An Open Love Letter to Millennial Women

I wrote this as a graduation gift for a young woman who I know.  Later we realized that I also wrote it for you.

My grandmother knew how to catch an owl.  She would boil the meat off for the men, crack the marrow out of the bones for babyfood, homogenize the entrails past recognition for the kids, and drink the boil water because that’s all that was left for her.  She kept bacon grease hot in an iron skillet as a Home Security System against violent intruders, usually in the form of my grandfather.  She had twelve children, except one died and the others were depatriated and repatriated by the County so routinely that the little ones eventually couldn’t ken why the big ones called her “Mama”.  I never knew her but her highest aspiration for my mother was that she should have a washing machine because sores caused by lye never really close up and heal.  I think of her every single time I do a load of laundry.

I want to tell you that I’m sorry we couldn’t create the world that you deserve.  I’m sorry we left you too few jobs and too much debt — but you know, things never have been easy.  Your world moves fast enough to leave me behind, disoriented and complaining.  I don’t know who this Amanda Bynes person is, but when I see her picture I can tell she needs a mother’s hug.  I don’t want you to get a tattoo because I can’t imagine a picture perfect enough or a phrase deep enough to merit the poor trade of your rare blood for common ink.  I finally understand why my mother was so adamant that I should not pierce my ears.  Us old ladies have been disappointed to find that we are not so different from our male masters after all, when fear rotted our love into control.  Your freedom terrifies us.  In our day, if you admitted to being a lesbian, men tried to rape it out of you.  For us, forty years of financial safety pragmatically trumped romance, and rendered purity before marriage one of many survival techniques.  I struggle and hold my tongue, knowing deep down that you know best how to live in the world that you are creating.  When you have time and pity, you are teaching me.  You are better with people than I’ve ever been, naturally friendly and sweet.  I’ve learned that pausing — any time, anywhere – to LOL at a friend’s joke is a distraction rooted in love and care.  I hope that I may live long enough to see “you’re” and “your” collapse into one word (“ur”) because you have convinced me that we can’t afford the friction of cosmetic contextual distinctions, we have too little time left with each other and far too much still to say.

The First Wave spent their lives insisting that women were not animals to be owned, traded, impregnated and discarded.  They dared to vote and experimented with pants.  Their gains seem quaint and quizzical to me now, as mine must seem to you.  The Second Wave put condoms in the 7-11 and insisted that women’s bodies were more than a vehicle for selling Coca-Cola.  Our highest aspiration for you is that you should have one male friend, your equal, who looks you in the eye and sees you as you are instead of as he wants you to be.  Because sores caused by disrespect never really close up and heal.

My grandmother died on her kitchen table when she hemorrhaged while giving birth to a second set of twins.  My mother was not born that day, it was instead a couple of my aunts or uncles, I really don’t know.  But I’ve dreamt many nights that on that day she gave birth to me.  That I am somehow the logical conclusion, continuation and redemption of her agony.  Watching you from a distance, I like to think that you were born of the pain of my generation, of our punitive divorces and meager unfair paychecks and deadly IUDs.  You are the precious daughters of the Revolution that we wanted, and of the broken-parts-missing Revolution that we got.  When I am old and sick and ugly it will comfort me to know that you are the ones running the world.  But today … today I feel pretty good and so it appears that time has not quite come.  I am offering my age-spotted hand, and you know what?  It’s surprisingly strong.  Take it, and we’ll put our heads down and walk into the wind, forward through more bad weather.


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