Time to let the better half take control
Two women made news this past week and set me to thinking about the newsworthy women in my own life. The headlines were filled with Michelle Bachelet, the first woman to ever be elected president of Chile, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who holds the same honor in Liberia. The world is changing and so much the better. We men have made such a miserable mess of it. It’s time to let the better half of the human race have a go.It is women, I realize, who have gone to make my own life more livable. Apart from my mother and wife, who deserve complete books for their efforts in redeeming me, certainly the folk who have brought the most pleasure into my existence have been, to the best of my recollection, women.I could begin with Ms. Quon, my fourth-grade teacher at Westport Heights Elementary. She introduced me to aesthetic philosophy. I doubt that was her pedagogical intention but for me, and every other boy in my class, she changed the curriculum to a conversation on beauty every time she walked into the room. Some of my adoration toward her may have been shaped by the fact that the teachers for my first three years had been on the more than slightly elderly side, the same senescent side I now find myself occupying, but there was no denying in my developing mind that Ms. Quon deserved my deepest gratitude for displaying such exquisiteness to the world.
Although I had a plethora of other teachers from the far fairer sex, it wasn’t until my last year in college that another female academic altered my consciousness. She will remain anonymous for reasons that will become quickly clear. To the absolute delight of my parents who had been footing the bill and the utter surprise of yours truly, I was scheduled to receive my long coveted but barely worked for, Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre in the late spring of 1968. A slight impediment appeared on my road to matriculation, however. Indeed, this road bump was more of a chasm that threatened to separate me from the rest of my college classmates. In my enthusiasm for experiencing the complete college experience, which included, of course, every extra-curricula activity, authorized and not, I had somehow failed to note one vital intra-curricula requirement.Missing from my transcript was evidence that I had fulfilled an important condition demanded of all graduating seniors. The important verification was absent from my records due in part because I had been completely absent from the class. I won’t tell you what the requirement entailed, except to say you needed to know it if you wanted to talk with anyone from France. In any case, the above noted professor arranged for me to fulfill the entire course with one test taken in the privacy of her own home near the campus.
Filled with dread and empty of knowledge, I arrived at her little cottage to find a multi-paged examination awaiting my No. 2 pencil. As I began to mark my first answer, I heard a slight cough from my hostess, a clearing of the throat, nothing more. But it distracted me enough to change my answer from “a” to “b.”These distractions continued throughout the afternoon. Sometimes the coughing would persist from “a” to “b” to “c” to “none of the above.” I was grateful when it would stop because then I could mark my answer in concentrated silence. I am still not convinced as to her motive. Perhaps, following a particularly poor performance of my one-man Hamlet, she was under orders from the administration. Or perhaps all those stories about French teachers are true.Dr. Sara Chan came into my life several decades ago after I placed a phone call to the American Dental Association while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was looking for a dentist passionately committed to painless periodontal procedures. My search was rewarded beyond my most anxiety-filled dreams when I sat in Dr. Chan’s chair as she described the effects of nitrous oxide. “I am told,” she told me with a seemingly innocent smile, “it is not unlike smoking a large marijuana cigarette.”
And with that she opened her arms about a yard wide. Sometime during the ensuing procedure, she told me later, I proposed marriage. I don’t remember anything, which was precisely the point. I do remember Dr. Chan however, with gratitude and affection.My list of female favorites is far longer than the few I could identify here. But reminiscing upon these three reinforces my conviction that the folks in Chile and Liberia are onto something good. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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