I can't speak for the way people behave in other cities as I have been here for too long. I can't speak for other girls, as it seems we are often playing by different rules. I definitely would never try to speak for men; although I know how to attract them and intrigue, I certainly have no real grasp on their intention. But what I can speak of is my own experiences and the ideas of love and glamour and strength that have been passed down to me by former generations.
I have given some thought to what I see is a breakdown in values as well as a confusion of gender roles for my generation. My upbringing was by a woman who was raised in the fifties. She was taught that she would find happiness through her man and by having a family. At 18 she was married to my father and began having children. That, she explained to me, was all she ever believed she could do.
My father on the other hand, although at his core, had values that a woman was a precious thing that should be cared for, was also a beatnik, searching for what would later become hippie values, values that taught we should love freely and to reject former conventional values.
My mother coming out of this fifties dream, and also being an inspired artist who was being influenced by my free-thinking father on the ideals of self-fulfillment and not being locked down by social standards, eventually retaliated against her up-bringing and found that a husband and children were not necessarily all she needed to feel self-realized. Unfortunately at the point of this realization she was already tethered to 4 children and a life of caring for my father and the commune they had built together. (The commune is a story for another day). As the years moved along it was clear Dad's desire to be a man living the sixties care free dream but still having a family was not as powerful as my mothers urge to create art and live the life of a strong, liberated woman. She soon fled the family to pursue her art, with only me in tow.
My Mother and I settled in Santa Rosa where she joined a glass blowing collective called Swallowtail Studios. My Mother was a brilliant, beautiful women and it was not hard for her to quickly adapt to the Marin arts and crafts community. Within a few years she was a big success and was showing all over California and New York. But, still she did not seem settled or content. I'm not sure that my mom ever really shed those early teachings of what a woman needed to feel happy. Everywhere her art career took us, she appeared to have the ulterior motive of looking for a perfect love - a man to protect her - and knowing that she had already left it behind. She never did ease comfortably into either role and I grew up knowing that her fulfillment was always just out of reach.
My Father, who tried to live and die by his words of being a free-spirited, un-tethered man, spent his days mourning the loss of my mother and myself and eventually slipped into a mundane suburban life with a consolation prize. In this life he seemed to morph back into the fifties-type sturdy man. He dutifully did his chores, provided, protected but at night sat alone and listened to his old records; the records that returned him to his younger glory days living on the commune and mostly being with my mom.
I lived with my father those final days and he told me of all of his stories of youth, freedom and the dreams of generations past. I watched the way he carefully cared for his new life and doted on his second wife. I studied their behavior because it appeared to be the most stable relationship I had seen thus far in my childhood. But late at night when Dad and I spent hours spinning records and sharing secrets and it was clear his youthful ideals had cost him the things he held dear, and was resigned to doing the best he could for the time he had left.
I also had the influence of my grandma, who was a force to be reckoned with. Standing only 5’3” tall, her high heels and fiery red mass of hair made her seem as statuesque as a skyscraper. She was always perfectly dressed and I never once saw her without her make-up on. Even at 60 men swooned as she passed by. She married as many times as I have kissed a boy and was a strong ballsy woman who managed a construction company during the days most women were expected to stay home. If I slouched she snapped me on the back of the neck with a ruler and she taught me to walk in my first pair of high heels. She changed her name from Sarah to Frankie, and explained to me, that in this life we ought be strong enough to take care of ourselves, but find a man, secure enough to appreciate that strength. Her final husband Tony, whom I have no blood relation to, but will always view as my grandpa, was kind and sweet and doted on her till his dying days.
I tend to analyze how this upbringing and these influences have affected my life choices. I definitely have always been a strong, smart woman who works hard to get exactly what she wants. I value being self-sufficient. I have built a life where I rely mostly on myself. I have never felt fulfilled being in the background and am often a begrudging caretaker, yet still I want a man who is strong, sturdy, and looks at me as a creature to be worshiped and admired. I, to this day still yearn for the every-day things that men do to make a strong woman like me, feel like a simple old-fashioned girl.
I attribute my values to being a fifties/sixties-girl, as I was passed down teachings from two very conflicting decades. Sometimes it seems girls 10 years younger than me are completely unaffected by these conventions, and for them these roles are a non-issue. Being raised in the post-feminist period, they don’t esteem those old school values the same way that I do. I go back in forth between being amazed at their detachment and their ability to seem care-free in the way that in past generations only men were, while still feeling sad for the loss of romance that once accompanied the more structured gender roles. I try to navigate the landscape of dating in a pool of people who seem to have so many different ideas of what it means to love, or date, or have sex. The only thing I have come up with is that I have to have my standards of how I would like to be treated, because it's clear we no longer have a set of guidelines or rules. Furthermore, I can only be responsible for how I behave and I try to at all cost be the smart, strong, glamorous woman I desire to be.