Before I even knew what the word feminist was, I was pretty sure I met all the criteria. I grew up in a patriarchal house, that was immersed in testosterone, having five brothers. I watched my mom do everything for my dad, and somewhere along the way I found that role uncomfortable. My mom would never consider doing anything without my dad, and I felt women should be way more independent. So you can imagine my shock when the one piece of advice I clearly remember getting from my dad was ‘to make sure I went to school and got a career before I got married.’
So what career choice do I go and make with his savvy piece of advice? Nursing! A seemingly subservient profession. I substituted one patriarchal life for another.
This was so apparent to me when I was in nurses training for my L.P.N. I had two old school nurse instructors who were strict and smart, supportive and tough. The first time they took us to the hospital for our clinical rotation, I remember the gentler of the two teachers looking panic-stricken in my direction, as she charged towards me, shoved me out of the chair I was sitting in, ripped the chart out of my hand that I was perusing, and practically curtsied to the doctor who was looking for it while offering him my chair!!
Why was it more important for him to have that chair than me? Whatever happened to ladies first? I made a mental promise to myself that would be the last chair I would ever give up (as long as my teachers weren’t looking.)
Over the past twenty-three years I’ve managed to keep that promise for the most part. I have met some amazing doctors over the years (mostly young) who don’t expect me to get up, but there are still those old dinosaurs who walk into the nurses station, give that authoritative look, and expect us all to jump up and say, “Yes doctor, what do you need doctor, can I suck your dick doctor?” When they realize none of the above are ever going to happen, a dark shadow passes over their face as they long for the days gone by.
As a nurse I’ve come to a place where I’m comfortable in my own skin, never afraid to speak my mind and still never willing to give up my chair, but as a married woman with three children I find my mothers reflection hauntingly looking back at me in the mirror. My list of domestic chores is enough to give my inner Gloria Steinem a twitch.
I continue to have my estrogen to testosterone ratio outnumbered in my current family, but unlike my mom I do get out without my husband once in a while. I often think of the advice my dad gave me so long ago, and appreciate the career choice I made because it’s given me the flexibility to be with my children and be in the workplace at the same time. I plan on passing this advice to my one and only daughter and hope her future battles with testosterone are played out on a more even playing field than mine were.