In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a revolution in this country called Women’s Liberation. I was at a most impressionable age for this, as it coincided with middle and high school years. But, I was caught up just as much as anyone in the past vision of what it meant to be a woman, and the new vision being presented was contrary to that. It was confusing to say the least.
In yesterday’s post, I started telling a story about a guy named Jerry — five years older than I was, and definitely interested in me. After trying to fix me up with a John, a guy my age (epic fail), he took to courting me himself. It began with him coming over to my house on a summer evening.
My mother had just made a batch of homemade lemonade — something she only did on occasion. Jerry was extremely polite and cordial to my mother, and loved her lemonade. My mother loved Jerry, which is probably why she overlooked the fact that he was way too old for me.
But hey, there we sat in the family room or maybe on the patio and talked. At the time there was lots of controversy over a country song by Tammy Wynette: “Stand by Your Man.” Jerry was an old-fashioned guy. And basically, I was still an old-fashioned girl. I didn’t know why people didn’t think it was good to stand by your man. Jerry liked me even better because of my views on gender roles.
I already had an inkling about Jerry’s feelings, because the night that he and John picked me up, he had to stop for gas. At the time, a young man would come running out to pump your gas — this is why it was called a service station back in those days. They provided a service.
Well, on this particular day in 1970, a certain service station by North Olmsted Park decided it was time to liberate the act of service. So instead of an eager young man running out in his blue uniform, his name stitched in red in the corner, out walked a young woman with long blonde hair and hot pants.
Jerry was mortified. There was no way in his world a young lady would be pumping his gas! He got out and did it himself. She just smiled and walked away.
That young lady and Jerry’s reaction were my introduction to the changes that Liberation were going to bring. Of course, it was just the beginning.
Women’s Liberation was much like when the Internet became widely available in the mid-1990’s. At first you hear about it, then slowly you become affected more and more by it. Pretty soon you are fully participating.
For me, full participation didn’t start until the early 1980’s when I realized I had married the wrong man, had taken a lot of wrong turns because of him, and, well, lets just say my consciousness was raised and has never gone back to defending Ms. Tammy.
But I digress.
Jerry. The reason we were at my house is because he basically didn’t have any money. His dream was to be a professional baseball player. Right after that evening, he went to New York to participate in a league there. I was a collector of postcards, and innocently asked him to send me one.
Well, he sent me one. And then another. And when he came home he had a shitload of postcards from New York City for me. It ruined the idea of collecting. I didn’t just want a bunch of random cards. I wanted written postcards from cool places.
Anyway, shortly after that I dumped him somehow. I don’t recall. I know it was probably over the phone and I think he cried. Whatever.
I only saw Jerry and John one more time, on separate occasions.
At the beginning of senior year (two years later) I took the test for my temporary driving certificate, and failed. I was really angry and bummed, and decided to get out of the house. I walked up to Lorain Road with one of my friends and instead of waiting for the bus, we decided to hitchhike. Who picks us up? Jerry.
Oh, the lecture. I sat with my red tennis shoes up on his dashboard, ignoring his admonishment of us for putting ourselves in danger, asking what happened to me, that I wasn’t the Helen he knew, and making us promise to call him for a ride next time.
And John? Well, he showed up at prom with one of my classmates. Sometime in the years after graduation they married. Sometime shortly after that they divorced.
And I have always assumed it was because he really was gay.