Ms. Magazine    
feminist news wire feminist archives

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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This essay first appeared online in the Spring 2000 collection at www.ducts.org


Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963
By Helen Zelon

Our neighbors bought their houses with GI loans. The fathers had gone to college on the GI Bill. Mothers stayed home, or worked as school aides or secretaries while grandmas baked cookies and marshmallow treats. My parents were in the war, too, but not as soldiers. Now, they were American. They were engineers. Their work was rocketry and war planes; they knew top secrets and wouldn't tell, even when I begged to know just one tiny confidence. Friends they played poker with on Saturday nights had numbers tattooed on their arms, and nobody, but nobody, knew from marshmallow treats.

If the land of the Beach Boys and eternal summer was not for me, I decided, I was not for it either. In New York, my book promised, you could be different-- dark, foreign. I realized I had been born in the wrong place, a tragic error in my parents' epic saga of war, survival, immigration and resettlement. The phoenix had risen from the ashes, yes, but had wound up on the wrong coast altogether. I was a New Yorker meant to be. I was eight, and I was moving East, as soon as I could manage it.

It snowed in New York, it said so in my book. Great white blizzards of snow, banking up on the streets, going gray with street grit, drifting into the ravines of Central Park. It confettied down the subway grates, and newsstand vendors had to bundle against the cold, damp white. It said so in the book.

On Monday, I rode to the library as usual, but diddt check out a new book. Instead, I renewed "Cricket," and read it through again, looking for a secret recipe for snow, hint, any clue. At night, I punched my pillow up to make bolster while I read. A tiny white down-feather pricked my cheek through the cotton ticking. I pulled it out, puffed it off my fingertip with an easy pah! of breath and watched it drift and settle onto my lavender bedspread. It lay there, balanced on a tuft of chenille, and the thought exploded in my 8-year-old brain. I had my plan.

The next morning, as usual, my father rose before the sunrise, with ample time for his habitual meticulous toilette-- shaving three times with a clean razor blade, twice against the grain of his beard and once, with it. Cleanliness was how he survived the camps, he said. He respected himself more than the others, and it showed. A fine appearance remained a principal talisman for success in his new country, where he could once again afford worsted wool suits and leather shoes with laces. His rinsed-clean shaving brush stood on the porcelain rim of the bathroom sink as my mother began her own catechism, of cosmetics and perfumes, that allowed her to present her professional self to the world.

Max Factor pancake makeup and rosy creme blush, light-blue powder eyeshadow, Maybelline pencil eyeliner, then mascara. Bouffant beauty-parlor hair tamed into a buoyant flip by a shower of Aqua Net hairspray. A burst of Chanel No. 5-- my mother's homage to her idol, Marie Curie-- and Revlon's Love That Red lipstick finished her face. She bent across me, perched on the back of the toilet tank, to tear off a single square of toilet tissue. Carefully separating the paper along the perforations, she folded it precisely in half and blotted her lips. On school days, she often tucked that square of tissue into my lunch sack, a loving kiss from an absent mother. But now, in summmer, she gave it to me. I tried to match my lips to hers, on the paper, and carry some of the vivid color to my own small mouth.

My father left for work in his sporty white Monza. My mother, after her customary morning repast of rye toast, smoked cod, coffee and unfiltered Herbert Tareyton cigarettes, welcomed Mrs. Rollins, then drove off in her big bronze Buick Skylark. In my mother's absence, Mrs. Rollins' indifference to me was unfettered by any concern for How It Looked. She took care of me, saw to it that I was fed and clean, but saved her love for Edie. Today, that was good: I was aiming for late afternoon, when my sister had her bath and when Mrs. Rollins, the mother of two grown sons, filssed with Edie's curly hair with the infinitely patient attention that mothers of men lavish on little girls' coiffiires.

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