Dear Lily June,
If you decide you do not want or need a partner in this life, honey, I shall support you and honor that. You may find some other way to give me grandbabies, even if you needs must resort to a Raising Arizona situation. I’m kidding. (I think.)
But if you do decide you want a partner in this life, you need to know this:
I do not care if your future partner should be a man or a woman, or even intentionally queer or non-binary in their gender expressions. I do not care if you should decide someday that you feel more like a man than a woman, or if you should decide to be intentionally queer or non-binary in your gender expressions. I only care about this trifecta: That your partner make you feel happy, that they make you feel safe, and that they are a feminist.
The first two, only you’ll know the truth of. But the last can be a sticky wicket. How can you be sure your partner is a feminist? Look no further than your own father, Lily June. In the past week, for instance, your dad has…
…posted a quotation on his Facebook under the heading “Never Forget” because he understands that the words contained therein impact EVERYONE and because normalizing those words as “locker room talk” is not okay with him;
…pointed out to your mother in an excited and even celebratory tone (not mocking or in any way ashamed) a man in church still wearing his home-knitted pussyhat;
…literally provided your mother with the heating pad from his own sore back for her menstrual cramps;
…done loads of delicates, from loading to folding, without batting an eye;
…done loads of dishes, from soaking to drying, without wilting into a delicate flower;
…let your mother get a nap on the weekend after she was tired from a full work week while he provided all the childcare (and you loved every minute of it);
…swept, mopped, and vacuumed like it was no big deal;
…cooked meals while preparing for his own evening work shifts while being your primary caretaker LIKE A BOSS;
…understood that all of these actions just constitute being a good human being who believes in the equity of a household where all parties therein can contribute to both the paying and unpaid labor.
I didn’t march on Saturday, though in my heart and spirit, I was with all the hers–and hims–and thems–and others that contributed to a meaningful, powerful expression of intolerance for intolerance itself.
In the meantime, in our little corner of the world, in our home sweet home, your dad, one of my favorite feminists on the planet, was making me feel loved by making me feel respected. He does this almost every second of every day of every year. I wouldn’t have chosen to make a life with him if he didn’t, because I respect myself.
He wouldn’t have chosen me to partner with if I didn’t expect that, because he respects all people who respect themselves.
I feel, Lily June, beyond lucky to have made a life with a man who fell for me out of mutual respect, as much because of our own combined passions for the same academic and artistic pursuits as because of our agreements on what constitutes a loving, ethical, equitable partnership. Doesn’t sound like some romantic comedy or swooning sonnet, does it?
And yet, I find myself weak in the knees that your father has never once in life treated me like the speaker of the Millay sonnet below (one I was reading when we first got together and has thus stood in my mind as a kind of photo-negative of our relationship):
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard?–
“What a big book for such a little head!”
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink.
Oh, I shall love you still and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more;
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.
In fact, as we both bonded over our love of poets like Sylvia Plath, I knew, too, he would never treat me like “The Applicant,” expecting in place of a woman “a living doll.”
And I knew, too, in his becoming a father, that he would never lay down backwards, caveman-style rules, like those, for example, about dating his daughter. Instead, he would stand by rules like those set by the anonymous “Feminist Father”:
Rules for Dating My Daughter
- I don’t make the rules.
- You don’t make the rules.
- She makes the rules.
- Her body, her rules.
My favorite proof of this? Your dad’s newest habit with you has been to pick you up and whisper directly into your ear, because for some reason, hearing whispering always inspires fits of giggles from you. But it’s what he’s whispering, Lily June, that makes me fall in love with your father again, all over.
He pulls you close, and with a look of sincere earnestness, he whispers over and over to you, his daughter,
“You’re smart, LJ. You’re smart. You are so very smart.”
That’s what makes him so beautiful, as a man and as a person.
- By AnonMoos, toa267 – Made by user, based on a character outline in the (PostScript Type 1) “Fnord Hodge-Podge Discordian fonts version 2” by toa267 (declared by them to be Public Domain). I chose the color to be kind of equally intermediate between red, pink, and lavender (without being any one of the three…)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2077843