There once was a gal with a theory,
That life as a woman was dreary.
Because of a plot that those cruel men had wrought,
But now of that theory she’s leery.
My psychology phase overlaps with this one, but I consider this to be a distinct phase, which lasted about four years, from the time I was 20 or so, until some time after my first child was born. During this phase, I considered myself a feminist; I was intrigued with the differences I saw between the sexes and the diverse kinds of lives women led. I read magazines that were Woman-Focused, like Mothering and Lilith.
Motheringpromotes natural birth and parenting, while Lilith is a Jewish feminist journal. In some Jewish folklore, Lilith was the first woman God made to be with Adam, but she refused to be subordinate to him and hightailed it right out of the Garden. After she went off to seek her own destiny, God fell back on Plan B—which involved performing some minor surgery on Adam so he could create barefoot, pregnant, use-me-as-a-footstool Eve.
I found the whole thing inspiring, and in fact had a real fascination with the Creation story as told from weird, humanistic, and feminist perspectives. I even made some mixed-media art based on this theme. I was intrigued with knowing exactly what it meant to be “like God,” to know good and evil, and then to eat from the Tree of Life. Of course, I thought it was all metaphor, but I’m sure I saw it the same way Eve did. I was excited. I wanted to be God, myself, and I especially wanted to escape the grave.
I instinctively understood the Fall and felt the yearning the Apostle Paul writes about, the groaning to live in the world as it could have been. But I thought all that was metaphor too, so I just listened to Joni Mitchell sing about going back to the garden. Of course, her garden was the creepy, LSD-dusted field of Woodstock, which didn’t appeal to me even then, but this song still managed to float me up into a warm-fuzzy, Messianic-Age bubble.
Around this time, I became interested in publishing my own zine. I wanted to have some kind of collaborative women’s journal that would be A Forum for Various Viewpoints and Lifestyles. The title was Of Woman, but the publication never materialized. I still have the original cover design I made, pre-personal computer. The image is attached to a board with real adhesive, covered by a clear overlay with the title in rub-on lettering. It looked pretty good for my very first layout, if I do say so myself. I circulated over 100 detailed questionnaires as pre-publication research, and I received interesting replies from mostly liberal, feminist women. These still reside in my Box of Important Papers to Grab in the Event of a Fire.
With this project I was trying to be all things to all women, and I assumed that because I was a woman, personally, I had to focus on women, generally. I was also young and insecure and uncomfortable looking at my own life in comparison to the lives of other women. I had so little life experience; I was trying to do great things and be wise before my time. I had not yet learned to start small and be faithful in little things.
I was caught up, as usual, in seeking Personal Fulfillment, and I often thought any lack I was experiencing in that area was because I was “not getting my needs met” in my marriage. At the tail end of this phase, I actually moved out for a few months and lived in a little studio apartment, trying to be the self-supporting artsy type who only needed to look within to find fulfillment. Of course, that failed. I always figured that when I looked within, I’d find a warm and inviting loft or something—a little bit funky, a few candles, some wall-hangings. But it was more dank and dungeon-y; not the kind of place you where really want to hang out.
People did like to hang out at my real home, though. Not that studio, but the little house in Pasadena I shared with my husband. I had a few groups of friends, and several times I hosted discussion salons, which I had read about in the Reader’s Digest of progressive thought, The Utne Reader. I mailed out invitations with questions to be discussed. Young and old, stodgy and eccentric came together to debate such issues as whether animals have rights. A tall, somber conservative stood and said with a straight face, “If animals have rights, let them petition for themselves.” The vegan goddess-worshipper audibly gasped. But after the talk, we all gathered to break bread, and it seemed like, like a community—until everyone left and I fell into a depression because I felt like a fraud in my intellectual posturing.
I read The Mists of Avalon for the first time. It’s a wonderful novel; a retelling of the Arthurian legend from a feminist viewpoint. In books like this, it is usually assumed that the true experiences and strengths of women have been deliberately suppressed by patriarchal cultures and religions, with the Biggest Bad being—you guessed it—the Church. In this kind of thinking, there is a big focus on sexuality being a divine manifestation in people. It’s a big turn-on to think that every time you jump in the sack with someone you’re being a god or goddess and participating in the co-creation of the universe! So as you can imagine, a faith that sets limits on sexual expression is considered oppressive. I assented to this intellectually, but always felt like something must be wrong with me because I wasn’t exactly the poster child for the sexually uninhibited.
Still, I bought into the Divine Feminine stuff to some extent, looking for “meaning” in archetypal women’s roles like “Maiden, Mother, and Crone,” or the three fates in Greek mythology—a trinity in which one woman spun the thread of life, another measured it, and a third cut it off. I thought that was really cool. I never seriously pursued any pagan religious practices, although I dabbled in tarot cards, even attempting to make my own deck with images from my psyche. These are also in the Box of Important Papers.
I belonged to a Reform synagogue, complete with female cantor. My husband and I also attended the University of Judaism in Los Angeles for a few semesters. We took the class that was intended to aid in conversion to Judaism. This was during the time when I literally swore I would never be a Christian, although my husband sometimes said he wanted to be one. Neither of us had any idea what Christianity meant. My husband didn’t really want to be Jewish, but we had a real desire for religion, or rather, the belonging that came with religion.
Of course, I still thought that all paths led to God, but Judaism was my heritage and it was where I was comfortable—plus, there was this cool alternative side to it that spoke to my Inner Radical. I loved the Passover Seders that likened the Exodus to various modern liberation movements, but I had no idea of the true meaning of the Passover, and certainly no inkling that it had anything to do with That Man.