(Image: Penguin Books)
Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, three years after I was born. The Second Wave of Feminism she helped launch was already under way as my mind was also beginning to take shape. Without a word of hers ingested, I ate her intent, had it coursing through my veins like red blood cells. It produced the iron with which I withstood the world of feminine assault and violent backlash.
Women weren’t violent, but the disgust, outrage and horror of becoming aware what men thought of us, the powerlessness to become, to be seen and to be in-possessed razored some hearts, did violence to their peace and potential.
I never read Friedan, not at 12 or 15 or any age. While absorbing home life and culture, I hid. I read. I went away to more frightening places, like Mordor, the harrowing innards of Siddhartha, and the outer limits of my own consciousness. I recreated on a daily diet of pot with occasional leaps into the color zones inside acid, speed and barbiturates. Occasionally. I feared losing my grip more than craved the outer limits of sanity.
Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down. CSNY
Randy would not be the first or the last gay man I fell for. I never pieced together the hitchhiking he did from work instead of taking the bus, and the expressed hopes to pick up someone “interesting.” I’m guessing now that he got paid on the side for his lovely looks: from delicate hands to his big style and classy flare. Anyone else with more exposure might have known, but no one in my town growing up was gay–except my sister’s best friend and the drama department at school, to my knowledge. It was the late 70s and no one was gay–openly. I just never suspected that men could be anything but interested in me as a female, someone to stick a dick into at the very least. My worldview was small, provincial, like the state I grew up in despite its savvy sensationalized reputation world wide to the contrary, no doubt based on one city, a small piece of real estate relative to the entirety of the state with its miles of farmland and country roads.
It was after these first 6 months or so on my own, working, going to school, quitting school and trying to make a life nearly on my own, a lonely pursuit of angst-filled growth and delirious abandon, when I concluded that I wished my parents would have reigned me in more, made the effort; my limitations were few and the responsibility of that freedom was overwhelmingly burdensome. I was lonely, and my life felt like one huge scary spin of outright disregard for my own safety–even to a 17 year old alley cat on a crash course to world wise self-sufficiency.
At Venice Beach, I met the strolling acoustic guitar players, Steve Gibson and his accompaniment Kenny, who called sneakers tenny runners. They sang Dead songs and other tunes I knew, mostly soft folk songs I enjoyed while stoned, The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood and Loggins and Messina baby songs. I followed those two every weekend and ended up naked with Steve on some grass strip embankment edging a public park. Steve, blonde haired curly lead, was the heart throb, but my fondest memory of the two belongs to Tennyrunner Kenny. I somehow found myself in a bathtub naked with Kenny, the shorter, straight haired less confident but sweeter one. He was always high on whites and shaking a bit, shaky handed, but we had the most pleasant bath, I remember, giggling and playing footsie. So sweet and filled with I-don’t-dare-but-I-really-want-to tension teasing the vaporous heat emitted from the bath water. Those two moved on pretty quickly in my life and memory.
And then there was the day I met Heather on the beach and smoked a joint with Heads she had just met. I showed up late to the gathering and did not know anyone. The joint I learned too late was laced with Angel Dust, and I recall liking neither the lack of warning nor the distortion it produced, as if I were seeing through the wrong end of binoculars. The warped vision disturbed me; I had a hard time maintaining my composure. That may have been the last time I saw Heather. She disappeared. Presumed dead. Thirty-eight years later theories still circulate about murder, escape, serial killers and marriage.