I have an essay coming out this month in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of West Branch, the literary journal at Bucknell. All publications are sweet, but this one is particularly satisfying for the following reasons:
1. On the surface it’s about women playing golf. But it’s really about the chauvinism that women in corporate America have to deal with and it felt good to write it. Yes, things are better since Anita Hill, but not perfect.
2. When this essay was in its early stages, a man read it and his feedback was so negative as to the subject-matter (women and golf = boredom), it just made me want to work on the story even harder. This essay is many things, but “boring” is not one of them.
3. Dealing with the editors at West Branch has been a pleasure. So professional and kind. And their journal is beautifully produced.
4. Six months after the essay was accepted for publication, I received an e-mail from another journal about possible publication. They wanted to change the Point of View (or have me defend my use of 2nd person for parts of the story), as well as make several other changes. It felt good to be able to say “No thanks.”
As a twenty-something newlywed, you had no plans to get pregnant, but you would probably have had Dennis’s baby if it meant getting that job. Between the salary bump and bonuses, your income would triple. Dennis might not be the boss you dreamed of, but the job certainly was. For years, you’d watched your single mother trudge off to work the second and third shifts at the hosiery mill. The nighttime hours and the machine noise and the constant dust and dirt wrung her out. The asbestos poisoned her lungs. All you’d ever wanted was to have an office (with a door), to sit behind a desk in a high-backed chair (that swivels), to wear pantyhose and high heels (real Italian leather!), and to go to important meetings (where you could act “important”). You wanted to work in a place where people were so goddamned busy they had to order in lunch.
And, well, there you were.
Your peers thought you were too small-town for the job and, not to mention, a girl. You had news for them. You’d grown up in a neighborhood full of boys. You raced your beat-up bike downhill, and even when you wrecked and slid sideways in the gravel, you wore your scabs and scars like trophies. You played baseball on the street with sometimes fake, sometimes real, bats, and you would slide into base, even if that base was a white Frisbee on cement, to help your team win. When you were eight, your mother signed you up to play softball. Softball! With girls!
“Girls don’t play baseball,” she’d said. “You could get hurt.” Then, like some kind of insult, she handed you a brand new softball. This ball-for-sissies was so big you could barely hold it in your hand, much less throw the stupid thing.
“I can’t throw this,” you said, trying to hand it back to her. “I don’t want to play.”
“I already signed you up. You’re playing. You’ll figure it out.”