On Being A Frail Flower of Femininity


This morning in the shower I was talking to Dan (yes, I know we’re unnatural that way, but it’s often the only time we have for conversation. Used to be the only place the boys couldn’t follow to interrupt us) about identity, loss of identity and loss of self.

Part of this was that we’re in the (Please, Lord) final push to get the boys out and on their own.  While Robert isn’t out, he’s effectively off our hands by Summer and off our responsibility completely by Summer next year.  Marshall… well, because of stupid scheduling tricks, he won’t graduate till Summer next year and he’s actually expensive. We’ll see if he succeeds in finding something for the summer, something (part time) for next year, or just gets his typesetting off the ground.  But one way or another, he’s an adult, and so our work is more or less done, save for a final trailing off of financial support.

The point being — since we’d just referenced the days when we couldn’t go to the grocery store without one of the boys at least — that our role as parents is coming to an end.  I mean, we’ll always be the boys’ parents, but it can’t be our identity anymore, unless we want to drive them and us insane.

I’m also, as some of you know, making a huge change in my professional identity.  Which I had to explain to Dan (because it’s not intuitive) has always been a great part of my self image, because I grew up convinced no one would ever be stupid enough to marry me.  Therefore, like males, I built my identity around what I can do and my career.  (Which caused me massive problems while motherhood was eating my life, because I felt like a lazy bum.)

The comment about marrying always brings people up short. I know (now) that I’m still not incredibly ugly, (with weight loss I’m becoming downright comely. Maybe even cute for my age) and was very pretty as a young woman.  So why would it require a man to be stupid to marry me…

The answer ties in with Portuguese society and the fact I used to make most Portuguese young men run screaming into the night. (In fact, I never dated a Portuguese male.  Ever. I came close a couple of times, if I’d known how to read signals, which I didn’t, but never in a relationship.)

The reason is… complicated.

First, opinions on whether or not I’m on the autistic spectrum vary.  Some people are vehemently sure I’m not, just as others are sure I am.  One of the people who knows me best and has knowledge of the neurological issue thinks I am, but I became REALLY good at faking, to the point it’s hard to tell.

Me? I don’t have an opinion, because I can’t see myself from outside. OTOH I incline (slightly) to “I’m not, I’m just WEIRD.”

Here’s the thing: Portugal is a highly gendered society and even in these ‘enlightened’ days reflexively patriarchal.

What I mean is despite all the “women’s lib” and a loosening of sexual behavior norms (and more on that, because it’s not the “liberation” it’s preached to be) things like women riding in the back of the car if there’s a male in the group who will obviously get the front passenger side, or women being naturally accorded less weight in decisions, or… it’s there. It’s reflexive. It’s so deep no one thinks about it.

Portugal is still so patriarchal that the frail blossoms who think the US is a patriarchy would have a mental breakdown if transported to Portugal and forced to live the way normal people (not tourists) live.  (They’d probably explode on contact in most Arab countries.  That’s something else.)

In my day, now almost half a century in the past (from when I became aware of it) it was more obvious, in your face and completely unapologetic.

Things like the fact I wore pants as a kid (mostly because mom was convinced cold air on my legs would make me sick, since I was so sickly.  Yes, I know, never mind) or didn’t have pierced ears made people very uncomfortable. This despite the fact that I had hair down to my behind and wore braids. Because women and PARTICULARLY girls had to absolutely fit the standard image. No take backs, no excuses, no variations.

Of course, this also had to do with the fact that Portugal was a country under economic and social stress pretty much the whole time I lived there.  Countries and societies under stress enforce conformity.


It wasn’t that I rebelled against the role of women. Or the rules for girls. That I think they could have understood. The rebel is part of the panoply of compliance.  Some go along, some rebel. Completely understandable.

It’s more that I never bothered paying attention to the rules and never knew were the boundaries were.  Or if I knew it never occurred to me, not for a moment, that any of that applied to me.  Yeah, sure, I knew the rules, in theory. But what the heck did any of that have to do with my LIFE and who I was?

Part of it was that my family was already fairly odd.  It never occurred to me till enough remarks from strangers pierced through the shell, that women who read were weird.  Sure, mom hated my reading. But dad and grandma were cool with it, my brother thought it was normal, and why would anyone mind?  In the same way, it never occurred to me I shouldn’t read science fiction.  My brother did and I found it fascinating, so I read it.  Sure, I read my cousin’s romances, too. But they weren’t as much fun, and had a marked lack of spaceships and other planets, which was a downcheck against them, of course.

The fact that most women and girls spent their time making lace or embroidering or something struck me as downright weird.  Now, part of this might have been that I had the same sensory issues younger son had (only at the time no one could/would diagnose them.)  I remember it was hard to write on a line till 14 or so.  And I had taste and touch anomalies (including being convinced any knit fabric was “prickly.”)  It wasn’t until I saw son’s issues that I realized I’d probably had them.  And girls grow out of them earlier.  So most handicrafts women did were impossible to me till about 14.  At which point I started doing cross stitch and making stuffed animals.  But I did that because I enjoyed them.  Not for my trousseau.

I completely missed that handicrafts are such a part (or were) of Portuguese womanhood that mom was left with nothing to brag on to the other matrons of the village.  I mean, sure, I was in college, had won a couple of writing contests, had a poetry chapbook published, but where was my lace? my embroidery? my exquisitely made apron or kitchen adornment?

Meh.  Even when I started doing handicrafts, I usually did them while reading and watching TV or talking.  And I was as likely to make a tablecloth for a friend’s wedding gift as to make a batch of “lucky frogs” (I should post a picture of Carlos, who was my first stuffed animal and has been with me my whole life.  In fact, when I’m sick Dan brings it to the hospital to look after me.)  Including the famous yellow polkadotted one with a pink tongue that caused my brother to ask me if I was drunk.

In the same way in my interaction with people I tended to think of me as me, not a frail flower of femininity.  Or even a woman who either complied or rebelled against the standard.

Then there was school.  It took a few times of teachers being surprised I had the highest test score, or exhorting the boys to come up to snuff, because obviously it wasn’t that difficult since I could do it for me to get that girls were supposed to do worse than boys.  Not that I cared. I mean, it might make me smirk a bit, but that was it.

Because I was born competitive. And grades were competition. Frankly, if you’re competing with anyone and at some level you don’t want to rip out their heart and eat it raw, you’re hampering yourself.  And I never saw any point in doing anything that COULD be competitive and not competing.

Was the game rigged against me?  Probably. I just never noticed.  I was too busy barreling through life in general and learning in particular.

Humans are great apes.  Not signaling right confuses people. Scares some people.  Most Portuguese males, used to clear signaling, were completely puzzled as to what to make of me.

In my late teens and early twenties, the dime dropped to an extent.  To an extent. I.e. I realized that by wearing certain types of clothes and acting in a certain way I could get away with murder with a side of mayhem. And I did. Oooh, boy, did I. Even if half the time I wore impeccable 30s style costumes, complete with lace silk stockings and stiletto heels.  Honestly, those seemed to mess with people’s heads even more, and men became unable to think rationally around me dressed like that.

But I still remained unconvinced that being a woman should in any way curb what I wanted to do or who I was.  Playing with makeup, shoes and hair was fun.  As were clothes. But they were not who I was.

I still remain unconvinced.  Sure, I do realize there are things I can’t do/can’t do as well because the brain is in a female body.  By and large I don’t have the strength (upper body strength is more or less gone. Look, I’m working on it.) or force or size to, say, fight a man or lift as much as they can.  So, if I need any of that done, I ask a male. Nicely.

But in terms of who I really am, my life inside my skull, I don’t see why I should care what sex the body I’m in is.  Sure. Okay. I’ve been affected by menopause and its attending ills. Yeah. It’s not as though men don’t have their own hormonal ramp ups and cool downs and their own challenges.  And yeah, I’m very happy I’m female because my husband likes that. And it makes life much easier.  And of course, being female allowed me to be a mother.

But in my day to day, in what I am and do… why should I care what people think women can and can’t do?

Are there people who think I should do this or that because I’m a woman?  Sure. There are. And I care for their opinions about as much as I care for the opinions of the village matrons who knew I was useless because I couldn’t embroider pillowcases.


It’s not rebellion.

Most of the things I WANT to do are either female or genderless.  I love cooking. I love writing. I even like sewing. I also like refinishing furniture (which these days is mostly female.)  And I like long, involved debates (preferably over something alcoholic) with friends of a philosophical disposition.  I like natural history. I like walks with my husband.  I’m not 100% sure I like (most of) the cats, but they’re mine to look after, so…

I just refuse to live the only life I have according to someone else’s expectations, be they the expectations of the left, who thinks I should feel oppressed by being born female, or see patriarchy under every stone, or of the right who (at least a segment. Mostly not the American right) thinks I should defer to greater male wisdom and fulfill the calm and sweet role of a wife and mother.

I neither feel the need to comply nor to rebel. I am myself alone, and to me alone do I owe any kind of consistency.  I take in account the opinions of those I love, but that’s because I love them.

I will not be a Marxist just because I happen to have a vagina.  (That is not where my brain is.) Nor do I feel the need to be promiscuous to prove I’m free.  That’s just another type of shackle. (Or as Pratchett put it in Good Omens, it’s just like the homemaking magazines, just a different spin.) I don’t speak as a woman, read as a woman or… okay, I write as a woman, but that’s neurological, not intentional.  I.e. my writing tends to be heavy with relationships, (not romance, in my case, mostly) which is a hallmark of female writing. In my defense I do try and work really hard at having action in there too.

And I will not consider my life over because my work “as a woman” is done.

Which is kind of interesting for that detached being behind my eyes, who observes me experiencing things.  What I mean is, I have no role model for this.

Part of it is that life expectancy has gotten longer.  (For some reason there is a determined campaign mostly from the left against this idea, but guys, I grew up in the village.  People in their sixties were OLD.) Part of it is that the type of jobs we do is different form the mostly physical ones in the village. Part of it is we have fewer kids.

I remember in the village when the kids moved out you basically shuttered yourself in and concentrated on being old an preparing to die.  Church became a major component of your life.  You gave up on interests and activities and turned inward.

My parents didn’t do that — well, not as much — but I wasn’t there to see it.

The model inside my head is that my life should be over now, which is what I’ve been fighting for a year plus.

But it’s nonsense. And I’d just get bored with that program.

I think I’ll just continue being myself as hard as I can.

Who I will be and where it will lead, I have no idea. But it will probably be interesting. Perhaps under “may you live in interesting times” even.

All I know is that this delicate flower of femininity (with the spikes and the poisonous pollen) is finally ready to figure out what comes next.











152 thoughts on “On Being A Frail Flower of Femininity

  1. I’ve never completely grasped the logic of those claiming that women are frail, fragile, easily damaged creatures and that if men had to give birth (or merely cope with menstrual cramps) they’d never survive.

    One or the other, please. It is not rational to claim to be both weaker and far tougher than men.

    1. It’s the same “Grrrrrrrl Power!” and “permanent victim of Life” dichotomy in fiction. And no, I don’t think it will ever make sense, which is probably the point.

    2. It is women.

      And you are talking about them making sense.

      It’s not like Freud was the first man to ask his famous question. Nor is it like my friend S was the first bi women to ask a man why aren’t we all gay.

      Or to use my favorite quote from Sliding Doors:

      Gerry, I’m a woman! We don’t say what we WANT! But we reserve the right to get pissed off if we don’t get it. That’s what makes us so fascinating! And not a little bit scary.

  2. Concerning “On Being A Frail Flower of Femininity”.

    Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
    The Female of the Species
    WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
    He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
    But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
    When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
    He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
    But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
    When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
    They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
    ‘Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
    Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
    For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
    But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other’s tale—
    The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
    Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
    Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
    Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
    To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
    Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
    To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
    Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
    Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!
    But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
    Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
    And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
    The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
    She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
    May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
    These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
    She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
    She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
    As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
    And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
    Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.
    She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
    Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
    He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
    Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
    Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
    Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
    Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
    And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!
    So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
    With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
    Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
    To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.
    And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
    Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
    And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
    That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

      1. One of the lesser-known curiosities of LDS theology is the belief that God is a Couple.
        Mom (most likely; no one has said for sure) runs the premortal kindergarten & primary school, and Dad runs the mortal HS and College.
        I personally believe that Mother would have given only Three Commandments at Mt. Sinai:
        (1) if it’s not yours, leave it alone;
        (2) if you mess it up, clean it up;
        (3) keep your hands to yourself.
        And most mothers do not really believe in Free Agency for their children, but only allow it grudgingly under controlled conditions, because they know what’s best for you, even if you don’t.
        Bless your hearts.

  3. For another (hysterically funny) perspective of not fitting into a gender role, read CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED SOUTHERN LADY by Florence King.

    Miss King was less oblivious than our Hostess, but no better at meeting expectations.

        1. I naturalized in North Carolina and though the vocal cords were too late to learn it, the accent in my head is Southern.
          When I tell people that, it often makes them laugh, because SUDDENLY my word choice falls into place in their heads. 😀

          1. So moving from Portugal to the American South, and somehow all that ended up with you sounding like Natasha Fatale.

            Say “moose and squirrel” for us. ~:D [running awayyyyy!!!]

                1. I hope he takes the third corridor from the right, going that route. All the rest end up in the lutefish store room, which is prone to avalanches.

      1. Much of the rest of her writing is well worth your time, if you haven’t already followed up.😁

        I recall with particular fondness the story she related of becoming aware that she was being target-assessed by a pair of inner-city youths, one of whom decided ‘nuh-uh, she a mean lady’.

        Her take? “Badass, the mean lady thanks you.”

    1. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/87599.Confessions_of_a_Failed_Southern_Lady
      (the great majority of the ratings were 4 or 5 –roughly1100 out of 1500– with a couple of curmudgeonly 2s, and the reviews are worth taking a look at)
      4.01 · 1,543 ratings · 168 reviews

      Karen rated it 4 star
      Reasons to read this book: “If any of us had heard the word ‘feminist’ we would have thought it meant a girl who wore too much makeup, but we were, without knowing it, feminists ourselves, bound together by the freemasonry that exists among intelligent women who know they are intelligent. It is the only kind of female bonding that works, which is why most men do not like intelligent women. They don’t mind one female brain if they can enjoy it privately; it’s the idea of two or more on the loose that upsets them.”

  4. Regarding “gender roles” …. When I was 8 years old, my mother taught me how to bake cakes and cookies. My father said to me, “Why are you doing that, kid? Cooking is women’s work.” I looked my father in the eye and replied, “If I like to eat this stuff, I want to know how to make it!”

    I suppose as I grew into my teen years, I just sort of assumed that guys would learn how to fix cars and repair things around the house, and women would naturally know how to cook, sew, etc. However, when I started dating (and even into my mid-twenties) I found that I could cook better than most of the gals I dated, and that some of those gals couldn’t even boil water (or sew)!

    And then flash-forward to today, when it is RARE to find a millenial male who knows anything about how a car actually runs, much less for them to be able to fix anything that may go wrong. Maybe in society’s rush to eliminate “gender roles” everyone has gotten dumbed down. Instead of men learning how to do traditional women’s tasks (and vice versa), neither gender knows how to do anything!

      1. My dad told my mom when they got married that he married her because he loved her, not because he needed a maid and a cook. I did the same with my wife. And I’m a better cook than my wife is.

      2. My late Mother made sure I did not leave her household without knowing howmto cook. She said she had seen too many male friends rush into marriage because they couldn’t.

    1. Maybe in society’s rush to eliminate “gender roles” everyone has gotten dumbed down. Instead of men learning how to do traditional women’s tasks (and vice versa), neither gender knows how to do anything!

      Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

      One of my great regrets of high school was that I never had a chance to take home ec. I’m not sorry I learned about calculus and physics and chemistry and English literature (well, okay, maybe that last one because of how the teachers defined “literature”), but I do wish I had also had a chance to learn the basics of making roast beef and mashed potatoes. I’m learning on my own, but I’m definitely learning slowly.

      (Fortunately, I married a man more than willing to embrace the steorotypical role of “The Grillmaster.”)

      1. I think part of this is that the last two generations have been relearning everything. Of all things, I had to learn to IRON properly. Mom had taught me, but I’d forgotten in the years of going to school and wearing knit stuff.
        CUE younger son who had problems with knit and older son who prefers button downs and…. yeah.

      2. I cook better than my wife at things that require patience; and I’m the meat master. But she’s the baker in the family.
        Half the time I’m the one buying groceries.
        I’ve done crewl and cross-stitch, and I usually mend my own clothes either by hand or with the sewing machine. But I’m a nitwit when it comes to knitting; knit one, purl two, drop everything.
        I do the laundry, clean the kitchen and bathrooms, sweep, vacuum and mop at least 90% of the time.
        She did 90% of the meetings with school officials and parent-teacher conferences. (That was a mistake on my part. I vow to not do that in my next life.)
        She doesn’t plow the driveway, shovel the steps, mow the grass, till the garden, weed, or harvest anything other than the herbs. She doesn’t do home maintenance.

        Some days I drive her crazy. Some days she returns the favor.

        I’m hers until she kicks me out. And she’s mine until one of us is no more.

      3. In my world everybody would learn basics of Home Economics and Home Maintenance,because you need enough of an understanding of those sorts of tasks to appreciate when they’re done well and do them yourself when paying another to do it is a bad option. There’s nothing inherently female about frying bacon and nothing essentially male about replacing a toilet flapper.

        It has been explained to me that this is not my world.

        As for gender roles, the man has never lived who married womankind, nor has any woman ever married mankind. You marry an individual person (or two or three) and learn to accept them as an individual or remain forever unhappy. No one yet has wed a statistical mean (although some baseball fans are wedded to statistical meanness.)

        1. This.
          If I could have control of the entire US school curriculum, it would be split evenly between practical and academic, and I might lean more to the practical, because the kids that are really going to be nerds / geeks / geniuses only need to be pointed in the right direction sometime in their youth, and then have people get out of their way.
          The smartest suggestion I ever heard was back in the 90s when we still had some of the 5 boys in school.
          A legislator in Texas suggested that, at about age 12, most of the boys be sent out to something similar to the Boys Ranch, with enough schooling to keep them literate but mostly wrangling and farming, and brought back to Civilized Education when they were 15 or so. Totally optional, but equivalent in credit to the fully academic schools.
          He got shot down pretty quick, but I still think it’s the best plan for a LOT of boys.
          I have no problem with having an equivalent Ranch for girl wranglers (or even co-ed places, a Western Hogwarts).

          1. Home ec & consumer math should be required courses (millenials post this all the time on the bookface about needing classes in adulting).

        2. A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
          Specialization is for insects.

          One Of Heinlein’s best quotes.

            1. I could do all of them, but the invasion would fail, the ship would be lost at sea, and the broken leg would probably end up being amputated. Do sonnets rhyme?

              As for fighting efficiently, guns are efficient, right?

            2. I haven’t conned a ship, unless piloting my father’s 45 foot yacht counts. I haven’t died, gallantly or otherwise, yet. I butcher my own deer, so that’s a suitable substitute for the pig. And I have yet to get a sonnet right.

      4. I’m happy that despite the high school advisor’s wishes, I took mechanical drawing and metal shop Sophomore year. Damn fool didn’t realize that engineering (most any branch back then) meant you better be able to read drawings, and the best way to learn that is to do the drawings.

        (Actually, the EE department dropped drafting the semester before I started college. IMHO, I got a leg up, and it made a summer job at a steel products company a lot more rewarding.)

        I’d learned basic cooking fairly young; Mom would buy the ingredients, but if I wanted chocolate chip cookies, I made them. I also learned survival sewing around that time. Didn’t get a machine until 15 years out of high school, but I could sew on one already.

    2. A lot of the millennials’ difficulties with car care may have to do with how complicated cars are now. Shade-tree mechanics can’t get very far with modern cars.. or anything built much after 1985 or so, for that matter.

      Oh, change the oil and refill the washer fluid.

      1. Reading a trouble code isn’t all that much more difficult than adjusting ignition points or adjusting a carb- a lot easier, in fact.
        One of the most complicated engines I’ve ever seen was in a 1984 Mazda with CA compliant emissions nonsense. I used up a whole reel of vacuum hose replacing all the age melted spaghetti on the carb & emissions system.
        Likewise, changing out disc brake pads is far easier than drum shoes.

        1. yeah, and those are things most people never did themselves anyway. Most cars at this point are just as complex as that Mazda was.

          1. “Most cars at this point are just as complex as that Mazda was.”
            I beg to differ. That truck stood out among the hundreds of far more modern cars I worked on because of it’s unnecessary complexity.
            Personal computers have also become more complicated over the years, but I have yet to read people complaining about how punch cards were so much easier to use.

            1. Cars are better -and- worse these days. I have worked on my own old junk since I was a kid. 1970’s cars used to go out of tune, they’d be a bitch to get running right. But at least I never had to set valve lash, hydraulic lifters to the rescue. Brakes, pretty easy. Grease all the fittings, you could keep the ancient beater going even if it ran crappy.

              Now, the car either runs perfectly or its completely screwed. Computer takes care of everything. I’ve got a 2001 truck rusting in my driveway, hasn’t moved in a year. But if I hook the battery up and put some gas in the tank it will start on the first or second try. Can’t do that with a carburetor.

              But if it doesn’t start on the second try, it never will. Then I’ll be into replacing fuel injectors and checking wiring harness, a job not to be done by the semi-skilled shade tree mechanic. Oh sure, all these things -can- be done. But the learning curve as a lot steeper than checking vacuum and turning the idle screw on the Q-Jet and replacing the distributor cap.

              Then there’s all the fun of fiddling with anti-lock brakes. Not so much worse than replacing standard disk brakes, but there are things you have to know which are not obvious. Not like fixing the old Volkswagen Beetle. Youtube can teach you, but you better watch the whole thing first before you break out the wrenches.

              1. I haven’t missed carburetors since that time mine flooded and caught on fire….
                I DO miss the 1980s warhorse Chevies we bought for our kids to destroy in HS. Went out one time to check the oil and put in 5 quarts. The dang thing never stopped running.

              2. I’ve driven enough vehicles with poorly tuned carbs to heartily dislike them. Especially on cold days when the dang thing needs forever to warm up and run right.
                Waiting 15+ minutes for my 70’s vintage Honda 750 to get warm enough to go somewhere without stalling vs just hitting the start button on my computerized Honda NC 700 & going- no contest. The new one rules.

        2. Going back to my original point, it’s not that cars are really that complicated, especially to a generation that’s used to computers, software, and sundry.
          It’s that they have no “turn the bolt left with the tool to take it off” mechanical skills at all. The commercial where the kid has not the slightest clue how to change out a flat tire comes to mind.

          1. Conversation heard last year: A contractor was talking about hiring, and the newbie who wanted $25 and hour could not run a tape measure.

            One of my brothers did a lot of auto mechanicing years ago. He can’t keep a house running to save his life. I know a bit about mechanicing (and when to call the pros), but have rebuilt a couple of houses and built a few outbuildings. I’m also a pretty good electrician.

            And, I have to change out the winter tires to summer tires on the last of the vehicles tomorrow. (At which point that vehicle goes on the drive-alone list until the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Takata airbag can be swapped out. In 5 weeks.)

      2. Yeah, this. My first car(s) were shade-tree fixable. Busted shock? Piece of cake. Plugs, points, condenser? A walk in the park. Nowadays you need a damned computer to tell you what’s wrong, and with everything packed so tightly under your micro-vehicle’s hood half the time you need to pull the damned engine to replace anything.

        1. The problem is, the stylist got first crack at the shape, and then all the other engineers had to do the best they could to make things fit inside.
          I have many “fond” memories of working on GM Astro vans, especially around tune up time.
          Still a lot easier to work on than any Chrysler Caravan.

          1. I’m not so sure its the stylist and not manufacturing engineering. It usually makes sense from assembly line pov. But mechanics curse it.

            1. I recall an old cartoon probably in a very old Popular Electronics or similar magazine with a fellow pointing out a something on a screen or board “…but if you put the fuse there, the customer will be able to get at it!”

              1. Must have been an engineer for Chrysler.
                There was one particular V-6 Grand Caravan that had 3 spark plugs in the very back, unreachable except from underneath over the exhaust pipe. Then, the sadistic bastidges put a razor sharp metal gasket right where it could cut you to ribbons while replacing the frakking second cousin to a motherless maggot from Belgum spark plugs!

              2. There should have been a “repair guy” on the team to say “Yes, the customer can change it that way, but the other way would be extremely hard for me to repair”.

                IE If the customer can’t do it, then I’m going to have the pain of doing it. 😀

        2. Indeed. My first car I learned to adjust the carburetor with a screwdriver and a strobe, light — and learned to do it by ear fairly soon afterward.

          1. I only learned the basics. How to check fluids, change a tire. Because dad’s take was “your grandfather is a mechanic, he does that stuff for a living.”

            Hubby & his brother rebuilt cars as teens. Hubby does all the maintenance on ours, made sure our son does the maintenance on his own; or at least knows how. These days it is no more expensive to take it to a quick stop, or the dealership, who also does the safety checks. As far as working on vehicles beyond that, even my BIL doesn’t work on his own rigs, and he was a mechanic for over 50 years. He has the tools, he can’t afford the diagnostic machines.

            As far as cooking, sewing, and other crafts go. Cooking we both do, well he’s in charge of the grill … We both learned early not to complain about each others cooking (trust me … never substitute Cayenne powder for Chile powder, or at least in the same amounts. Did you know that if you put to many noodles in chicken & dumplings in a Crockpot, to cook all day, the whole “mess” comes out at once?)

            Sewing, that is me. Crafts. Me too. Used to do it all to keep my hands busy. Turns out none of us can wear knits. Afghans are pretty, but the knit just lets the cold air in, besides cats are too fond of them, so except for special occasions, they are kept put away. One of these days I’m going to make kid a quilt. Made dozens of baby quilts when I wasn’t working, somehow they all got given away as gifts. Yet when kid was born, never got around to making one for him …

            1. The best use of afghans is to use them OVER clothing that covers every body part, or to layer between to relatively thin blankets – the insulating factor is high.

        3. My first car was a clapped out MGB. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the difference between Castrol brake fluid and the ‘Murican stuff, so every winter got a bit exciting.

          Several years later, I got a 1960 TR3A. Lots of fun, though I spent more time working on it than driving it. And yes, Lucas is the prince of darkness. 🙂

            1. Yep, had that happen to a wire, too. Never figured out just why, and the wire was still good enough to work, though it burned off its insulation.

              Somebody offered to sell an MGA to me. Nope.

  5. One of the things my husband points out to me every so often is the list of abilities a woman “more precious than rubies” is attributed with in Proverbs. It has everything from running the household, to expanding the holdings by buying land and helping make decisions on whether to plant or run flocks and herds on it, to handwork and ensuring her husband has a good position in society, from buying and selling merchandise to service to the poor and needy. Basically, a woman does everything and a lot of what is listed has more to do with brains and brawn than it does with beauty (though taking care of herself and looking nice is also part of it).

    I have enough strong women in my background to know just how not fragile they can be.

    1. The Bible is full of stories about not-fragile women, and not all of them were stuck in the “coventional” roles even for that time. Deborah comes to mind. Abigail was a full-feminine heroine, though, and there are others of her ilk as well.
      The female disciples of Jesus were not exactly shrinking violets either.
      Seems to me that the primitive deluded religion-addled folks had a better handle on what makes real people tick than do our secular humanists.

  6. Now we need, for comparison and contrast purposes, some male examples of refusing to conform. I can speak for part of it: I was never involved with school sports and to this day I regard sports 9football in particular) as a waste of time that could be spent reading. Which annoyed many of my schoolmates, though the term ‘geek’ hadn’ been coined yet and wouldn’t have fitted me anyway. Yes, I was academically good with an couple of habits that annoyed teachers; 1: I showed a lack of interest in listening; and 2: I somehow came out with the highest scores in tests of what I ‘hadn’t paid enough attention to’. I don’t know (or care) where I’d have been in tests for autism or ADHD, the truth was that I learnt from reading about a subject, not from listening to somebody rabbiting on about stuff that to me was self-evident. And like our hostess, I ended up writing, though mine has all been technical history stuff and ‘how-to’s.

    Any other males with anecdotes?

    1. My mom said that they had a thing when she was young called “basement boys”. Not like now, where you’re 30 and living in the basement, but more the studious sorts with a basement chem lab or electronics workshop.

    2. I can understand PLAYING sports. I’m not interested myself, because of natural sloth and awkwardness, but I can understand. I don’t ‘get’ WATCHING.

      But that’s fine. And I got a real kick out of watching my Lady and my Father watch football together. They were having so much FUN!

      So, I’m not one of the intellectual snobs who natters on about how much football players are paid. My take on that is “How much would they have to pay you to take ONE full-on NFL tackle?”

      Hell, if we all liked the same things, think of the lines!

      1. Watching sports — there are studies showing that watching anybody move around will raise our heartbeats, tighten our muscles, etc. So watching people play sports or even do physical work is a little bit of aerobics, without having to move. I forget it watching animals run does the same thing, but probably.

        Of course, the more interested and demonstrative you are, the more workout you get from spectating.

    3. > ame out with the highest scores in tests of what I ‘hadn’t paid enough attention to’.

      Another un-fond memory of my incarceration in the public school system: having a 100% score marked as a ‘B’ “because you weren’t trying very hard.”

      It would have been another WTF moment, except by then I was just waiting until I could leave without the truant officers hunting me down.

      1. I had a supervisor who tried to pull that on a review. “So if I do ‘A’ work you give me a ‘B’ anyway? You’re telling me I might as well take it easy and do ‘B’ work if I’m gonna get that anyway.” The review item was changed.

        I recall Pa had similar issue at school – and likely the annoyance of the idiot teacher, the same solution – only the grade was not changed, instead the work ethic for that idiot was.

  7. Heh. All of the women that have had an enormous impact on my life match those patterns you laid out in the piece. To the point that I really don’t know how to interact with more, ahem, conventional examples. I like that pattern.

  8. thinks I should defer to greater male wisdom and fulfill the calm and sweet role of a wife and mother.

    The next time someone tries this you need to let us know to come watch.

    No, really, this level of fun could not be passed up.

    1. she needs to let us know ahead of time, that amount of popcorn isnt just sitting around.

    1. I see it more as SARAH: The Revennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnge…
      (A lonnnnng, sloooooooooooooooooooow revennnnnnnnnnnnnge.
      (Insert maniacal laugh here.)

  9. Heck, even though I had brothers, and was very close to my father, and ran with the Honors/AE crowd in high school (which crowd was mostly male and nerdish) I had trouble relating romantically with men until I finished Basic Training. Weird, I know. Unless it was intellectual stuff, I just couldn’t manage romance.

  10. On competition…

    In high school I found the mere idea of an all-girls school horrifying because (and this was exceedingly clear to me at the time) I’d have to compete with girls. I didn’t have to compete with boys. Therefore boys were comfortable. And the idea of an all-girls school was exhausting even to consider.

    1. I hated attending an all girls’ school because there was no real competition. It was all crab bucketing and back stabbing. I am COMPLETELY devoid of abilities in those areas. So…

      1. That’s competition, too. It’s just competition at crab bucketing and back stabbing. But yes… social competition is not something included in my skill set.

        Academic competition is at least optional. If you need to get the highest grade, work for that, but if you’re happy about a “B”, no one cares much. And it’s objective, mostly.

  11. For some reason I read the title and immediately thought of the profile image of someone I follow on Twitter. It depicts a picture of Xena, Warrior Princess screaming insanely with the words: “I AM A DELICATE FEMININE FLOWER!!” as a caption.

  12. Humans are great apes. Not signaling right confuses people. Scares some people.

    Used to scare the crap out of me, until I finally accepted that other drivers weren’t going to do it consistently and I’d have to adapt or spend my life in terror.

    1. I had to deal with one of the DUII (cannabis) types yesterday. Among other issues, he decided to drive like a Brit. In Oregon, on a road with several blind curves. As he passed, I slowed to about half the speed limit for a while.

      I kept keeping watch for a major headon collision. Didn’t happen, thank God. There’s a place in hell for the legalize-it activists.

      1. You know, at some point we’re all going to have to grasp the nettle and admit that nobody -made- that moron drive stoned. He did it all on his own, and he’d be doing it legal or not.

        Some people in this world are stupid assholes, and Big Brother ain’t going to fix it for us. Plan accordingly.

        1. I’ve lived here long enough to see the driving standards plummet after MJ got legalized. I suspect the higher cost of the black market stuff made it a bit less commonly used, at least at 10AM on a weekday.

          Nobody made that moron drive stoned, but they made it a lot easier for him to get the crap.

          1. You realize that’s the gun control argument applied to weed, right?

            They legalized weed in October here in Canada. I have noticed -zero- difference with drivers. Meaning I see the same large number of distracted, incompetent, careless assholes that I always see. That’s why I drive a huge truck. If they’re going to kill me at least I made ’em work for it.

            CELLPHONES, that’s what kills people. Morons texting at 75mph in heavy traffic. Try banning cellphones, see how far you get.

            1. Part of what’s ticked me off has been the revelations that the medical marijuana people planned that as a gentle path to complete legalization. When it was still “medical” marijuana, the problems were lessened, but with recreational now legalized (and after the election, now available at retail in the local city), there’s been a rash of abuse. (Also a lot of outbound smuggling attempts, that’s kept law enforcement busy.)

              There’s a chance that the sheriff’s office or the state police will get a fair number of DUII drivers off the road, though I wouldn’t mind if those drivers remove themselves. I just don’t want there to be collateral damage.

              Actually, there is one good thing with legalization. The bottom fell out of the market for other drugs around here. The small time drug dealers got clobbered.

              1. It will probably get better with some time. After Colorado legalized it, there was a period of “OMG! What is that guy DOING?!?!” It seems to have settled out, perhaps Darwinily but I don’t think so, and we’re back to just normal bad drivers. The homeless issue is much bigger.

                1. Increase in number of homeless? Increase in homeless aggression? Some other meaning?

                    1. And regulates it and the sales to the point that under half the expected shops opened after legalization and the tax revenues are below what is expected.

                      In fact, they regulate so much the illegal market barely took a hit.

                    2. Bob, I have no idea. My area of contact with the thing are a couple of friends who use maybe once a year, maybe only once since to see what it was like. Other than that, this is NOT part of my world. And I can’t muster interest in it.

                    3. Oregon pot must be cheap enough so that people are trying to smuggle it out of state. They seem to pick the “sneaky” route, that looks oh-so-clever unless you are a local or law enforcement. When you see OSP and a backup or two inspecting a barely loaded rental truck on the sneaky route, it’s pretty clear why the stop.

                      The county sheriff (and enough of the county commissioners to back him up) has made it a priority to get the illegal grows shut down. Before that, we were getting interesting people growing pot, and some of these were as scary as the cartel types. OTOH, an OV-10 Bronco was flying low and slow in the area last summer. It wasn’t a lost Calfire tanker, but had the colors of an outfit that was doing drug interdiction work for the feds (State department, curiously enough). A few weeks later, a Chinook helicopter paid a visit to that area. Not sure which agency/mil branch was involved, but the local newsies never said anything about it. On the gripping hand, our area is also known for non-pot drug operations.

        2. I like Tom Kratman’s suggestion for a replacement of the 2nd Amendment. Does a truck-mounted, anti-automobile missile count as a weapon of mass destruction?

          1. Truck-mounted, anti-automobile missiles would not count as a weapon of mass destruction if the warhead is limited to approximately 3,000 pounds, as they would limit it to single automobiles.

            OTOH, that hood-mounted gatling gun firing depleted uranium is right out.

            1. Aw man. You take all the fun out of shooting. Next thing you know, you’ll be requiring me to wear a respirator and chem suit so I don’t get exposed to powder residue.

        1. I worked Fire/EMS several years ago, and our area is bad for alcohol DUI. It’s gotten worse with legalization.

          There seems to be a difference in the problems, too. Car and Driver did DUI articles, both for alcohol and cannabis. (Back in the late ’70s, with lower THC levels, for what it’s worth.) The takeaway was that a driver still had the ability to drive properly with marijuana, but didn’t really care to. This guy seemed to be driving steadily, but in the wrong lane. Something’s wrong here.

          I’m hoping a sufficient number will encounter evolution in action to reduce the problem.

  13. I have 5 sisters, not one of them a delicate flower. Of course growing up on a hard working farm does tend to toughen and instruct one. Family dynamics and birth order also meant that yes I can change a diaper and cook a tasty meal.

  14. Part of it was that my family was already fairly odd.  

    I recall being told by someone that of course I was peculiar, I came from a peculiar family.  I am not sure what The Spouse’s excuse was, other than a superfluence of brains.  The Daughter never really had a chance … neither her wiring or her parents were of any help. 

    1. I used to go to Cons, and I really enjoyed the late night sit-around-and-fix-the-world sessions (this was before they became wholly Progressive/Left). But I could never match the ‘my family doesn’t get me’ tales. My family was Odd enough that I actually took my Mother to a Darkover Con (she had a ball). Fether would have enjoyed them too, but had enough Professional Meetings (Cons for Hostorians and The American Physical Society. Yes, they really are Cons) that I couldn’t tempt him.

      See, Mother had been an actress, and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Father, for a time, held the Lynn Thorndyke Professorship for the History of Magic and Experimenal Sciences. Mother’s Father spent the latter part of his life trying to reconcile the stock-market and sun-spot cycles. Father’s Father had been a Methodist Minister with a true Call.

      As I wou,d explain to my fellow Fen, I’m a third generation Nut.

      But I gradually came to understand that there are far fewer ‘mundanes’ than Fandom realizes. Oh, most of the Progressive Left qualify; they are so joyless. But the Great Unwashed? Vast numbers of them do all kinds of things with Fannish enthusiam. Civil War recreationists. Gun hobby folk. Amature knife (and sword) smiths. The Maker subculture. The Left has NO flaming idea about these folk, and if they did it would scare the bejabbers out of ‘em.

      There are a LOT of Odds out there. Maybe not our kind of Odd, but Odd nonetheless.

      And Shrillary called the majority of them ‘deplorables’. Which still strikes me as the core reason she lost.

          1. “Hey, I need a wife custom-made by next week. Can you do it?”

            “Sure. Copper okay?”

            “Nah, she’ll patina eventually. What else have you got?”

      1. Several of the folk who frequent ‘my’ maker space are decidedly flaming lefties. This *is* Minneapolis, after all; the place that thrust Ilhan Omar onto the national stage (sorry about that). Another nice thing about wearing earmuffs in the shop is that it helps to limit my exposure to ‘progressive’ radio being played therein.

  15. My mom made sure that my brother and I both learned to cook, and do other “women’s work.” She had a sneaky way to get us to help out in the kitchen: “Cooks get to nibble!” By the time I was in high school, I could and sometimes did whip up the family dinner as well as my mother (or father, who was also no slouch in the kitchen) could do.

    1. In a Vietnamese immigrant family, Grandma ruled the kitchen and would not teach her grandsons to cook. Girls cooks; boys don’t cook. Boy went to college, wanted to live at a place where they all cooked, explained his problem. They agreed that if he was willing to learn, he could live there and learn.

      Went home for Thanksgiving, told how he was learning to cook — then what he was learning to cook —

      And then he was in the kitchen, learning how to cook REAL food.

  16. What can I say? I grew up with parents who were both chemists (granted, mom stopped working full-time for pay when I, the oldest child) came along but she went back to school to study Russian and got her “pin money” translating and abstracting Russian chemical articles for “Chemical Abstracts”. by the same token, she made sure I know how to cook, clean, sew, iron, etc. while my father made sure I knew how to shoot and other useful knowledge that he could impart.

    So, I hear you and all I can say is “You GO!”. I live my life and don’t much care what others think and don’t see why anyone else should.

  17. Mum taught me how to do laundry by washing my whites with various red children’s clothes. There’s nothing like wearing pink underwear in the locker room to give one incentive to do it yourself.
    She denies this was done deliberately.

    1. Son had to do 10 new chores for family merit badge. Track when he did them for 3 months. He was 11. I haven’t done his laundry since; or any of the other chores on that list. Hubby started doing his own laundry when he retired and I hadn’t yet. He still does his own laundry.

  18. Thank you Sarah for this post, and for just being you. There is so much in your writing and this post in particular I can relate to. As a counter, I’m just going to leave this here: On the evening I took my bride to be (wife of now 35+ years) to meet my family, my brother (who was there with his future wife) and our dates turned to each other to discuss if there might be somewhere less tumultuous than our family dinner table we might go later that evening. Turns out there was – so we went to the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Point being: even at 18 we knew this was going to be a roller-coaster in a circus – we had already determined I was the better all around cook, she the better baker, me the better sprinter, she the better half-marathoner, me the better seamstress, she the better welder, and a toss up between us on the basketball court. I can’t even consider how dismal life this past few decades would have been if I hadn’t stumbled upon such a frail flower of femininity as I had.

  19. Wife and I have a good marriage, mostly based on “If you don’t like the way I do it, you do it.” I don’t like the way she does dishes or laundry. Guess who does them, regardless of gender roles (and all our forks are clean, and clothes have fabric softener, darnit) She didn’t like the way our checkbook didn’t balance at the end of the month, so she has that. I didn’t want a cat, so she cleans the litterbox, and so on.

  20. I live in a senior community. It has been very interesting to see people here turn inward and want to die. Many of them are angry as heck and feel betrayed that they are getting older.

    I am trying to live with gratitude. It makes for a much happier life and a happier end. We don’t get out of this life alive… not one of us.

    1. I have heard it suggested that a primary characteristic distinguishing Conservatives from Liberals is the capacity for gratitude. You have to be grateful for what you have to conserve it, and to trash it all is an act of profound ingratitude.

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