A weird thing happened to me this week, and from a source I never expected. I was accused to trying to take everything over, and that people weren’t coming to events here because I intimidated them. It really shocked me, but after I had had time to think about it, I could understand a little why this would be said about me.
You see, this assisted housing community has mostly people who are disabled in some way. I am here because I live below the federal poverty level, and am elderly. But I worked most of my life – about 47 years. I doubt many people here have ever worked, and those that did not nearly as long as I have. Only one person here, a woman, is still working as far as I know, among the elderly (I would be as well if ageism weren’t such a problem in Austin – well, it is a city for youth). One or two of the men holds a job, but it is rare. Anyway, I thought I very well could be coming across the way I was accused simply because of my life experience, so I have backed off this month (I’ll be crocheting neck scarves for the holiday baskets being “raffled” off at the holiday party, as well as for Bingo prizes) while I watch to see if people really will be doing things if I am not there. But I will go back to being involved after the first of the year – perhaps toned down a bit while I’m not doing things.
Anyway, I thought about the little booklet printed from our second writing class, and realized I had written something that has a lot to do with the way I’ve lived. And I thought I would share it.
I Am Not Invisible
Being a woman born in 1940, I truly do know what it means to be invisible. Those years, especially following World War II, really proved it was a man’s world. Yes, I remember about Rosie the Riveter, and the roles women played as heads of households, sacrificing on the home front, doing without things in order to provide what the men in service needed. Women also served as nurses and drove Red Cross wagons. So women played very important roles in those years of war.
But once the war was over and the men came home, women again became relegated to second place, pregnant and bare-foot in the kitchen. Unless they were ugly or unmarriageable for other reasons, they were not expected to be in the workforce.
Thus, when I reached my teens in the early fifties, I began to know what my mother expected of me – find a husband or take secretary training. Preferably get married and become a “Stepford wife”.
I rebelled. And in my rebellion, I went as far away from that image as I could. Invisible? Not I. I meant to be as loud and reckless as I could until I was noticed.
First, I used my “sex” as a lure. I smoked, I drank, I played pool. I spent most of my twenties in this state of grace, or ungrace in many eyes. My mother, my aunts, and my grandmother were all horrified. That pleased me because I was no longer invisible. They would point at my girl cousins, at my sisters, saying, “Why can’t you be like them?” They would have been more horrified had they known the truth – that they were secretly rebelling, too. But they were invisible, I was not.
Finally, when I reached my early thirties, I decided I needed to make a real living. And thus began about thirty years of fighting, struggling, and getting involved in ideas that were forbidden to women until I retired in 2005.
I often remind my sisters in life that it was women like me who first opened the doors to the worlds of finance, politics, and business; doors that have finally caused the glass ceiling to collapse.
You are welcome.
Carol Stepp, Austin, TX