- Two years pass, and you are graduating UCSB, not tangled up in love, strongly focused, the proudest day of your young life, donning the cap and gown. In women’s history as an elective, you had been asked a question. “How will your life be different from your mother’s and grandmother’s?”
Years later you know the answer.
It’s going to be sad.
You won’t get to have children.
Men control what we can and cannot do.
I wanted a child. But I knew I never wanted to be like my mother, trying to raise children after a divorce. I wanted a solid, strong father for my children. By 28, that clock was ticking so loudly it screamed in my head. My best friend, and I, at fourteen, down on the beach at Butterfly, talking about how we would be pushing our strollers, wearing all that vintage lace we wore then, lace floating into seafoam, girls wearing periwinkle shells for necklaces just to be different from the puka shell girls.
By then, and I don’t think either of us had marriage as a goal in. High School, we had navigated the shoals of terrible relationships that had broken our hearts. Having fathers might have helped us. We didn’t that summer of 14.
Twenty eight and suddenly Alan is grabbing your jelly sandals at work and tossing them back and forth to Tony on the back dock. He’s so incredibly handsome, with a badger stripe of white down the center of his sandy dark hair.
What happens between you begins slowly and flirtatiously. You remember seeing him when you had worked in the cage, once, with the woman he was dating at that time, and thinking it, the handsomeness. On the floor, you’re all just friends, those breaks on the back dock. Flirty. Alan and Cathy. Suddenly, in the cold winter nights, warming up your Audi, the two of you look over at each other in the parking lot, night after night.
You didn’t know he had been married twice before then.
Margaux flirts with him. All the women do. It’s that body he had.
The best looking man in the entire place.
You knew he didn’t love her.
The typists hated her. That night at Wendy’s, after which they call you a food snob for liking the French food at Charlotte, better than their smelly Picadilly burgers, they raked her over their steely coals. Her clothes were too tight and she wiggled and jiggled in all the right places in the way that women do. He had lifted her out of her marriage, I suppose.
You realized then, the power of the women in that typing pool, all that cluck and peck.
After the two of you start dating, the gossip must have gone off the charts, with all of them. Suddenly you have the handsomest man in the whole building.
They didn’t like it.
By then, Harold was gone, and Gabe was dead. He’d had a heart attack, after he was dumped by the plastic pocket protector shortie that came out from Florida to run things. Mr. Catamaran. He likes to make fun of your gorgeous designer clothes, from behind, and he is the first shit you will meet during the years of the newspaper shuffle.
He promotes a machinist into position. Hurtling him to what will be the top with lightning speed.
Sharon, in her masculine chinos, says, “Well, I guess you found somebody to pay off your student loans now.”
The hatred was so pure, out of her. Those slitted eyes. Her angry everything. She must have really hated me, that day they sent me the credit card from American Express and all the guys on the Floor laughed.
“Are you a graduating senior making more that $10,000 a year?”
Suddenly I had the same card my Grandfather and Uncle had.
Little did she know I was responsible for paying off my debts, myself.
No wonder I wanted to be up in Editorial.
I pined for it actually.
For one thing all the women were fashionable especially Cissy. She was married to one of the best photographers who taught at UCSB, and Gary, all leather jacketed and cool. They were hip, and things upstairs were about to change.
Linda was brought in from outside and she pulled Gil the Gardener’s column.
It was tragic.
Suddenly we weren’t a small town paper.
At Robinson’s I ran into Joan in the dressing room, where we were both trying on clothes. She was shaking. That’s how it was in those years, with the kind of meanness that was saturating the entire place. I don’t know how most of us took it.
We formed pockets of friends in corners, those years.
I will say Mr. Catamaran did one good thing. He gave Wenke a gold watch for retirement. Like the Newspapermen were supposed to get.
They broke up the associations by making promises of big money.
It was the era of Wellness.
Suddenly the fantastic insurance we all had?
Was split into plans. There were four to choose from, and the executives had the best one. Suddenly we were in the era of Middle Manager, upon Middle Manager, like tiers. Most of them were pretty stupid and how they got there?
Was by kissing ass.
I was never going to dress like some of the women at the paper who were using their sexuality to climb the corporate ladder.
One of the reporters upstairs, who was a clone looks-wise for Hefner’s Benton, those mini dresses and boobs on parade? The men in Composing nearly fell all over her. All she did was bend over after bend over near them.
All of us watched.
All the women’s eyes collectively rolled.
Most of them had kids, or were single mothers and those were the only women the men actually respected.
“The best thing you could do is marry him,” Joby warned me.
It was three years of push and pull to give up my freedom. I knew that once I said yes, my whole life would change.
Harvey became our boss.
The feelings we had after Gabe was gone, would be impossible to explain, all that Italian charm he had. Harvey was the opposite. His father ran the Camera Department and he was a small town boy. Harold was gone and suddenly his wife Vicky was running Sue’s old job of dummying the paper.
They concentrated on busting up the unions we had in Pre-Press and Press and Camera and Composing. The company back east who bought the paper was very famous in New York. Suddenly they were bringing in people from all over, not Santa Barbara people. It had always been a small town paper and not like big city style. They were buying up papers all over.
Do you know what Harvey did to me?
He ruined my wedding.
One of the first rules was that no two people could be off on the same day in Composing.
So that meant no honeymoon.
Can you even imagine that?
Getting married and you can’t have a honeymoon?
That is how shitty it was.
Suddenly we were being ruled by a machinist who had come up from the dirty, greasy bowls of the building down in the basement.
Of, course, his father was happy.
He was a small town boy, and his dad got him the job.
Again I faced being terrified in a man’s world.
Do you know what he said to me?
I went in to tell him we were going to be married.
“You let me know the date, and I’ll let you know your options,” he said, with a sneer.
I never had any proper wedding pictures. We had one day off, and it was right back to work. I had resisted, at first. How could I have understood what it was going to be at 28?
By then they were selling off the Goss.
George Anton was gone.
George who had made me my Pressman’s hat.
George whose Louisiana rumble and laugh, the best Pressman ever, so warm and so kind, chasing those pages night after night the way we did, never a mistake, we caught them all.
He made me a hat from the cartoon insert, on a Sunday.
All the decency of the paper was gone. Toward the people.
He was in his early 30’s then.
I was 28, and my husband was 42.
After we married the phone calls started coming.
It was Margaux, and Carol his second wife. She worked there upstairs, running the Library. She and Sue.
Most of the time we were on separate schedules, and we didn’t have the same days off.
Joby became my closest friend in those years, and a few of the typists, like Myrna. She would be going to Pacifica, too. Down the road.
Tony had planted himself in my apartment, and he didn’t want to leave, so, I had been taking pottery as an art class down at Schott Center, with all the finest teachers, after UCSB. I went trough a full range of all the Studio Art classes at City College, and he bought me a Brent.
I still have it.
Barbara my teacher, said “he must really love you,” to me.
It would be all the potters in the class who threw me a Bridal shower.
I never had a chance to have a wedding, really. We married standing on the compass rose in the tower at the Courthouse.
Three years from the day he sent me three dozen peach roses at work. When they came into the Composing Room it must have been a first. The gasps and sighs from the women at the sight of them. I married a gentleman. Our first date at Jimmy’s, he ordered a Martini.
You will learn it takes many years in a marriage, to know your husband.
I had married an artist. I had married an intellectual, and he was an Englishman, to boot.
Newspaperpeople Memoir by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 10, 2021 – all rights reserved