i just finished reading Black Narcissus by Rumor Godden. it’s the sort of novel i usually avoid–Westerners encounter “the other” and misunderstand and are misunderstood. i usually avoid them because they ring so true in my ears. two years after moving to the jungle, we were still showing up early or late or wearing the wrong colors or were otherwise not prepared. it wasn’t because we were trying to offend or because we were especially naive. even our best intentions somehow often missed the mark.
i had this same feeling of dislocation yesterday, right here in my own home town. we were driving out East ( to Ikea of all places: we got bunk beds for the children and needed new mattresses) and passed a curious coffee cart. it was called something like “Bikini Beans.” and sure enough inside the cart was a woman in pretty, striped bikini making coffee for a line up of men (all driving big trucks!?). what? where are we? what year is this? is this a legitimate business model? unfortunately, as i poked around on the internet trying to find the name of the place, i encountered several different carts with the same concept. there’s even a spoof video. so, yes. it’s Portland in 2013 and you can make money having women sell espresso in their bathing suits.
this makes me feel very confused and quite sad.
when i was pregnant with Mabel, i wanted to have a girl because for all the flack that women deal with in our world, it was flack i felt we could navigate together. i felt ready to tackle body image issues and the everyday misogyny. but how would i raise a boy? a boy who, unlike me, will experience male privilege. and now i have two sons and still feel at a loss.
we have love and respect and a family culture that values people over things. but is that enough?