I was seventeen and in the midst of my grade twelve year when it happened.
My parents had recently chosen to migrate west; from Ontario to BC. And since I make friends like I do most big things-very slowly and gradually- it was a lonely time.
And so it was on that fateful day that I looked up from a mediocre book to witness a boy, whom I knew better than most of the others, call his girlfriend a “B-I-T-C-H.” He said it in a casual way… in the way you say a word like that just for the comedy or irony of the thing. But for an instant, I saw in the girl’s eyes that the word had stung.
I hated to see her hurt and his cocky ambivalence. Surely he would know better in the future if only someone would take the time to explain things to him.
“Adam,” I said instructively: “That’s a really offensive word. I don’t think you should be using it to describe your girlfriend.”
Adam looked down at the girl whom his arm was slung around, saw he wasn’t going to get any support from her in the matter, and turned back to me instead.
He leaned back, taking his time with the words I would never forget:
“You know, Jen…. When I first saw you I thought: ‘she’s pretty hot’… and then (here, he paused for dramatic effect) …you opened your mouth.”
He smiled, a satisfied smile, confident he had shut me up forever.
I stared back at him stupidly, both frozen and inflamed. I never, never, ever wanted to be like that girl beside Adam; lifelessly sitting next to a boy who threw around words like “hot,” because he was clever enough to know that most, if not all, high school girls have an intense desire to be that word.
And so, a feminist was born, albeit a conflicted one. Of course, I was not immune to Adam’s words. It would be easy enough to come to terms with the fact that Adam didn’t love me, but I did want to be loved by someone. And Adam had given the distinct impression through his smile that he was confident no one ever would.
Fast forward eleven years, and I’m still a pretty conflicted feminist. However, there is something that seventeen-year-old me knew on that day but couldn’t explain that pretty much sums up my belief in feminism, girl-power, and maybe all of humanity, and it’s this:
I have value as a person and as a woman and that value is not dependent upon the approval of any other man or woman. And so you see, that Adam’s prophetic smile was mistaken. Someone out there would love me forever and always, through thick and through thin, in sickness and health… and that somebody was ME!
Whether or not my parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, husband, children, or neighbours love me is up to their own free choosing, and completely independent from the knowledge of my own self-worth.
And speaking of feminism, my husband, Hans, who is so very wise, recently pointed out to me that my purse has been holding me back in life. You see, having three children means you need to carry around an annoying number of things, and possibly because of my version of stubborn feminist pride, I have refused to entertain the concept of a diaper bag. Something in me has always been convinced that diaper bags are where every chance of being alluring and interesting goes to die.
So there I was one day, carrying around an enormously clunky purse full of jumbled up bottles and diapers, oh so desperately searching for my keys, when Hans looked down disapprovingly at the mess that was my life, and said: Why don’t you just get a backpack?
Why… don’t I… just… GET A BACKPACK?
The intelligence of a man completely unencumbered by the impracticality of feminine norms.
Yes. I instantly started planning. It would be a lovely thing, this backpack. – Canvas, so that it would be durable and ready for adventures, with lots of pockets providing easy access to my wallet, keys, etc. Not too bulky, but with enough room for all my things.
I could just picture myself moving freely about- both hands and arms completely free to haul children, bag groceries, and run through a field of daisies.
Luckily, after much searching, amazon delivered just the backpack I needed. If you want to head over there, they have a great selection… and then you’ll be able to join me in the backpack revolution!
I am in love this backpack. It has completely changed my life. It has the function I’ve been craving (it even has a little releasable clip for my keys!) and I don’t feel the least bit dowdy while using it. It’s a win for me, and maybe even a win for the universe at large.
Sometimes, you have to start with the little things in life. Today a backpack, tomorrow, boys and girls who are raised knowing that the worth of human beings isn’t determined by how “hot” they are.