Archive | Feminist Matters

A Tiny Swan Song for Doris Lessing, 94

Doris Lessing died this morning at such a good, old age that I can hardly complain about her departure. But she did go just as I’d just been thinking about how much she’d given us and how little we’d noticed it lately. She said many wonderful, incisive things that opened our eyes, minds, hearts and crystallized a lot of realities with which we’d only been murkily familiar. The quote I always kept taped somewhere near me was this: “A simple grateful thought turned heavenward is the most perfect prayer.”

A Cat Lady Testifies: Love Is Love

Though normally an early riser, I could not wake up in these last weeks before daylight savings time. I slept through phone calls, alarm clocks, even my neighbors’ noisy morning sex. Finally, my cat Grace took matters in her own hands. Not by yowling or ruining furniture or biting my toes but by carefully dragging all her toys next to my head, one by one, until I finally opened my eyes. Each morning I was greeted by a pile of soft feathers and strings and catnip mice and her sweet, worried face—the gentlest landing from a flight of sleep I could imagine. It reminded me of how lucky I am to live with such a considerate, tender-hearted little being. And how proud I am to be a cat lady.

These days the words old maid or spinster may be dismissed as outdated, even cruel, but cat lady is still bandied about unreservedly and with the same intent: as a derogatory term for an unattached female. A single woman in a Mrs. Whatsit getup of coffee-stained schlubby layers who reads dog-eared paperbacks, never misses her shows, eats from cans along with her furry wards. Who hasn’t got laid in decades and couldn’t if she tried. Who languishes in a cramped, overheated, urine-stained apartment piled high with dirty dishes, cigarette smoke, ratty furniture, and, of course, cat hair.

If it sounds awful, so be it. That’s the mishegas that gets thrown my way because I am Of A Certain Age and remain unmarried, childless, and domestically solitary save for a feline cohabitant—especially now that nearly everyone can get married and have kids. Forget about the fact that I live in an amazing city, enjoy my work and friends, love my considerate and charismatic roommate. Because she is a cat, there exists a two-word phrase that people can use to dismiss my life.

I am cat lady, hear me purr. Continue Reading →

You Do Not Mess With the Queen

There are times when the only singer I can bear to hear is Aretha Franklin. She doesn’t belong to any one of my former relationships. She doesn’t belong to any particular era of my life. She belongs to all of them or, rather, everything belongs to her. I know every one of her songs inside and out, and have been learning them since before I could talk. Our family cat, adopted six months after my birth, was named Aretha Franklin Rosman. It’s like that. I have every album recorded by this woman, and most of them on vinyl. Sometimes when I’m feeling blue I just ogle her record covers. For one thing, she’s unfathomably beautiful—feline and sly-eyed and blowsily ladycurvy—and for another I know everything divine and earthly rolls through that big, matter-of-factly churchified and cracked-up soothing-the-savage-beast of a voice. I need her to be strong so I can be strong, and in her music, as far as back as her Columbia Records years, she has never, ever let me down. I don’t care about her personal life, and I really don’t want to have coffee with her, no more than I’d like to have tea with the Queen of England. Royals, especially those who have earned their throne, are best when worshipped from afar. I know someday she won’t be on the same planet as me but I’m grateful she has been so far and even more grateful to have her music pouring through my ears when I leave that man, tote that barge, straighten that spine, open that heart in all my worst and best moments. Truly, Aretha is the Queen of Soul, and I am lucky to have lived under her reign. We all are.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy