Discrimination

That is a term of consideration when choosing an outfit as in yes, I have discriminating tastes. It is a choice of quality of cotton, wool, silk, leather, shoe styles.

I do not like it when it comes to people. I learned from age three about discrimination. My husband wants to learn to go white water rafting by reading a book (he recently wrote one, not on that subject) and in Cat 4-5 rapids I’d rather have the two of us and a guide leading us between the rocks and waterfalls and telling us when to paddle. I discriminate against his tastes when it comes to our safety. We did a five-hour river run in two hours. It was scary.

Same with discrimination. I was three when we moved to a small village we called home, and we lived on a dead-end street. Street was perfect for touch football, back yard could do softball between two trees. They’d call for Dad during dinner and he asked them to wait. He said “everyone plays.” In touch football it was boys and girls. In softball we’d arrange to take babies for a homer and they would conveniently fumble the ball in the field. Oops!

I was learning to cook on my own as my mother would not teach me or allow me to touch anything in her kitchen. In 7th grade I was slotted for Home-Ec. The boys took Shop. I went all the way to the Principal to take Shop and he said no. I was a 11 year-old girl (went to school early).

Later we were let out of school early to go to Catholic classes once a week and we walked there. It was my younger sister and I, and a teacher’s kids with older sister, younger brother. Brother and I led the pack while sisters were a few feet behind making fun of the brother all the time. I protected him and made him feel good about himself. Years later I found out he was gay. His sister has contacted me years after that to say they’re best friends and sorry and thanks for taking such good care of him.

There were incidents in high school when I championed the downtrodden, not necessarily gender specific but bullies. I was 90 pounds back then but no-one beat me up. I led the gymnastics team junior and senior year, a “team” sport but individual competition. Senior year our ringer, an elite gymnast who went to our school, performed and got good numbers at the State finals, and walked into the locker room to dress to go home. I walked in to speak with her. We all stood by and cheered you on, the least you can do is cheer for them. She said no.

Let me make this clear. I go to Coach, she goes to the judges, invalidates your medal and you’re off the team as of now if you decide otherwise. It’s my decision as Captain. After a few moments she wanted her medal before her team but sat out there and rooted for her mediocre teammates. We didn’t win, of course but one cannot let a diva show up and leave when she is on a team.

The hardest challenge was sexual orientation. We went through many drafts and got it passed in our house. Dead in the other. I helped get legislation passed that helped with employment and housing, and paved the way for gay marriage. It only took thirty years!

Twenty years ago I took on another project, as a volunteer. For six years I tried to help dog owners in the parks for which they pay to allow legal leash-free activity for responsible owners of well-behaved dogs. My initial paper was called “A Piece of the Park Pie.” It had statistics from all over the world, especially the Australia Study. You don’t need fences. Our park was never designated as they didn’t like my criteria even though I placed well within bounds, but with no boundaries. There are 629,926,000 dogs in the US but we don’t have access to parks or public space that our taxes pay for.

My old dog who died 16 years ago was abused by a deputy sheriff for a year then relinquished to a no-kill shelter where I started volunteering that day and I took care of her. I came every week, even in a neck brace when I couldn’t take her for a walk. I adopted, rid her of fear of being kicked, trained her and let her know that men, even men in hats, are OK, as are kids. Kids used to ask Mom to leave the tot lot to pet her. When she died all the neighbors donated for a tree in her memory. The “nazi’s” who thought they ran the park, left. Now when I go on Google Earth there more trees around and I can’t even find it.

It is always good to have success. In grade school my friends, two brothers who owned a dairy down the road, saved me because I was an easy target or a threat.  I was eight. Three brothers were assaulting me on a school bus. They ripped my winter hat in half tossing it around the bus. I was crying and taken to the Principal’s office (I thought I was in trouble) and asked to identify photos. They knew the kids. No phone, took the mail before their mother got home. The next day they never looked at me, talked to me or touched me ever again. My farm neighbors, six from one family, six from his brother’s, confronted them (they still have never told me this) without any brutality and told them what would be in store if they did so.

In the end, being smart and having good parents (both gone now) is a good thing. I only wish I could have taken Shop rather than Home-Ec (that’s another story), Dee

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