Seeds of Feminism or: How I learned to Ride the Bus by Myself
Unidad y Solidaridad
If you look up Type A in the dictionary you will find my shiny, smiling face. My lists have lists. So naturally, my travel blog is organized around the calendar and in chronological order, but the new me, the one that picked up and moved to Korea, is trying to un-clench my fists and my mind. This month’s post was scheduled to be about my 1990s trip to Puerto Rico, but in light of the dire situation the people of that island, the terror and uncertainty our countrymen are enduring, I am switching things up. This month I offer Interlude #5. It has local travel and a peek into my precocious childhood. I hope you enjoy it. Please donate if you can and send good thoughts and positive energy to the people of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and Las Vegas.
"To all the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."
—Hillary Clinton in her 2016 concession speech
Like a lot of us modern day 70s babies, I was a latch key kid. As a single mother with much on her plate to navigate and regulate, on Sundays, my mom laid out my clothes for the week and did my hair---except for that one hilariously horrendous time my big brother did it so I wouldn’t miss a field trip to San Francisco I was desperate to go on. During the week, after breakfast, she kissed me and saw me off to school. My brother Sean and I had to get ourselves home and make our own snack before chores and homework.
Ever the dutiful daughter, I did what was expected of me and stayed close to home reading, doing extra credit assignments, and listening to the tape recording of “Dukes of Hazzard” I’d made from that week’s episode--- do not judge me. We didn’t own a VCR and John Schneider remains fine as hell! My life was fairly routine for most girls until I turned ten.
I’m not sure what my mom did for Sean, who was four years older, but around the time I turned ten, Sharon Diane took me on a special bus ride around San Jose, CA. Riding around town, she explained how to pay for a single ride, 10 cents, or a day pass, 20 cents. She explained the various stops and how to sit behind the driver if I got scared.
Despite my hearty build and deep voice, as a kid, I was somewhat timid, Then and now, I don’t like confrontation, although I am very capable of defending myself. Then and now, too much attention makes me blush and breakout in a sweat. And as a kid, I was also a bit of a homebody. All I needed was “Nancy Drew”, “Sweet Valley High”, and Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” (San Jose. California.1980s, people.) So the day my mom took me on the bus started out as an adventure, a lark---time with my glamorous mother was always a treat---but then as she explained the workings of public transportation in way too much detail, my joy turned to horror. After we had gone the full route and disembarked at our stop, my mother assured me that when I was ready to try it on my own I would be fine and then that was it. From then on, I was expected to get myself around town, not to the big places or events of course, but if I wanted to visit friends or the mall and my mom didn’t have the time to take me, it was up to me to get myself there and back before curfew. Unsurprisingly, I freaked out. There was a lot of sweating, a lot of what would Nancy or Judy Blume’s Margaret Simon from “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”, do? And then I got on the bus and my little world and neighborhood perspective opened up like an unfurling freak flag!
At ten years old, I was given the gift of freedom. My mother, a former Barbizon model and Motor City badass, who grew up in car country, understood what mobility meant to her and what it could mean to her young daughter. As a single mother, she didn’t always have the time to cart her kid over to her best friend’s house or to the insanely important Eastridge Mall where I created all of my best Duran Duran buttons, or later to Tower Records all the way out in Campbell.
My mother didn’t use the word feminist. Within my hearing, she didn’t compare my brother and cousins Tony and Mark’s ability to run wild around town to me sitting at home hoping someone would take me somewhere, waiting for someone to go with me so I would have a chaperone. She simply decided/knew that I had just as much right to hit the road when I wanted to as anyone else. She gave me freedom and confidence and bravery. And I never looked back.
I soon started riding the bus solo all over town and the surrounding suburbs and then with my best friend Dana. There were times when I sat behind the bus driver but again, it was 1980s San Jose, so there were more days of unfettered wondering and wandering than fearful ones.
I learned to speak up when my stop was next. I learned how to read a map and ask how to transfer to another line. I learned my city and discovered places I wanted to explore later. I made my own decisions on where and when I would go and discovered independence and autonomy riding the bus. Beneath the voice of Journey’s Steven Perry piped in through my Sony Walkman, I heard my own voice. And to this day, I believe that those excursions on the bus basking in my liberty, subconsciously prepared me to go to college out of state, navigate the NYC subway, travel the world, and ultimately live abroad. And all it cost was 10 cents.
Congratulations to the women of Saudi Arabia!
Rev those engines, ladies!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back in November when I land in a new country and survive new shenanigans!
Remember, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!