The other day at the post office, I became aware of how I categorize, men. I instinctively smiled at a white-haired old man wearing a baggy white shirt and an odd-shaped straw hat who held open a door for me. I realized that if he had been young and attractive, I probably would have 1) gazed off cooly into space and brushed past, or 2) smiled back at him self-consciously, lips pressed together. If he had been middle-aged with a prosperous paunch, I might have frowned at him, even insisted that he go through the door first. (I’ve been known to flourish my arm gallantly in those situations, which confuses them considerably.) Age, ethnic differences, socio-economic status and “vibes” affect whether a man seems threatening, kind, annoying or someone I could trust in an emergency.
Several years ago, my sister and I confided in one another that neither of us had ever known a feminist we liked. Neither of us could identify with the militancy of the movement, the partial insights passed off as truth, the self-righteous anger, the pseudo-snobbishness towards females who did not pounce on men who addressed them as “ladies,” or, God forbid, girls.