My husband and I were
getting new eyeglasses. He selected his new frame
right away. It wasn't that easy for me. As I
browsed and tried on frames, the optician made
comments to my husband.
going for the expensive ones. Better check your
Husband: You take
American Express, don't you?
I hope you have a high credit line?
I didn't think the comments
were funny, but I needed to concentrate on
selecting a frame. I tried on a pair of
wire-rimmed glasses and asked my husband for his
opinion. He just shrugged.
Husband) So, what do you think? That should
hold her for about six months before she wants to
buy something else.
I was doing a slow burn by
the time I confronted the man.
Me: Your references
to me are insulting. I'm not a horse that's too
expensive to board or a child who wants too many
toys. For all you know, I make all the money and
give my husband a small allowance..
Optician: Do you
make all the money?
Me: No, but I make
enough of it to take it elsewhere for my glasses.
I picked up my prescription
and walked out the door.
My husband ran out to the
parking lot after me. I was already in the car.
He got in too.
Husband: What's the
matter with you?
Me: You didn't
Husband: No. Are
I carefully outlined the
dialogue between the optician and my husband with
the meticulousness of a court stenographer. When
I was done, my husband responded.
Husband: Gee, Hon,
don't you think you're overreacting?
Me: No, I don't. It
happens all the time, this and worse, and you
don't even notice. I really thought that male
attitudes toward women were changing, but it
seems like a damn conspiracy against us!
Husband: It is.
Me: No, I mean a
concerted effort made as a group to keep women
from achieving equal status and purposely
undermining our sense of self.
Husband: I know
what you mean, and you're right.
Me : Very funny.
Husband: You don't
Me: (Playing along)
When do you attend the meetings?
Husband: My weekly
basketball game. We only play for an hour. The
rest of the time is devoted to our meeting. You
know Walter? He's the regional leader>
Me: When did all
Me: No, I mean when
did you start?
Me: Why 1971?
when I was invited to join. It's quite an honor.
Me: What's the name
of the organization?
Husband: I can't
tell you. It's a very old secret.
Me: Since Ancient
Me: And you say it
all began back then, huh?
what I understand.
Me: And how do you
Husband: There are
documents from the 5th century B.C. asserting
that women are superior. So every effort must be
made by men to keep them from reaching any
Me: Where can I
read this Greek document?
college library. It's public knowledge.
Me: Where is it
kept -- in the men's room? Anyway, what does that
have to do with what the optician was implying?
Husband: It's one
of the first principles. Reinforce the insecure
Me: So that's what
he was doing! Of course! This is getting
interesting. What are some of the other
one is limiting advancement through exclusion.
You know, the old boys network. There are lots of
ways to maintain control.
Me: Lots of ways,
Husband: Lots. Like
disinformation. You know the general rumor that
women sleep their way to the top?
Me: Yes, so . . .
Husband: If that
were true, there wouldn't be so few women at the
Me: My God, this is
worse than unbelievable! This is believable! (Deep
breath) You were telling me about these . .
. uh . . . principles.
Husband: Oh yeah,
here's a simple one. Divide and conquer by
keeping women competing with each other for men's
approval. The latest device is the fitness craze.
Oh, and the fashions you see in music videos.
Me: Haven't there
been any setbacks? What about women getting the
Husband: That was
no big setback. We still choose all the
candidates. Birth control was the only real
setback. When a woman had eight or ten children,
it was nearly impossible to survive without a
man. It wasn't smart for a woman to challenge
Me: A woman's
biology was her destiny. That must be why the
abortion issue is so important.
Husband: How do you
think Clarence Thomas, a black man, married to a
white woman, could be confirmed to the Supreme
Court by all those conservatives?
Me: So it was just
another issue of control.
Husband: I think
you're catching on.
Me: But there's
still one thing I don't get. It was a very close
Husband: Almost any
of those men would have changed their vote if it
Me: I guess they
wouldn't want it to look like a conspiracy.
Husband: Now you've
"The Realist," Winter, 1992