Feminism saved me

I watched “Maid” on Netflix, based on the book called Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. It was hard to watch as the main character made one bad choice after another. (Andie McDowell is great in this, by the way.)

I wasn’t that different, and yes, I was a cleaning lady. I didn’t mind the work so much, but the rich people I worked for frequently sucked. When they crossed the line, I walked. But even 20 years earlier than this story, I was making more money than she was. First of all, those maid services where you work as a team? They suck. You only make minimum wage.

I had more options than she did. If my boyfriend or husband had dared to knock me around, I had family nearby. My father would have demanded to know why I didn’t hit him in the head with a cast iron pan while he was sleeping, but yeah, I would have had a place to stay.

Thanks to feminism, though, I have boundaries. I don’t often give into troublesome people to be nice, the way she did. I’m not that nice, not that way. Don’t ask me to risk something just to be polite. Don’t expect me to modulate my tone and make every sentence into a question because you don’t like assertive women. (Funny story: Every time I plug my work into one of those “which writer do you write like” apps, it’s always a man. Always.)

I met this guy a couple of years ago, and I could tell he really liked me. But after our first date, I told him I was only interested in friendship because he had a terminal condition and I had enough trouble taking care of myself. He was hurt; I said, “How can you take this personally? I’ve only just met you!” But he did. Maybe I was too blunt, but I know far too many women who would have kept seeing him for a while — to be nice. And then they would have broken it off. (He died a few years later.)

A lot of my independence is a trauma response. When you don’t trust people to come through for you, you don’t ever want to ask for help. It’s why I can’t stand asking people for money, and I hate being in that situation.

Anyway, I just kept thinking this was a book I could have written. But unlike the author, who ended up going back to college, I was still working. There have only been a few times in the past 30 years where I didn’t have at least two jobs, and often three. It wears you out, poverty does.

I remember the time the guy from the electric company came to shut off our power again. “Oh, J’s really getting tall!” he said. Because I was living so close to the edge, the shut-off guy knew my kid’s name.

Anyway. Just some thoughts.