Thursday, August 30, 2007

What it's Like for a Girl

Today I had a quintessential female day.

I felt frisky, so wore heels and a bustier under my clothes. Being nipped in here and pushed out there was feeling all nice and happy until I went to the federal courthouse to do my twice monthly grand jury duty (more on that later). There, my undergarment set off the metal detector. Hoping to God this was not the case, I submitted to a wanding by a US Marshal. Finally, he asked me gently if I could lift up just a piece of the hem of my blouse so he could see what was setting his metal detector off there. "I won't tell your boyfriend or husband," he said.

"It's got to be this thing," I sighed, piching the bottom edge of the garment in question.

"OK, ma'am," he said, letting me through. Whereupon I retrieved my high-heeled sandals from the metal x-ray conveyor belt and made a note to myself never to wear a bustier in an airport.

One of the cases we heard today was a proposed indictment of a child pornographer. Some of the evidence we had to hear included graphic descriptions of the images found on this fellow's computer. The FBI agent who testified tried his best to be tactful, but there really is no nice way to describe photos of children being violated. I listened to one. Then I felt coated with bile from the inside out. Then I stuck my fingers in my ears.

I felt overcome by the vulnerability of children, and suddenly couldn't bear the thought that my son was about to enter kindergarten. To imagine him being shepherded by one teacher along with 17 other five-year-olds for 6 hours a day, and succumbing to playground injustices, and just being without me all day, gave me such a heaviness in my gut that I wanted to lay my head down on my yellow legal pad and cry.

At the end of the day, a few of us lingered around in the jury room chatting about what we heard that day. There's a sweet woman there from Rhode Island who is always telling me I look nice and that she likes my drawings, and that day she had given me a graphite pencil to sketch witnesses with. So we stood at a table talking about art (she also draws) and by and by other subjects came up. Two other women drifted over, and pretty soon we were holding a summit conference on the vulnerability of stay-at-home-moms. I mentioned the horrifying spectacle of a column of zeros on the Social Security documents I receive yearly.

"The really scary thing is the disability," Rhode Island interjected. "I work with women who are going through divorce, and what I see over and over are women who stayed home with their kids for years, they get divorced, and then at some point need to draw on disability. It's just not there if you haven't worked for a long time. It takes much longer to accumulate credits for that."

"...!" I said.

Another woman piped up. "That's why it's important to always have your own 401K or CD, and stay connected to the work force as long as possible. You need to have financial independence, and you need to be getting those Social Security credits. I had four kids and my husband and I were both in the military but we made it work."

"...!" I said.

The gut-heaviness increased. It lasted all through my wax appointment afterward, where I lay on a cot in a shorty white terrycloth robe and submitted to the pain of hundreds of leg hairs being ripped out by their roots. This quelled the heaviness for some time. But by the time I'd paid and tipped the esthetician, it was back.

At home, while stirring a pot of simmering vegetables and a whole chicken for stock, I felt a deep need to smoke. Smoking, I realized as I sat in my little side-of-the-house smoking roost, also alleviates that heavy feeling in one's gut. Why was I having that heavy feeling today? I wasn't quite sure. One of the side effects of the drugs I'm on is that it can be hard for me to distinguish mental/emotional disturbances from physical ones. Which is to say, if I'm feeling sad, the sadness may manifest itself as a stomach ache rather than tears.

Over a glass of wine on the back deck I told Matt about my conversation with the jury ladies. "If you divorced me and decided to be a jerk about money, I'd be screwed," I said.

"I wouldn't stress about it too much," he replied.

Easy for him to say.

I finished making dinner, served it my family, and took the kids on a walk afterwards while Matt settled into a long night of World of Warcraft. Jonah pedaled ahead on his little training-wheel bike, while Audrey walked beside me, her hand in mine. The August light was draining from the sky quickly, and as we passed a neighbor's burgeoning front-yard pumpkin patch I noted that her fat green pumpkins were turning orange. We passed a row of lettuce that had gone to seed. The small stand of corn looked dry and ready to harvest.

How did this woman keep a kitchen garden, a four-story house, and three children?

Did she have a long column of zeros, too?

I herded the children home and observed that the feeling in my stomach had not faded. Well, I though, if it's something to worry about, it'll be back tomorrow.

Meantime, I'll go home and pop some more Advil for the menstrual cramps. Bathe the kids.

Sit with this feeling and see what it's about.

1 comment:

rose said...

The metal detector story was classic!!! I have to say, if you wear a bustier, heels and wax on a regular basis, I am thinking you don't need to give the Zeros too much thought, well in my house it would do the trick! But seriously it is a very scary and real thought huh? I am in the same boat for sure! I actually have some investments that are competeing against my hubby's and they are kicking his ass which gives me a little satisfaction. I have had this conversation with him because I don't have anything higher than an AA. I told him if something ever happened would he atleast help me through school so I can support my family? He said ofcourse, but I have to say, i have faith in my marriage and neither one of us want it to end ever. But those zeros are in the back of my mind too.