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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why the Women Are All Strong...What's the Alternative?

My friend Victoria sent this to me:

I get emails from "Prairie Home Companion" regularly and it's some of my favorite reading and listening. This is an email response to a reader's question about the closing of the Lake Woebegon story each week. I thought his response was so insightful.


Post to the Host Two Weeks In A Row!

Your Lake Wobegon ending is "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Do you think it is more important for a woman to be strong or good-looking?

Lena H.
Anniston, AL



Women are not decorative objects, my sweet, they are living, talking, thinking action figures who are on missions, some of them secret, driven by powerful inner forces, just as we men are. Because they are so crucial to the human endeavor, it's more important for them to be strong. The breakdown of a woman is a terrible thing. Families may be broken, lives skid into the ditch, when the mother falls apart. Men are not so crucial and that is why they earn more and are more prominent and successful and gaudy and write songs and novels and travel around giving speeches — their children don't need them so much. They need to be strong sometimes but they also need to be attractive, funny, kind, charming, sweet-tempered, and most of us fall short. I don't find grumpiness in men attractive or admirable.

The quote, though, is descriptive of the Wobegonians, not a prescription for you or me, and that's all. The name Lena is a great name, strong and lyrical at the same time. And rare. Up here in Minnesota, we tell Ole & Lena jokes and that's why we wouldn't name a girl Lena, but it's a wonderful name nonetheless.


Joanna's Comments:

While I'm not sure I like the part about how men "write songs and novels and travel around giving speeches," I will admit that I often wonder if my most of my male colleagues also do the holiday shopping, make the stupid meatloaf, buy the Hanukkah candles, write the yearly brag letter, change the sheets, buy new towels and detergent, wash dishes, suffer visits from in-laws, and take the dogs to the vet, etc. I notice that about the time my husband goes to bed, I start cleaning the kitchen, putting in that last load of laundry, fold the clothes, and so on. Which is not to say my husband doesn't do a lot. He does, but he also certainly knows how to relax and how to stop work. And I clearly don't.

Maybe it's just the holiday stress and the snow getting to me...but Keillor has a point. We women have to stay strong, and sometimes it's a bit much. Of course, what's the alternative? I remember when my dear friend O's husband was dying of cancer. I remarked how strong she was, and O said, "And my choices are?"

I know that I'm caught between wanting to be more selfish and being grateful that the women I know aren't selfish, that we give, give, give. But like I said, I do wonder...when do we claim time for ourselves? When do we get permission to let things slide? Maybe that's what I really need for Christmas: A Permission Slip!

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