|Morgan Stewart Shelter, this morning's starting place|
I mention that my partner and I are rebuilding a sailboat.
He says: why do you use that word, partner? I hear that and think—he lets the sentence drop, implying that I may be gay.
I say: I like the gender ambiguity of it.
I wish I had said: why does it matter if my partner is male or female?
He says: there must be something wrong with him.
He says: why not boyfriend?
I say: because there's a deeper level of commitment. And implied in partnership is equality.
I say that I see in marriage after marriage a lack of equality. With women performing a greater share of housework and child-rearing, and also a greater percentage of sacrifice: of dreams, goals, ambition. I say: I've had friends divorce after less than a year. I say: how can you can what they have a marriage and what I have not? Maybe marriage is something that take a lifetime to accomplish, and one doesn't know if one is truly married till one is dead. Maybe marrying, like love, is a verb.
Gas chimes in: his 33-year-old marriage is a partnership.
I am perhaps defensive. I do not know if I always believe these things that I say. I know that part of me, the part of me indoctrinated by Disney and my evangelical family, still believes that my relationship carries no legitimacy because it does not have a certificate of marriage. But I know that I believe in commitment and partnership. And also I see the sacrifices that all women in relationships make.
Then he asks my age.
I tell the truth. I don't think I've managed to lie about my age yet in my life. I may be living like a 27-year-old but I am 37.
He says: I guess you don't need to worry about children then.
He apologizes under his next breath. It still stings.
Even not knowing whether I ever wanted children. Not knowing now. Feeling that because of gender discrimination, I was never allowed to know what I want. I still don't know how to know what I want. I don't know if I want children because I've always been told that I must. I push against that, still. As I am being informed about my own life by yet another man, a man explicit in saying he'd want to provide an income while his wife took care of house and kin.
I am angry. These things make me angry.
I tell him about this study: even mothers watching their daughters check their cell phones twice as often as when they are watching sons. I brush my teeth and go to bed.