Like Persephone, the eponymous heroine of this very blog, I too have taken a four-month winter hiatus (although not as the queen of the underworld, though that might be interesting). Due to foot surgery, an office move, lots of work hours, and the craziness of the holidays, I decided to take a pause and return when life calmed down a bit. Of course, life never really calms down, but today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year (my New Year of choice), so it’s time to kick it into gear and get Persephone back to business.
Today marks my sister Lisa’s birthday. I will not divulge which birthday it is (which I’m sure she’ll appreciate) but it is a notable one, and the entire family is gathering for a house party weekend in Atlanta. As I was considering my topic (and because this is a short week for me), I decided to run my sister’s all-time favorite blog post, one that I wrote in 2017, What if Women Did Disappear?
Given the New Year and our current social and political climate, a focus on women seems appropriate. The #MeToo movement, a record number of women taking office in the Congress, the downfall of several powerful men who used that power to the detriment of women, etc. are harbingers of progress. But, as the saying goes, one step forward, two steps back is still a too common theme.
The op-ed piece that I’m reprinting was originally published on the Washington Post website. The author, Alexandra Petri, writes the ComPost blog, which offers a lighter, and at times, skewering take on the news and opinions of the day.
Her topic is the role women play in our society — it’s about respect for women, it’s about rights for women, it’s about all of the behind-the-scenes work women do — all told through the lens of the day women disappeared. Of course, I am not a woman and one could say that I have some nerve focusing my blog post on something that I couldn’t possibly understand since I am a man.
Well, I’m here to tell you that, yes, in fact, I can. Not only because I am a reflective and empathetic person, but also because my conscience mandates that I must remain vigilant. I am someone who sees and hears and processes what’s going on around me — and also writes about it in this very blog.
I’ve seen it firsthand. When I was a young child, during the period of time when my father was dying from kidney failure, I was raised by stalwart women (including my 10-year-old sister, Lisa) who had struggles of their own trying to cope in a world where the deck was stacked against them. For instance, did you know that it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that women could obtain a credit card in their own name or that they could not be fired if they were pregnant? I have shared homes with several women and count numerous women as close friends — I’m usually the token male at a girl’s night out (their term, not mine).
As a gay man, I also see parallels to the subject matter in the way that certain people think of my so-called “choice” as that of a person who is less than. Has there been discrimination? Yes. Has there been name-calling? Yes. Has there been a perceived disdain for who I am in this world? Yes.
But more importantly, and this brings me back to the way many women feel, it’s the blindness. The blindness of many men (not all, of course), who do not comprehend the impact of their voiced (and often forced) opinions. The blindness of those whose insensitive actions and the reactions they garner are met with bewilderment — and at times, anger. It’s the blindness to the struggle women face each and every day in today’s ostensibly “enlightened” society due to the fact that they are, indeed, women. It’s mind-boggling to me that in 2019 this is still an issue.
But, I’ve gone on long enough. Here is:
The Day They Disappeared
by Alexandra Petri
“In the middle of it, right in the middle, she vanished.
You were explaining something — just what eludes you now, but it must have been interesting because for a split second your thoughts strayed from your audience — and when you looked back she was gone. You were delivering your brilliant lecture to no one.
You could not remember, later, if it was an explanation about how every woman you had ever dated had turned out to be crazy, or a detailed analysis of why no one could reasonably be hurt by a remark like the one you had just made, or a great insight that it turned out she had told you weeks earlier. But you know it was interesting, so interesting that you did not see her go, or how she went.
You went outside and everyone else was standing there looking up, confused, as the world ground to a halt.
Pots fell off stoves and planes fell out of the sky and patients woke up screaming on operating tables. Babies began crying and only some were soothed. A million spinning plates gave a final heave and fell to the ground, unseen. The radio went silent, but only for a minute, until the next song.
At first, it seemed as if it might be heaven.
You could walk down the street and attend school free from the uncomfortable presence of a woman who had chosen distracting attire. There were no women in sweatpants or yoga pants or skirts of any length, with hair covered or with hair uncovered — or women, indeed, of any kind at all. Finally, you did not have to worry about feelings. The world was one big locker room.
There was no one to talk over. But also there was no one to stare raptly at you when you talked, no one who had been encouraged all her life to make you feel smart and interesting and to not take up too much space.
There was no one to yell at on the sidewalk and urge to smile. You had to catcall actual cats, and cats never answer. Objectification became sadly restricted to actual objects. And whose appearance could you criticize? Men’s? Suddenly, you began to say mean things about Jude Law.
Many things, I regret to say — indeed, a suspicious number of things — went on without a hitch for a brief time. Most movies lost only a scene or two and it was barely noticeable, although ticket sales plummeted. The Cabinet was almost entirely unaffected. Wall Street and Silicon Valley largely went about their business as if nothing had occurred.
Statehouses began to feel bereft without women to regulate, whether on the subject of what bathrooms they could use or where they could go for reproductive care. There were no organs to restrict that the legislators did not, themselves, possess. And what was the fun of putting limitations on those? They looked for consolation to those fetuses who for many years they had ranked as full persons, but, inexplicably, they were nowhere to be found.
You began to be concerned.
If women were so vital, surely you would have heard more about them. But when you turned to history, it seemed largely devoid of women. There were hardly any chapters that starred them. They fought in few great battles and they were not presidents and seldom even queens. Had they been behind the scenes all along, making all of it possible? The thought began to occur that perhaps their footsteps were missing because they were carrying you.
And now things were falling apart. How were you possibly to achieve all your dreams and goals when also you had to keep the world from grinding to a halt on a daily basis? Suddenly you had to do all this emotional and domestic labor that no one was paying you for, and then your job on top of that. Suddenly things began to seem unfair. All you needed was a room of your own and a moment’s peace. When would you ever have time to write your very important novel about a middle-aged professor who was going through a crisis? You were just a person, not a worker of miracles. Why was all of this expected of you?
You were used to having no one share the reward but now there was no one to share the work, either. And there was more work than you had anticipated.
What did women do, after all? Just everything, and then some.
But by the time you noticed that, it was too late.”
I still believe we’re in the middle of a seismic shift in our collective thinking and behavior. We’re at crossroads of change — the direction we take is the responsibility of each and every person.
I choose to be on the right side of history, do you?
Cooking for Joan
Recently, I was looking for a vegetarian appetizer that I could serve at one of my dinners. As I was perusing Cooking for Joan for inspiration, I remembered a Legacy Society event at God’s Love We Deliver (yes, the charity I’m ALWAYS asking you to support) that I had attended. The speaker was Seamus Mullen, a health food chef who is well-known in NYC and owns the restaurant, Tertulia. The buffet included some of his more popular recipes and one in particular was amazing — carrot hummus with turmeric. Since all attendees received his latest cookbook, I knew I had to add this to my repertoire. I decided this would be a perfect start to my vegetarian dinner.
Although I made my adjustments (it wasn’t a spicy hummus originally), it was delicious — light, flavorful with a nice kick. Give it a try at your next cocktail gathering!
Spicy Carrot Hummus with Turmeric
Prep Time: 5 min | Cook Time: 5 min | Makes: 16 oz | Difficulty: Easy
• 2 cups carrots, peeled and blanched, cut into 1” pieces
• 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 1/2 tsp microplaned fresh turmeric or 1 tsp dried
• Juice of 2 lemons
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 2 tbsp of Sriracha (to taste)
• 1 tbsp hot honey (use regular if you don't have it)
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup water (or enough to process the carrots smooth)
• Salt and Pepper
• 2 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
• 2 tbsp chiffonade mint
• Extra virgin olive oil to garnish
• Lemon zest to garnish
Blitz first 7 items in a food processor, until blended, not pureed
Add olive oil slowly in a steady stream.
Use water for consistency
Season with salt and pepper
Serve in a small bowl, garnished with sunflower seeds, lemon zest chiffonade mint, and a side of crackers and/or crudité.