Back in 1950’s and 1960’s, sex was what bad girls did, at least that was the social propaganda. Even married couples on TV slept in twin beds. The shame of unwanted pregnancy was something considered worse than death. Body parts were not called by their scientific names but by cutesy words that served as labels when we were toddlers but which never evolved as we grew older. The changes in our bodies and feelings were never quite addressed as we were told to “just deal with it.” My mother even cautioned me not to stick my breasts out too far.
I started college at the age of 18 in 1967. I went to Oswego State with skirts and dresses. (At my high school, we weren’t allowed to wear slacks and the homemaking teacher went around the halls to monitor skirt lengths. If when kneeling, our hems did not touch the floor,our parents were called to bring over an appropriate garment or we were sent home.) Shortly after arriving on campus, I bought my first pair of jeans. They were an olive color. Remembering The Captain Kangaroo Show and Mr. Green Jeans, I soon regretted my purchase, worried that my color choice would open me up to ridicule.
With my insecurities and inadequate “cool person” preparation, I became a college freshman. Looking at a picture of myself from 1967, my naivety was very apparent. I looked like a girl on a recruitment poster for a nunnery.
Freshman Orientation was my first blast into into college life. For some fortunate reason, The Doors, yes, The Doors, were our orientation concert right at SUNY at Oswego in Lee Hall.
I loved The Doors. My appreciation for them has grown even more as I have become older. I own their greatest hits CD and I marvel at range of their styles, jazz, honky tonk, Spanish guitar and their awesome instrumentation in “Light My Fire”.
The day after the concert, the campus seemed electrified with chatter.
“Do you believe it?” one of my new classmates asked.
“Believe what?” I answered.
“What happened to Jim Morrison!”
“His pants, his pants!” the girl shouted and she hurried to a more knowing group of enthusiastic gossipers.
I hadn’t seen anything unusual, I hadn’t been looking at Jim Morrison’s pants. Many people seemed eager to offer me enlightenment. My education for this incident came in two parts. First, someone had to explain to me that the lead singer of The Doors had become really excited. And part two, his excitement had become visible. Oblivious, I had missed it. I was a clueless, dumb baby in the new wilderness of “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.”
I eventually became informed. Girls from Long Island told stories of their unsupervised lives of drinking and partying. Their youth was entirely different than mine. Being the oldest girl in my family, I guess I was kind of a experiment based on restriction, omissions, and intentional brainwashing, all for my own good.
But women, including myself, thankfully have moved forward. I marvel at our advances, for instance, in the area of linguistics.
In my childhood, I used the phrase “oh, sugar” to express frustration, anger, or distain.
Later, that evolved into “oh,darn”.
And as I grew older, I let “oh, damn” escape from my lips.
“Oh,sh–!” is now a common way to relieve stress when women break a glass or rear end another car or lock ourselves out their houses or whenever we are confronted with the hundreds of frustrating things that go wrong in our busy lives.
And now in my “I don’t give a damn” liberated life of advance years, I say the biggest swear word of all. I don’t say it public, only in the privacy of my own home or very quietly in the company of friends who are also living a “I don’t give a damn” liberated life. It feels good. It confirms that “we have come a long way, baby.”
I first said the big swear word in my junior year of college. Before that I had never heard a female say that expletive. There was no law against it. Our mouths were physically capable of making the required sounds. But something silenced us, something invisible but very powerful. And we weren’t just restricted in our use of that word. We were restricted in a lot of ways.
Long ago, I was given a old copy of a 1967 “Watertown Daily Times” and was surprised to see that job postings were divided into men’s jobs and women’s jobs which back then were mainly house cleaner and secretary.
In 1972, Title 9 was passed , finally opening more participation for women in school sports.
Back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and early part of this century there was no “Me,Too” movement.
And today there are still gaping disparities in the wages of women as compared to men’s.
Jim Morrison wrote “Break on Through to the Other Side” in 1967, the year I saw him in concert in Lee Hall at Oswego.
“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side”
As women, we are breaking through to the other side, our side. Many women in our country have taken leadership roles and have organized movements. But we can’t overlook the individual power of our words that can stop those in our everyday lives who try to diminish us.
“I will not be put down or made fun of.”
“Please respect my boundaries.”
“Please respect my space.”
“I need to be listened to and heard.”
“I will not be taken advantage of or demeaned.”
For way too long, our destinies were written for us. We now need to speak up and create our own destinies.
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