Friday, April 24, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 23rd interview...

My 23rd interview is with Kizz who is 40 years old. She lives in New York City and is single. She has a blog called 117 Hudson.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? It calls to mind a bygone era, honestly. It’s about Gloria Steinham and Betty Friedan and women in the 70s protesting. While I see other types of people as feminist now the picture in my mind when I hear the word remains the same.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? No

Would others consider you a feminist? Some of them, sure.

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? No, I feel as though I’m too traditionalist for the feminists and too feminist for the traditionalists.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? Gloria Steinham, Betty Friedan, marches on Washington, very standard fare.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? Women are being heard. (I’ve read this response over a few times and I kind of hate it but can’t seem to phrase it more to my liking so I’m going to let it lie. Maybe someone else’s interview or comment will help me rework it.)

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? I think that the radical stances that were probably required to make some of the great strides have made some women with less radical viewpoints feel separated from the movement.

Did your mother work outside the home? Sometimes. She taught, she worked in a factory and in an office but she also took care of kids in the home a lot of my growing up.

How did that affect you growing up? As an only child having the other kids around was probably good for me. Also on the only child front, when she was away I wasn’t too bothered since I like being by myself, I liked the freedom. I wasn’t a terrible kid, I had a pretty good self-regulating mechanism.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? I can’t think of any woman I knew as a kid who didn’t work outside the home for some portion of her day. I just thought it was something women did. I have a very utilitarian view of working to pay the bills. You do your job. You don’t necessarily do something you love but when the math demands it you take what you can get. Working, at something, was just something people did, gender wasn’t so much an issue.

Was your mother a homemaker? My mom has a lot of skills in the homemaking department but I wouldn’t call her a homemaker, even when she was home full time.

How did that affect you growing up? Not at all. My mom has this extensive knowledge of etiquette and society and a really lax attitude about having any use for either thing. So I almost always had the tools to deal with situations and was rarely embarrassed by not knowing how to deal with something but I also never had a bug for any of those conventions. I don’t think that was clear. She taught me how people expected things to be done but that didn’t mean she had a Martha Stewartesque need to do them.

Did your father respect your mother?

Did your mother respect your father? These two I have to answer together. I’m still learning, both from my parents and from my memory, a lot about what went on between them when I was a kid and wow, I’m damned if I know. I’m pretty sure my parents were in the process of getting divorced from the time I was a very young kid. Maybe they didn’t know it but it seems likely. On a basic human level they respected each other but not on a higher, I don’t know, love kind of level, the kind you hope to have when you think about being partnered. All that being said they allowed each other to make their own choices and, in most cases, supported those choices fully but I think that might have been out of some kind of general human respect rather than a specific respect for the other person.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? My Auntie Blanche, an adopted grandmother to me and a lot of my friends. She was a music teacher, and an only child who never married. I had 2 grandmothers, 2 great grandmothers, the mothers of most of my friends and a few fabulous teachers as well as younger women that my parents taught and mentored.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? I wanted to be partnered, sure, but I never had that every-girl-plans-her-wedding-from-the-time-she’s-5 thing. As a matter of fact I never even had a picture of myself married in my head until I was probably in my 30s. Still doesn’t seem very likely or desirable. Partnered still does, though.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? I hate to have this be the answer but it’s the only one that feels right so I have to lay it out here. The single biggest event in my childhood that shaped my approach to life had to be my parents separation and eventual divorce. The clear signs of departure began when I was about 10 and they were officially divorced 3 years ago, when I was 37. It was the sort of thing that would come to a head and then you’d think you’d have it handled just about the time the next phase would ambush you. As much as I’d like to have built a life separate from what I learned on that 27 year journey I’d have to have been some sort of alien to have accomplished that. I suspect some of the impact was positive and I know that much of it was negative but the part I really still hate about it is that I’m not done dealing with it yet. I’ll have to work on/with this “event” at least as long as my parents live and probably longer.

Have you ever dieted? I’m doing it right now. I didn’t eat much as a teenager, more of a control issue than a weight issue. A couple of years ago, having put on a lot of weight since high school, I felt I didn’t recognize myself. I lost about 30 lbs with Weight Watchers. I was maintaining pretty well then had a little gain so I’ve made a pact with a neighbor to work the program again while I get back to where I feel comfortable and she does a relatively major redesign.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? I am now, yeah, I’m in a place where when I look at a photo I know who’s looking back. There are still things I might like to see change but I’m not uncomfortable about what people see of me now.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? Sure. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t. The issues I have with my body aren’t steering my life, though, so I think it’s OK.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? My mom has always been pretty open. Most of the time I wish she’d tell me less. I can’t think of anything I wish she’d told me.

What role did your father play in your childhood? I don’t know that I know how to separate that from the next question. He was a pretty hands on dad. As an only child I was brought along on most outings no matter what they were so I hung out with my parents a lot. My dad took me to work with him from the time I was a baby.

What was your relationship like with your father? My photograph is in the Urban Dictionary to serve as definition for “Daddy’s Girl.” It’s a much harder thing to be as a grown up but it’s glorious as a kid.

How do you feel about aging? My people live a long-ass time. On both sides of my family if you don’t make it to 85 you’re clearly a slacker or should have used a crosswalk so I’ve seen a lot of people age over a long period of time. I’m afraid of being really old, of being dependent and unhappy and not being able to let go. I’m unsure of how I stand right now. I look pretty young and, as I said, I’m feeling pretty good about my body but it’s much different than the low maintenance, easily pleased body of just a few years ago. I have a big scar in the center of my forehead from a basal cell carcinoma removal, my feet keep getting bigger, my digestive system can’t decide what to do. I get really frustrated when things go wrong with my body because I’m used to it just going and doing and now it requires 50,000 mile maintenance. I resent having to spend time and money on that sort of thing and I don’t do it well. Plus there’s the whole wish to be partnered, not to mention the yearning for sex, and honestly I don’t know if this body (or this mind) is going to get me that. Wow, that sounds truly shallow but I can’t think of a better way to phrase it.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I’m scared of surgery, all kinds. I don’t think I would have voluntary surgery. For other people I just worry about the self-perpetuating nature of it.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? Oh god yes. My mother. I had the Where Did I Come From books and my mom was all about the talking about it. Some days you couldn’t shut her up.

How was your first sexual experience? Not fantastic. I did it because it seemed like such a big honking deal and I just needed it out of the way so I could deal with the rest of sex. So that first time was fine but not great. The next partner however was fucking amazing and I wouldn’t have had that with him if I hadn’t, you’ll pardon the expression, gotten over the hump with the uncomfortable experience.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? I lived with a guy for many years and I found it limiting. I am alternately worried and excited to live with someone else to see if it was the fact of partnership that hindered us or our partnership specifically.

What makes you feel sexy? Someone laughing at my jokes. An intense discussion. A good pair of shoes. Chocolate. Champagne.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? Some days. Orgasm often makes me sleepy.

What turns you on? A hand on the back of my neck. A deep chuckle or low growl. Kisses, lots of kisses. Erotic stories, photos, video.

What would make your sex life better? Having it include someone else’s participation.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? I think it’s setting them up for failure on so many levels. But then I also think that making a huge deal out of it for them when they might not see it that way can be just as harmful. Right now we’ve reached a point where they’re being sexualized by the media and advertising at the same age that kids dress up for harmless fun. It confuses the issue a thousand fold. I don’t like that girls get pushed toward wearing skimpy clothing and tailoring their bodies to specific ideals but I also think that forbidding them the opportunity to try on different looks and personalities may not counter the sexualization as much as highlight it.

What do you do for a living? I work as an administrative assistant for relatively rich semi-retired people.

Do you enjoy being single? Yeah, there’s a lot to like.

Would you like to get married at some point? No, not really, but I’d like to have a partner of some kind. I’d also like to find a better word than partner.

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who I work well with. Someone who, when paired with me, can help me feel safe enough to take more chances. Somebody with a sense of humor. Someone who will take out the garbage. I hate to take out the garbage.

Do you feel that if you were married your life would be complete? Aw hell no. As I said above I lived with a guy for 5 years, we were together for 7. It’s possible that during that period I was less complete. While I want to do better than that next time I’m not expecting the mere fact of a partnership to be some miracle cure.

Are you afraid of having children and that changing you/your life? I’m not afraid of it, no. I do think that if I had children it would change my life in huge leaps and bounds.

Would you like children? Why? I don’t have any interest in being pregnant. For one I’m just not on board with using my body that way, it has correlations for me to the plastic surgery question. Secondly there are plenty of kids in the world already who need families. If I were to have kid(s) I’m pretty sure I’d adopt. That being said, if I found myself accidentally pregnant I think I would (good lord what is the PC phrase here? I feel like I’ve just backed into a corner with a lit stick of dynamite) continue the pregnancy. (How’s that?)

Would you like to be child-free? Why? I’m OK with being child-free. There are a lot of kids in my life and plenty of ways in which I could add more (tutoring, mentoring, teaching, spending more time with different friends and their families). I love other people’s kids and I take the role of non-parent adult pretty seriously. I was helped and formed and loved so much by adults in my life who weren’t (aren’t) my parents and I like to think I’m paying that forward.

How do you combat stress? Sometimes I just need a day where nothing is scheduled and nothing has to happen (besides walking the dog & feeding the pets). If I go too long without having a day quietly at home, even when there are things to be accomplished there, I feel myself fraying. I turn inward to recharge, reading in bed, watching TV & movies, and a lot of sleep help me.

Do you get out regularly with friends? Absolutely. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with good friends close by. Sometimes we’ll just get together to walk dogs to the park or have a meal or go out for a drink. I also have a group that gets together once a month for brunch. We go to a different place every month, there’s no pressure for people to RSVP or to come every time. We’ve been doing it for something like 5 years now and it’s one of my favorite traditions. I also have a mostly regular standing movie date with a friend/old boss I recently reconnected with. I feel as though I should probably go out more. I live in a big city with lots to do and I think I let a lot of it pass me by but I also know that my temperament (and my wallet) can’t stand being out and “on” all the time. I have 2 things planned for this coming week and I’m already starting to panic a little about being away from home “so much.” I have come so far in an inward direction from the busy twenty-something who left her house at 8am and returned at midnight 6 days a week at minimum.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? I’m getting there. I work a job that isn’t my calling and it allows me to do things I like to do (eat, own my apartment, feed my pets) and the things I’m called to do (act, write, take photos) but it also sucks a lot of the life out of me and keeps me from doing those things. Or I use it as an excuse to keep from doing those things.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? Writer, actress, princess, secretary. (I’m a secretary now, let’s all just file that in the Careful What You Wish For category, shall we?)

What do you yearn for? Jeez, what don’t I yearn for. Sex, making my living doing what I love, being back on the stage, delicious kisses, a feeling of safety & peace. Did I mention the sex?

Thank you, Kizz


The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Kizz, please find her on 117 Hudson.

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