“Men have an easier time amusing themselves than women do. … Women, when they aren’t taking care of their families or working, spend their “free” time improving themselves. They go to the gym, shop, get their nails done, or rededicate themselves to eating clean or meditating often.”
~Karen Karbo Julia Child Rules
I’ve been thinking about this section of Karen’s latest book, “Rule No. 3: Learn to Be Amused” and hadn’t made much headway in figuring it all out. I’m not academically schooled in the theories and history of feminism or its antipodean points of view, and although I have leftist leanings compared to some women who remained in the isolated Pacific Northwest communities where I grew up, most of my muddled views of role and gender are about inclusion and good old-fashioned why-can’t-everybody-just-get-along?
So imagine my phenomenological delight when I stumbled across a book discarded in a bin. But, first:
I purchased a couple books and we walked to a restaurant around the corner for lunch. Then, with our two-hour parking nearing expiration, we parted ways.
I got a little lost making my way out of Multnomah area, and managed to backtrack through neighborhoods toward the Sellwood Bridge.
I thought, ‘I haven’t been to the bins for a while. I should stop.’
I think it’s actually called the Goodwill Outlet Store, but everyone I know calls it “the bins.” (You can read about the bin experience in Justin Wescoat Sander’s Portland Mercury article Junk’s Last Chance.)
In case you haven’t been there, and don’t care to brave it yourself, here’s what it looks like, only the room is about four times as large because I was standing in the middle of the store when I took this.
I’m not a frequent bin shopper so one of the problems is I’m not that great at bin etiquette. In particular, I forget to watch out for the employees who roll these large mobile bins into place. Today, one had to ask me to get out of the way while a gaggle of regulars grinned. “Sorry, sorry,” I said, moving on to a bin without so many onlookers. (New bins attract a group of regulars who quickly pick through for items of value.)
A typical bin looks about like this. There are clothing bins (My friend Dani recovers abandoned wool sweaters to repurpose into beautiful one-of-a-kind mittens.) and book bins, but many of the bins are a mixed up mess of what-have-yous that have been donated for resale. This is not everyone’s idea of amusement, but it’s one of the ways that I can quiet my mind because I become completely immersed in the task of looking at other people’s cast-off crap. In particular, I like to look for teensy toys that I take when I go to visit my CASA kids. (It’s like a bin except it’s a cigar box full of cute, clean tiny toys.)
So today, I was pawing around though all the detritus that the bins had to offer when I came across an older book with a pure white cover. (Okay, it didn’t look that pure.)
I should have known. But you’ll recall that I mentioned I am not well educated in the opposing points of view related to a woman’s place in society. (For the sake of honesty, I’ll confess that I had a good idea this wouldn’t shake out on Betty Friedan’s end of the stick.)
I couldn’t resist opening it.
I felt like I wanted to take a shower, and it wasn’t only the grime on my hands from the unknown origins of all the stuff I’d handled on my way to this relic. It’s a relic, right? Nobody believes that shit anymore. Right?
You know how sometimes you happen across something and you just know you should turn away? A couple having a private moment in a public place? A horrible accident? But you look anyway?
Yeah, like that.
I flipped to page 99, and there were SIX RULES FOR MAKING HIM FEEL LIKE THE SUPERIOR MALE.
I slapped the book shut, then lifted the cover, you know, to see if maybe the text had changed. Maybe it was my imagination that these counter-feminist books really exist to encourage women to act like little girls so men will find them attractive. (Attractive? I have been a foster mother and child advocate for too many real little girls that men violated to think it’s cute to perpetuate this kind of shit.)
Inside the cover, the book was designated as a “loaning copy” and included the author’s return address label.
The copyright was 1963. This was a first edition.
I like first editions.
I feel sad when people deface books, even books that have been cast off to the bins.
You know, sometimes pages are loose in those old books.
You know, at the bins you can buy one piece of Monopoly money or one checker or one page out of a book if you want.
You know, I bought page 99.
You know I did.
The page was loose anyway.
It was just begging to be bought.
I’m not the kind of woman to make a page feel bad about itself.
I looked up the author. She passed away a few years ago which is sad for her family, but I was happy to imagine (for one glorious moment) that her ability to give bad advice to woman would have faded away.
Bantam published a new edition in January 2007.
You know what I did when I saw that? The only thing a woman could do.
I looked for a recipe to cook for my husband. Because if I’m going to make like a woman, I want to cook something exactly right. Julia was a fabulous chef, and none of my posts have been about cooking even though I like to cook, and have cooked many meals for my many children and my mostly nice and polite and loyal and trustworthy husband who has never, ever once asked me to act like a little girl so that he could feel like a man. (Maybe that sentence should read who never, ever once has asked… Does has need to be beside its verb asked?)
And, Reader, are you ever going to be pleased with me, because I have not one, but two, totally old-school recipes that I found in the bins. I’m going to rustle them up tomorrow.
I might even put on an apron.