew what he wanted. And what he wanted, or who, was Lucy.
It took Lucy months to realize that Matt was flirting with her. When she did see what he was doing, she still had no clue of what to do about it. They spent most of that year locked in a tango, Matt flirting, Lucy barely responding. When she thought about it, if she thought about it at all, she had to admit she was attracted to the man. But she had spent the last 25 years avoiding situations such as this, and she was at an utter loss for how to proceed. She went to Sephora and got a makeover. Compared with her days of wearing a little mascara and powder, the bill seemed astronomical. But she went home and put the makeup on again and again until she could copy what the sales associate had done to her face in the store. She took another trip to Woodfield Mall and spent even more hard-earned money on clothing that was more tailored to her body, jackets, pant suits, and pencil skirts. She visited a Victoria’s Secret store for the first time in her life and learned about undergarments, especially bras that pushed her breasts up and gave the illusion of cleavage.
She came home and tried on all these outfits with McTavish as her attentive audience. He didn’t really approve, but he didn’t seem to judge either. She had allowed herself to splurge on a several pairs of shoes with kitten heels, and she practiced walking around the apartment. She didn’t trust herself on anything taller. And she didn’t want it to look like she was trying too hard. With new makeup, clothes and shoes, it would undoubtedly look like she was trying. But wobbling down the hall on three-inch heels was farther than she was willing to go. If only she paid attention when her college roommates had flirted their way into relationships, then maybe this wouldn’t be so hard. She had a split second when she contemplated calling her mother to ask for advice. But she knew the truth; that was a horrible idea. After flipping out for God knows how long over Lucy meeting a man, her flirting and dating advice would probably be sketchy at best. No, she would do this the way she had always done things; she would research, and then apply. It might not be a fool-proof plan, but it was how her brain worked, and she could do much worse, she thought.
Two weeks after her drastic wardrobe change, McTavish found his dinner bowl empty as Lucy went out on her first date with Matt, for a simple glass of wine. And although everything was going well, Lucy still felt too nervous and claimed her dog’s empty food dish as an excuse to leave. Matt showed up the next night at her apartment. Had she mentioned where she lived? The wine… she just didn’t remember. He had flowers for her, a dog bakery bone for McTavish and reservations at an Italian restaurant. Lucy, who hadn’t thought to actually buy any nice dresses while she was shopping, donned a blouse and skirt combo and hoped it looked formal enough next to his suit and tie. He looked so handsome in a suit.
After dinner, which was mediocre in her opinion, but with good conversation, Matt walked Lucy to her door. And then he kissed her. It was no small peck, but a full on kiss, she felt the tip of his tongue parting her lips and she was panic stricken for a moment. She remembered all the girls in sixth grade said this was French kissing and that all couples did it. Yet she was still not prepared that it was being done to her. She parted her lips and stuck the tip of her tongue out in a feeble attempt to match his actions. After a minute or so, he finally stopped. Matt looked dazed and smiled widely. Though still somewhat taken aback, she didn’t dare tell him that that was her first kiss. It didn’t seem the appropriate time to share the information. So Lucy just stood there, not knowing what to do next. Matt solved the issue by leaning back in and giving her a much more chaste kiss.
“I think we should save all this for the weekends, don’t you?” he said, smiling.
“I guess,” Lucy replied, still on uncertain ground.
“No,” Matt said, “don’t misunderstand. I would see you every second if I could. But school, the kids. I just think this should be private time, you and me. Don’t you?”
“Yes, definitely, that sounds like a great idea,” Lucy heard herself agreeing before she really understood if she wanted to agree or not.
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” another chaste kiss, and then Matt squeezed her hand and walked off to his car, leaving an increasingly bewildered Lucy standing at her door.
“Things are probably going to change,” she said to McTavish as she leaned against the door, now closed against the outside chill. McTavish cocked his head, as if she were explaining calculus and almost grasped it. Lucy smiled to herself; few things could make her smile like that little head cock. She went into her bedroom, shed her fancy clothes, and donned a double extra-large t-shirt from her alma mater. She booted up her computer and ordered a copy of The Joy of Sex. Lucy was always prepared.
But there are some things you can’t prepare for, no matter how hard you try, despite all the studying in the world. Lucy couldn’t prepare for Matt wanting to move so fast. She couldn’t prepare for his immature attitude when she forced him to slow down. When she did feel like finally moving forward, she was shocked at how little effort he seemed to put into lovemaking. Like the kiss, she didn’t tell him it was her first time. But she had read the book. She figured that sex was an even playing ground, some things for her, some for him. But Matt’s style was all for him. The joy the book talked about was nowhere to be found. Her disappointment must have been obvious, because he spent the next hour pouting, before he finally got dressed and left.
Lucy wasn’t exactly sad, she was more perplexed. Was that what everyone raved about? Surely she was missing something. She knew it would hurt at first, but then she expected it to feel spectacular. Instead, she just felt like she wanted it to be over. But it was all so new. Maybe all she needed was practice.
Several more dates of varying interest with Matt ended in her bedroom. And yet, she still felt the same as she had the first. Matt certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, but Lucy just lay there, not knowing what to do, waiting for it all to be over. And each time Matt would get angrier as if it was her fault. But she knew from the book that it was his. And their last night together, she tried to bring up the book, tried to talk about some of the things in it. It proved a disaster, as did the sex afterward. This time Matt didn’t even stay around to pout. He just quickly got dressed, told her there was something wrong with her, and left.
And the next day it happened. She walked into the teacher’s lounge and everyone fell silent. But not before she heard one word, “frigid.” She knew what this word meant. She also knew if others were saying it, then Matt was talking all about the things he swore were private between them. Surprisingly, the betrayal hurt worse than the label. She came home that night and scrubbed her face clean. The next day she was back at school in her baggy blouse, long skirt and minimal makeup. Matt wouldn’t talk to her, but he would snicker with the other male teachers when she was around. It’s all so useless, she thought to herself. I won’t let him do this to me. But he did, day after day. And soon the women on the faculty seemed in on the joke. And so, with two weeks left of the school year, she went into the Principal’s office and told him she wouldn’t be returning. He was sympathetic, but didn’t act too surprised. And on her lunch break, she rented a U-Haul trailer, one way, from Schaumburg to Galena, Illinois. She was going to go home.
Her family all lived in Galena and it was from them that she ran. She, being an only child, had much to prove, and she wouldn’t stop until she had accomplished her goals. But as she skirted Freeport and US Highway 20 became two lanes, she realized that all she was doing was running away from her problems. She hadn’t liked how her family thought she couldn’t be taken seriously, so she ran east. Now, with the disaster of a relationship still fresh, she ran west. She had been gone nearly eight years. Eight years of making her parents visit her in the suburbs, eight years of trying to forget how to spell Mississippi, eight years of growing and learning. She supposed her cousins grew and learned during the same eight years. But that was hard to think about, a mere smokescreen. She knew Alex was married and had two little girls of his own. He was taking over his parents’ bakery. Claire, who ran the bakery with him, was married too, and was expecting her own child. She wasn’t exactly sure what Danny did, but he was the same age as her. She couldn’t picture him without a high-school graduation cap and gown. And of course, there was Bethany. Bethany and her bookstore and God knew what else was going on in her life. These were her father’s family and they had always bewildered her. She didn’t want to go back to them. But she had nowhere else to go. So she drove west, past nothing towns, wondering what eight years had wrought on the family that she had known, but not quite loved.
By Nicole Cater
“Things are never as bad as they seem because you have to look beyond all the bad and see all of the good…” This quote is from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee said by Miss Maudie to comfort Jem during his distress over the trial.
“Never, never, never give up.” This is a popular misquote by Winston Churchill. The real quote is no less inspiring: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Though succinct, the true, longer version urges one not merely to never give up, but to never compromise.
“That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly endures,” by Josiah Gilbert Holland
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” By Will Rogers
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be,” by Lao Tzu
“Live each day as if your life had just begun,” by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. In the third, it is regarded as self evident,” by Arthur Schopenhauer
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you,” by Jim Rohn
“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matter most,” by Gautama Buddha
“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule #1,” by Anonymous
I didn’t set out to write a half page of quotes. To be honest, when I sit here in front of my screen, typing away at the keyboard, I only have the vaguest notion of what will come out. I started with the first quote because it seemed to speak so perfectly to what I intended to say. Perhaps you think the quotes may have gotten out of hand; but the truth is each quote truly represents how I feel. I almost added more. But I think I have the right number, the right amount, and the perfect lines that describe me for me.
Of course, all these positive quotes don’t come without an ulterior motive. Lately, my writing has been negative, sad, even a bit despairing. It has my friends and family worried about me. And with good reason. If you saw your daughter or best friend sharing with the entire world how alone she felt, how very bored she was, how the future seemed no brighter, you would worry too. And I won’t even bother denying the difficult time I’ve had. I was negative and could see nothing worth value in this move. Adjustment and acclimation were so hard for me as to almost be unbearable. I had never lived anywhere but Rock Island. Although only 55 miles away, I felt as if I moved to the moon.
Going through all this, there was no possible way for me to see any positives. I am an outgoing, social woman who loves to be around people and make friends. Despite my illnesses and the unfortunate need to cancel plans depending on my health, I like sharing time with friends. These are people I’ve known for anywhere from two to three decades. And even though I said it before, Clinton is not the moon. I can see my friends whenever I want. But I still miss them.
Making friends here is almost impossible. I usually make friends with the people with whom I work. But I have no job. My volunteer stint at the Human Society, which I was so proud of and excited for, lasted all of one day. Then I was sidelined by a wrist injury, pain, and lack of sleep. Maybe I’ll be able to go back, but not as I am now. It was when the coordinator asked me to set hours and be there for them that I realized it wasn’t going to work. This is the same reason jobs don’t work. When you live with a four on the pain scale on a good and productive day and your illnesses are erratic and unpredictable, you just can’t make plans. Commitments are saved for only the most serious of occasions, and on those days, I put on the mask, pretend I’m not sick, grit my teeth, and get through it.
Most people make friends outside of work based on what their children do, what activities they have in common, what sports team they share. Sky isn’t into sports. Or any other activities where I would get to meet other parents. There are volunteer opportunities at my church. These are much easier and consist of a couple hours one night a month. The people are friendly, but nowhere near my age. I know people my age go to church, I see them in the service. But they aren’t the ones who reach out, who make themselves available. It is the older generation that cares. Much like my grandmother taught my mother, and my mother taught me, these are people well versed in manners and class. And so I will take it, because talking to people twice my age is better than talking to no one at all.
But the truth is the adjustment period is starting to taper off. Some of it is receiving some housewarming gifts, small things for some people, but necessities for which we are grateful. Part of it is living my life with a schedule. Take Sky to school. Relax with a few cups of coffee and read a little. Wash dishes. Keep organizing all the miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t found a home. Sometimes do laundry. Pick Sky and Amaya up from school. Help with homework when needed. Make dinner and do the dishes again. Amidst it all, take Fredo out for his daily sunbath. And at night, that’s my time. I can write. I can play on the computer. I have a cup of decaf and unwind. I chat with friends who are far and not so far. Now Jeremy has signed us up for the YWCA and it’s a new prospect to add to my routine. Swimming, yoga, bike riding, several classes all waiting to be tried. It’s a new aspect to my routine that I’m looking forward to. Maybe I’ll meet some friends, but at least I’ll get out of the house.
Things are looking good. I feel like I’m able to be happy. After all, I’m with my boys; this is what I’ve dreamed of. And though I won’t be going back to folding paper, I’ve rediscovered my love of baking. The process gives me a Zen-like feeling, a calm I rarely get from any other activity. The act of measuring, mixing and decorating come together in the ultimate test of patience. And when you are in the zone, you make your art depending on what inspires you that day. Although I’m not a big baked goods fan, there is nothing better than seeing a loved one enjoy your creation… or surprising someone with a cake or pastries to brighten their day. That’s a warm fuzzy I treasure.
I moved to Clinton for love, with no hesitation whatsoever. But it wasn’t Clinton I loved and there was bound to be growing pains. And so we come full circle back to the quotes. The day can be disappointing. But only if I let it. And I think I’m done letting it. I will look beyond the bad. I will never give up; never give in, never compromise. I will grow slowly and endure and I will take the right track and keep walking, not daring to sit. I will unleash my potential and become what I might be, living as if the day has just begun. I will understand the truth as self evident, and I will run my day. I will be born anew every morning and make every day count. And I will remember the two rules that are most important to all of us: I will never quit, and I will remember not to. Because my life is a journey, an adventure. And even though it may be scary at times, I want to take the chance. If only to say this was my journey, and it was worth every minute.
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!