24 January 2020


When I was three, my grandmother's sister, Elsa, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Elsa had always been a fiercely independent woman, moving to New York City by herself (from Kansas City) in the early 1940s where she forged a career in the diamond trade. She ended up living in an apartment down the hall from Kurt Vonnegut and his family and stayed single until she was 73 years old...when she married a multimillionaire and enjoyed several years of that lifestyle. After she was a widow, she moved back to Kansas City to be with another sister. She continued to write stories and plays and make five year plans...even when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 90.

But, I digress. I wanted to give a little background to Elsa because the question she asked me when I was a tiny tot came from a different place. She wasn't just passing conversation. She represented a very different example of womanhood and expected something more. I told her what I wanted. I said I wanted to be a firefighter...and a magician...and a host of other things. She then asked how I was going to manage doing all of that. And I replied...

Womans can do anything.

I really felt that way, too. I still do now, but it is different. I believe "womans" can do anything. I am just sadder, but wiser, for understanding all the ways in which we're not allowed to do them.

But the word "womans" is on my mind for another reason at the moment. I was testing a first grader this week. The test consists of me saying a word and then the student has to use the word in a sentence. We got to the word woman. The young white male in front of me paused and then said, "Womans like to clean." And I died a little inside.

I also felt a bit like Steve Martin's character from Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, who goes into a rage every time the term cleaning woman is used.

Maybe it's turning 50. Maybe it's just the right time. But even without this last prompting, I feel a real sense of urgency about ensuring that three-year old girls of today don't reach my age and still face all of the barriers I see. Oh, I will clean up all right. Just you wait, son.

Today's tweet was selected from a list provided each day by On This Day.  The account shows a user's full history of tweets for the given calendar date. Just a reminder that I'm going to post a tweet a day from a previous year and expand on it a bit as a way to get back in the habit of sharing via a blog. You can see my full list of tweets posted on this day, or start seeing your own by following that account.

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