“Hi Femina,” the little one calls out immediately, “you know where we were today?” She beams with enthusiasm. “We were at the animal museum! That was great, wasn’t it mum?”
Her mother nods but seems less impressed. “They have done a good job,” she says. “The animals looked very real and were placed amongst realistic imitations of their natural habitat. They provided earphones for the original sounds. They had video shows and even a little real zoo where the animals could be stroked and fed. But surprisingly, they had no holograms.”
Femina shrugs her shoulders. “You are surprised? Don’t I always say, that here they live on the …..”
“Yeah, yeah, so you say,” Tina interrupts her. Uh, she does not seem to be in a good mood though she tries to hide it.
“What did you like best?” Femina asks the little one while ordering Robbi to bring tea. She sits down on the lounge opposite them. The little one leans on to her mother and searches in her memory, the face showing variable stages of delight. After all she says: “The kangaroos in the zoo! Some of them had joeys in their pouches and some ate out of my hand. And can they jump! Hop, hop! Big hops! And they poked me when I had no food left!” She stops talking, is obviously caught up in her sweet memories.
Instead, Tina continues: “We have to move too! She needs to see real life, live life. That is better than any museum. So, that means we have to move.”
Femina agrees. Absolutely! The little one should get the best education possible, meaning theory and experience, that’s the combination that ensures best results.
“By the way,” the little one interrupts, “I hope you don’t mind, I have programmed tonight’s dinner!”
“Ah”, replies Femina, “as long as I was not forgotten!”
The little one answers with a smile of uncertainty and some fleeting doubt, but then returns to a self-confident attitude. “I am sure you will like it.”
“Well,” says Femina, “no reason to doubt that!” but she thinks about the consequences that are likely to ensue. She is at present free of her desires for cakes and chocolates and similar delights. That is not always the case. She has a sweet tooth and calls herself a binge sweet and chocolate addict. She knows, her abstinence is seriously challenged as soon as chocolate melts on her tongue. At times she thinks she could live on chocolate alone. Here, in this country abstinence is particularly difficult because the many cooks and chefs outdo each other with their sweet creations. There is no replacement, not even fruit that she loves. Though one can buy local and imported tropical fruits they taste as if they h never saw the sun but ripened in laboratories, sprayed and polished to look good and keep fresh. When she closes her eyes her taste buds actually don’t know what she is eating. She does not even trust they provide the vitamins fruit have. For that matter she takes tablets. At least then she knows, what she is eating. May be. It sure is chemistry without pretending to be fruit.
Robbi’s monotone techno-voice brings her back from her drifting thoughts. Nobody reacts, so he collects the empty cups and disappears into the kitchen. The little one races after him, coming back with a bottle of ‘Lifespender’, a drink that kids are obsessed with and as it mixes well with alcohol, also adults love it.
“You are sooo right,” Femina turns to her friend, “you really should move too, the sooner the better! By the way, last night I was blasted. I have never been able to drink, but probably I need a reminder from time to time.” Tina nods. “I really wished you could stay longer. You would then meet my new boyfriend as well,” she adds.
“I would like to meet him too,” the little one exclaims. “I also have a boyfriend. We go to the same school and he brings me chewing gum every day to prevent me from getting braces just like him ‘because chewing is good’, he says.”
“Ah, how considerate of him,” Femina answers, “but while chewing is healthy, it does not mean the chewing gum is.”
Obviously Tina must have told her already. “Yes, yes, I know,” she says without much interest.
Tina remained silent, but stares at Femina, lips tightly pressed together. She does not seem to be interested in the prospect to meet her friend that is.
“Is he really that extraordinary?” she asks after all. “Men are just men, none better than the other. As long as they don’t have you, they chase you, just like the keen tom cats. After they got what they were after you are just a trophy. Do you really believe your shining knight is different? Or is it that you would like a second opinion from me because you are not sure? She disapprovingly shakes her head. “You are uncorrectable!”
Femina is bewildered: “Firstly, I think he is the exception, and secondly, what do you see as uncorrectable on me!? You have given up men and I have given up children. So, what is here uncorrectable!!”
“You still think you can find a true togetherness with them. Forget it!”
“My dear, but there is!” Femina smiles candidly.
“Well, you can get together, but that is it!” Tina does not let go.
Femina agrees with her friend to some extent. After all, she may have said yes to children if she didn’t. For that matter however, you do not need the other gender anyway. There are sperm banks and frozen embryos and even more orphans. But she cannot reject men the way Tina does.
“What do you expect from me?” She asks her somewhat irritated. “Should I suddenly love women, because you can’t forgive men that they exist?”
“Incapable they are! Incapable of love, incapable of commitment. They always were, they still are. And what about our Sozieternas? Though they may be a bit better compared to the rest, but can you really rely on them? Who raises the children when the relationship ends? We do it! We women!!!” She gets more and more carried away. “Peacocks they are!” She hisses angrily. She conveniently overlooks the fact, that it is usually the mothers insisting to be the primary care givers after a split from a Sozieterna and definitely so, if the father is not one.
“And? What do you have against peacocks? Beautiful creatures they are!”
“Yes, they are,” the little one agrees.
“Well, then they are leeches!” Tina corrects defiantly.
“Igitt!” The little one laughs turning up her nose. “But Charlie is no leech!” she says. That must be her chewing gum supplier.
“He is just in the state of loved up Puss,” explains an unrepentant mother.
Femina and the little one look at each other suggestively, shrugging their shoulders in resignation. Arguments won’t get them anywhere. Tina is caught in an emotional trap. To free herself she needs to be honest, not angry.
Dinner is ready. The little one hurries ahead and in Feminas bowel sits a lurking appetite. He turns into a monster, devouring pizza, cheese crepes, poached tinned fruit salad with ice cream and at the end a coffee with cream. And because her belly turned into a little round boulder, she has fresh orange juice to soften the stony feeling. Well, the juice is cold and looks and smells like an orange. It even does not taste too bad either.
While they were eating Tina remained mostly silent. They left her in peace. She might be struggling with an internal conflict. May be she realizes that giving up men does not mean dreams end regarding the future. Femina believes it is easier for herself, having her own dreams, but seeing the future as a possibility rather than a ‘must be.’
After having finished dinner, Femina tries to re-open communication: “Well my dear, I wonder if I am on the right track here and please don’t get me wrong or get angry at me………It is good that we keep dreaming, that we don’t lose our dreams, no matter what. Honestly, I think I am closer to mine now than ever, to…..”
“Is that so?” Tina interrupts her sharply. “How come? Because you have fallen in love with superman?”
The little one gets up, leaves them to their battles. She retreats to play some video games. Robbi cleans the table and potters around in the kitchen. They stay in the dining room, having their after dinner cigarettes. Robbi brings them a fresh pot of tea.
“Tina please,” Femina starts again, “don’t be so unfair! I sure have made decisions after examining the conflict between men and women. But we a r e emancipated and that is the main point.”
“You have given up you mean, isn’t it so?”
“Call it as you wish! It is not how I see it. I am absolutely pleased to be able to make my life my own, solve my own problems, make my own decisions. I don’t have to deal with the other’s problems nor continue in a relationship that has little or no meaning. No duty that binds me or is expected of me. I cannot stand to be or fulfil another’s expectation.”
“Exactly!” Tina agrees. “That’s why I don’t understand why you continue to get involved with them. Can’t you just nibble? No, you have to make a full meal of it!”
“So what!” Femina says, becoming more and more annoyed. “It just happens that way. I prefer it to one night stands. That is a question of choice, isn’t it? But where is your tolerance? And worse, where is your consideration for your girl? You instigate what you complain about. Don’t you see how that must influence her? And you claim to be objective!!!” Femina reminds her of last night: ‘I don’t want her to become prejudice….,’ quoting her.
“But I only want to prevent her from disappointments……….” Tina stops subdued.
“Indeed!” Femina smiles forgivingly. That is called ‘the turning of tables’. The same words coming from other lips, the same deposition with a different meaning.
“You are sooo right!” Tina’s voice is now soft and so is her demeanor. “Sometimes I can’t help myself. Seeing the damage they have caused and still do. Nothing ever changes without a big fight. Disregarding evidence, never listening. Sozieterna can try as much as they want, all reasoning falls on unprepared grounds.” Her eyes widen to dark circles. She is worried about the future with worries that only a mother’s heart can know. She wants a future for her daughter that is a happy one. And there is after all a gender division and male domination.
“Today our roles are obviously reversed,” says she. “Today you are the one in peace. I wonder…..,” smiling she wanders off in deep thought. ‘Why is she so upset? Did she not have a good day with her girl?’ She revisits the day chronologically and then the penny drops,…..the girl,…..museum,……finally the mentioning of Femina’s boy-friend!
Looking up, she says in disgust: “They killed them, extinguished them!! You can only see them in the museum, and the killing still goes on!”
Femina understands. She has no answer. It is as Tina says. She can only share her pain. She just wants to point out that men are not the only one to blame, women do have after all to take some blame, but before she can express her thoughts, Tina continues: “No need to tell me, I know. Forget my angry tirades. My anger is gone. With the diagnosis you have the therapy!” She chuckles. Of course, while that is correct treatment is not necessarily that simple. “May be, you tell me now a bit more about your shining knight and why he is invited into your castle. I am curious!”
Femina stops silent. Suddenly she does not know what to say. Hesitating she start with: “He is good looking…” But falling silent again her thoughts carry on. ‘She really should not have mentioned him. That was so ridiculous. Tina, you relentless beast!’
They look at each other and then laugh out loud. There they are, shuffling the hot iron to and fro. They don’t even need a mirror. They can see themselves in the other. Internal conflicts are disowned and made to the other’s problem because it is so easy to deceive oneself and rebuke the other instead. The advice to keep our own house in order is well meant, but with too much going on in there we may not see the hidden und too much do we pay homage to our incomplete mind and our vanity.
“So now, what is it? Don’t you want to tell me anything anymore?” Tina seems to think she feels hurt, but she certainly is not. She just finds it too ridiculous to sing her boyfriend’s praises. Why? She does not know why, or does she? Is it because it does not sit well with the claim to be emancipated? Rubbish! She can rave about whom or whatever she wants. However, only the future can tell if her boyfriend was worth the praises. He has to prove it first, isn’t it? Nothing to do with emancipation which goes far beyond the man-woman relationship anyway. Every single person must figure out if they are ready to or can live their life on their own, owning their life as a matter of fact. It is a social question.
Still stuck on her thoughts turning to Tina she says: “Emancipation is the new foundation to build a better future for this world, don’t you think? It is worthwhile to give it at least a try. May be we can see it happening? What do you think? Then again, maybe not!”
Tina purses her lips contemptuously. “Praise to your hopes, but you know, it will need revolution not evolution, and I am all for it, because there is too little time. Males will not let go without a fight. I beg your forgiveness!”
“As you like, my dear. Both will be necessary!’
“Good! We have reached a consensus! I am so glad! But, didn’t I actually ask you to tell me about your new flame?” Laughing Femina agrees.
To make themselves more comfortable, they return to the living room. Robbi is ordered to bring more tea and then he has to play chess with the little one who got bored playing alone. Indeed, Femina is very pleased with this model. She does not need any of the sophisticated new androids though they may be the perfect servants helping their owners in many more ways than she can imagine. They may even disperse loneliness for some or fulfil any other desires. Femina shudders. She definitely prefers to go to bed with a real man.