My three friends stopped shovelling salad into their mouths and looked at me.
"But it is romantic," said one.
"It's a beautiful gesture," said another.
"You'll change your mind by the time you're ready to get married," said the third.
Nu-uh, you deluded fools, I thought to myself. No way.
Look. I get mad when my mail is addressed to Miss Laura Williams instead of Ms because I believe that defining my marital status in a way that men don't have to is outdated and imbalanced. Mrs actually means 'wife of', as in 'not her own person, has to ask a man's permission to go out with the girls, just waiting to have babies so that this sham of a faux career can be put to an end'. Romance is great: I expect a man to open the door for me. But just so you know, I also reserve the right to be pissed off when he does it. I can get my own door, thank you. I'm a strong, independent WOM-AN. And yes. I did just snap my neck and click my fingers as I said that.
I decided to run my point home during a performance of Antigone since we are all in the cast. As the audience enter the stage area, they are invited to write on our paper floor what they believe in so much for that they would die for it. Normally, I write SAYING YES TO LIFE! all over the damned thing, but then somebody asked me if that was an anti-abortion statement so I stopped doing that.
Last time I wrote that I believed that it was wrong to introduce invasive species to non-natural habitats because I had just found the grossest-looking bug in my apartment that apparently was Japanese in origin and introduced into Michigan for the sole purpose of eating some other gross-looking bug. The thing was poo-coloured and scaly and I'm sure it's mother loves it but damn it was FUGLY, and should be banned. I was told by my castmates that I needed to get out more.
(SIDENOTE: Last week, when we were visiting a local middle school, I asked a group of non-responsive thirteen year old boys to write what they believed in. "Come on!" I said to them. "You must believe in something!" These kids looked at me blankly. "What about ending child labour? Or in bullying? What if somebody you loved could be saved from death only at the sacrifice of your own life?" Still, nothing. "What about your right to sleep in late at the weekends?" Nothing. "Or your right to kiss girls whenever you want?" That got their attention. Halfway through the performance I realised that KISSING GIRLS WHENEVER WE WANT! was scrawled in various penmanship across the floor. There are going to be some eight-grade teachers who will be really pissed at me.)
Anywoohoo. I decided to write that I believed in every woman's right to keep her own name in marriage. As I walked the stage reading everybody else's contribution I came full circle to my own declaration and realised that somebody had written beneath it. I BELIEVE IN MY RIGHT TO TAKE MY HUSBAND'S NAME IN MARRIAGE REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU SAY. IT IS PATRIOTIC. The conversation then went something like this.
PATRIOTIC? TRY PATRIARCHIC. THIS IS JUST ANOTHER WAY TO KEEP WOMEN UNDER CONTROL.
UR SUCH A FEMINIST.
THAT ISN'T A DIRTY WORD!
YOU NEED A MAN, THEN YOU'LL CHANGE YOUR TUNE.
I DON'T NEED ANYBODY BUT MYSELF.
TELL ME THAT WHEN YOU ARE EIGHTY AND ALL ALONE.
The play began shortly after that, so we stopped monopolising the space and I tried not to think of how backward some people can be and got to work.
After the show, we had to move a bunch of chairs from the space. It was tough, and somehow most of the male cast members had disappeared. I was literally purple as I hurled grey plastic across the room, and huffing and puffing and probably swearing too. It was really rough, and I was tired and cranky and hated my life.
"For God's sake, where are the frickin' BOYS when we need them?" I finally screamed in frustration.
My girls looked at me. "So NOW you want a man!" they squealed. And boy, oh boy, DID I.