During my fourth year of secondary school, I became acutely aware of the Women’s Rights Issue. I made an attempt to re-examine many of the cultural norms that I had previously accepted as just being “the natural order of things. ” One of the paths I took to expand my awareness of the female psyche involved women’s literature. That is why I spent one weekend of my life in bed–crying, laughing, feeling sometimes confused, and often, incredibly angry and distraught. On that rainy Humboldt Friday night I had decided to read “The Women’s Room.
The author, Marilyn Fridey, describes the lives of several women from the 1950’s to present. These women are nothing out of the ordinary. They either go to college and then get married, or they get married without bothering about the pretense of college–after all, they know that college is only a way to find more economically promising husbands. Myra, the main character whose life is traced throughout the book vaguely wonders why she is not content cooking pot roast, scraping shit from the baby’s diapers, and picking up her husband’s dry cleaning.
Her only solace is the neighborhood of women who share concerns over coffee in the afternoons. They wonder why Katherine, a Catholic woman who has 9 children and an alcoholic husband, committed suicide. “She had a normal life, they thought, she just should have talked her husband into using birth control. ” As for the rest of the women, including Myra, their lives, fears, disappointments and yearnings, were much more subtle, yet equally suicidal in their quiet desperation. Many years down the road, Myra’s life finally changes.
Her husband has “made it”, the kids have grown, and life is easy economically. Myra has a nervous breakdown. Once recovered, she divorces, and becomes a graduate student at Yale. Though painful and difficult, it is here that she comes to terms with herself, realizes her potential, and learns to live with herself–not necessarily happily–but at least honestly. After I finished the story of Myras world that Sunday evening, I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably from a terrible nightmare. Though I couldn’t remember the dream, I came to a profound realization.
Myra’s life was my mothers. Most of my life I had revered, respected and admired my father for going to college, being intelligent and worldly, having power and control. In short for being a man. My mother always seemed too “wishy-washy”, easily trodden upon, overly dependent because she had chosen the role of housewife, mother. I rebelled against the tradition, and feared wearing those chains someday. Consequently, I strove to be like my father. Until this book, I never realized how much more courage it took for a person to live within a stifled role, and find contentment by living through other people.
During that night of crying I understood my mother for the first time–I respected her inner strength, compassion, gentleness. Ever since then, my relationship with my mother has evolved, and we are very close. I will probably never adopt the role in life that she chose to take, but I now respect her for her life, and understand the reasons why she made those choices. Reading of Myra’s evolution as a female changed the way I feel towards myself, my feelings and compassion for my mother, and provided me with a much more sensitive view towards the lives of many women in our society today.