I took a deep breath, swirling my coffee around in the cup with a stain around the rim. “How are we not compatible?”
“…well. You’re just…too much of a feminist.”
I stared at him, sitting across from me with his legs crossed, his hands folded over his knees. Like we were discussing the weather, or the news, or what we would like to eat for breakfast.
And as though he had read my thoughts, he spoke again. “Here. Do you want a bagel?”
I ignored him, finally able to counter his proclamation. “Feminist? Me? I’m too much of a feminist?” If he had accused me of being too much of a mathematician I couldn’t have been more floored.
Too busy, I would understand.
You’re moving, I would understand.
But too feminist?
At that moment, feminism meant nothing more to me than abortion supporters and bra-burners. I frequently
decried feminism as the single source of every societal woe. “I’m not one of those feminazis,” I’d sneer, daintily crossing a stocking-clad leg while running a red manicured hand through my long, curly hair. I was on a mission to singlehandedly return femininity to the unwashed, unkempt feminist masses that were overtaking my generation.
“Well…yes. You are. I want someone who is 100% willing to support my dream.”
I’m nothing but willing, I thought. “I’m absolutely willing to support your dream. I just want you to be 100% willing to support my dream, as well. I didn’t realize that was feminism.”
It was his turn to fall silent.
I rolled my eyes to hold back the tears, and began slathering ungodly amounts of cream cheese on the stale bagel he had placed in front of me. A carbohydrate-laden peace offering. Since we were clearly breaking up, it didn’t matter if I couldn’t squeeze into one of my retro little black dress numbers that weekend.
He poured himself a cup of tea, and uncrossed his legs, leaning forward across the table. “I want someone who’s willing to sacrifice everything for my dream. We can’t both do that. We’re both big dreamers. I need someone with a smaller dream.”
I looked at him, then at the butter knife in my hand, and released my grip. “What are you saying right now?”
“And I didn’t realize how much you disagreed with patriarchy,” he continued.
Disagree with patriarchy? I had recently read Quiverfull: Inside The Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce. The book had radically changed my opinion on fundamentalist patriarchy from “To each their own,” to “This is poisonous vitriol against women”. But I still counted myself as a traditionalist. Just, a traditionalist who respected women.
He hadn’t stopped speaking, but I was poring through every exchange we had had over the last few months, searching for the sign that signaled my entrance into the land of Womyns Studies.
There was the time I refused to participate in a Suit and Lingerie party because I found it degrading. I may have used the word sexist.
And then my insistence that fertility awareness was about more than family planning within the confines of Catholic sexuality, but had value in and of itself by teaching women to take ownership of their own body. Regardless of creed or orientation. Could I have said…empowering?
I had disagreed with his belief that marriage is like partnering in social dance, where the follower totally surrenders their will to the leader for the benefit of the movement. As a classically trained ballet dancer, my experience with partnering is that each member of the dance is equally responsible for the other partner. There is a constant give and take, with a clear, choreographed goal in mind. Each dancer is responsible for making that goal happen.
The more scenarios that marched through my mind like suffragettes on the steps of a courthouse, the more uncomfortable I became. Could there be truth in what he was saying?
I was jolted back to reality, and tuned back into his words when he ended his speech with the following: “You just can’t be everything that I need.”
I stood up, gathered my purse, my coat, and the remainder of my pride, and walked out the door.
Maybe there was something to this feminism thing, after all.