Of course, it’s an old subject. But sometimes it still surprises me.
Take tonight for example. My husband is going to a men’s book group. This is a first time—it’s one of those things you try when you are new to town and you don’t know many people. And so, (thinking of my women’s book group, also a new-to-town thing), I ask him whose house it’s in. And does he need to bring anything? I’m picturing some man in the role of hostess, having cleaned the house in preparation for guests, and now he’s just finished cooking, maybe wearing an apron, soon he will serve them soufflé and salad. And wine and dessert.
Oh no, my husband says. We’re meeting at a clubhouse. And I think, Of course you are. Lucky bastards.
I think of my own group then where the hostess spends the day in preparation—cleaning her house and fixing the food and probably her hair, too. You don’t want your roots to be showing at book group! Because it’s always in some woman’s house, and it always requires cooking and cleaning and everything else that women are supposed to love to do, no matter what era we live in. And the women actually dress up for book nights. They look so lovely—like they are going to a church though admittedly, I haven’t seen what they wear to church. But they’re dressed in nice slacks and silky print shirts, and they even wear nice shoes. I despise nice shoes—I think they should be banned. But then I remember, this is the South—maybe these ladies always look like that here. Except for me. I’m thinking about going in drag to the men’s clubhouse next time.
All of this reminds me of how my mother never figured out how to dress herself up either. And I used to think—how hard can it be? But now I’m old, and I think, not just hard. Impossible.
Which reminds me of this poem by Ana Maria Shua
A Thousand Possibilities
When I was an adolescent, there unfolded before me, like a fan, all my options: I could be an airline pilot or a teacher, a housewife, writer, boxer, or oil derrick. As time passed, with every choice, every turn in the road, the fan closed up, pointing in a single direction, until converting into a single fate, upright and lonely: definitely an oil derrick.