Marita spent three nights at the Queen Anne B&B, while she traveled through upstate New York recruiting for CUNY Law School. Most of my guests are couples, who spend the majority of their time entertaining each other. As Marita was on her own, I was lucky enough to have company for dinner as well as breakfast. I cooked the first night—roast chicken with potatoes and kale picked freshly from the garden—with Marita contributing an excellent bottle of red wine. The next night Marita ordered take-out from Thai Time and I made baked apples, which we ate while we watched the second Presidential debate. We also took Einstein on a walk around the golf course on a balmy October afternoon, so we had plenty of time to get to know each other a little.
Marita is from Kansas, thirty years old, just graduated from law school with ambitions of working with Native Americans, a truly modern woman full of old-fashioned values. We even had discussion about the proper way to set a table, her Canadian grandmother and my Canadian mother having instilled in us the necessity for a surfeit of plates and utensils at the breakfast table.
Although we were raised in vastly different eras for women, Marita reminded me just a little of a much, much younger version of myself. Considering her definite artistic bent—she remarked often on the paintings and books in my house—I expressed surprise that she had chosen pre-med for her undergraduate years, rather than pursuing the liberal arts, and then gone on to law school. “It was hardly original,” she said, “with a lawyer for a father.”
I laughed. It would have been really original for a woman of my era! And there were certainly some of them. But when I was in college I majored in English, busy getting educated for a future married life with a husband who would support me. I got a Master’s degree in Art History, but I never had a career in mind. I was simply marking time until I married. My career, such as it is, has been purely accidental.
Would I would have chosen law school if I had been born in the 1980’s? After all, my father was a lawyer too, although he taught law rather than practice it. My brother’s life took a predictably different direction; he went to medical school and had a successful career as a cardiologist, following in the steps of his father-in-law. What a difference Feminism has made in the lives of women.
Marita was raised by parents who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. At one point she remarked that she wished that her parents had given her more guidance about her future. I also feel this way. It still surprises me that my mother, despite having to support the two of us after my father died when I was eleven, did not instill in me a determination to acquire the skills to pay my own way. I wish I could call Marita back and ask her what she meant. Was she, perhaps, as driven by the demands of Feminism as I had been driven by the paternalistic times in which I lived?
Marita and I need to continue this discussion. Perhaps we can do so on right here on this blog.