It’s job application season. My partner, after a mix-up on this issue, now asks my permission when applying for full-time jobs. “Do you want to live in Australia?” No. Then no application. It’s simple.
When I got sick, he went bananas applying for jobs and demanding better job security in his crappy position, spending most of his time raising his professional profile in different ways. I saw him less, he was distracted; even texting and phone calls slowed down. “What’s going on?” I’d ask.
“Do you want to live in Denmark?” Yes. Then at least I could have cancer no problem. No fear of losing my job. Socialism all the way.
Permission: this is a foundation of partnership. Checking in, allowing someone space and freedom. Without permission, you become trapped, without the right kind of permission, you’re trapped in a different way. It’s always being granted. In the outside world, permission functions very differently. There, it’s granted by people in power, withheld if they are threatened by the request. What if I went the way of my partner, spending time on CVs and job talks instead of staying at home offering the highly developed nurturing skills I’d cultivated over a lifetime of being a woman. “How dare she,” people would whisper behind my back. “He deserves a better partner than that. She should be his soft place to land.” My yearning for financial stability or certainty that lasted longer than four months would be evidence that I was mean, hard, selfish – and worst of all, ambitious. Not an attractive quality for a lady.
Instead here we are and I must wither, pale and fragile, while my man does everything he can to save me, western-movie-hero style. Must I wither?
I wonder, did the Dixie Chicks ask permission to sing “Long Time Gone” when they made a rare CMA appearance last week, still living down a well-informed, unyielding anti-war stance developed first by instinct, later by education, that started over a decade ago. They finally get to appear on the stage again, and instead of choosing any number of songs that made them household names, they go with the two lines that skewer country radio in its soft fleshy side for refusing to acknowledge its legends properly. Sturgill Simpson is a hero, Dixie Chicks are “ruining country”.
Because how dare they bring a black woman onstage, never mind one of the most successful black women in history, whose anger is unmatched by few besides the Chicks, and who appeared because she’s been wanting to sing with them for ages? How dare they? Who gave them permission?
You see, we’re still having to ask permission, every fucking day, to do the things we do – and do quite fucking well, thank you. You wonder why we’re mad? We are mad because we should not have to ask permission any more. Yet, here we are plastering the sweet smiles on our faces, standing beside men who bravely go out and fight the good fight, waiting for fucking ever for our turn. At what point will those granting permission get out of our way?
I shed many tears as I watched that performance, some of the angriest women I’d ever seen letting me fully feel my own anger legitimately. And I celebrated and cheered that we might be in a moment where this is allowed – someone is still granting permission – but that allowance comes before normal settles in. Need an example? We allow gay marriage until gay marriage is normal. And then I stopped celebrating because the one woman who had put aside many, many, many years of her own advancement for her husband and in response to those around her granting permission, was forced to realize, as we all were, that normal is still a long ways away.
Get out of our way.
Within 24 hours that encompassed election day and its following international day of mourning, I encountered eight separate conversations involving women. Five of them were with doctors, self-assured experts in their fields who commanded respect and told me how things were going to be. Two were with students, whose own opinions on subjects were so well-formed, I adopted the position of fellow commiserating angry woman instead of teacher. One, which I eavesdropped on, was four beautiful 14-year-old girls on the subway; girls who we still expect would prioritize gossip, lip gloss, or boy bands in their conversations but instead only talked about exams and study habits – with a brief interlude on going to the dentist. We were fucking passing Bechdel tests all over the place, so it’s time to get the fuck out of the way.
We are cars barrelling through the intersection to turn left before the oncoming traffic starts up at the green light. Maybe that’s against the law. Maybe it’s time we broke the “law”.
Get out of the way. If you don’t, you’ll be sorry.