I’ve had a girl crush for a while on Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Like many women I have been caught up in the wave of appreciation for her since seeing the 2018 documentary “RGB” and the feature film, “On the Basis of Sex.” These films taught me that while I was busy living my life, she was busy making sure I had the opportunity to live it to the best of my abilities. Her untimely death on September 18 should be just one more “shaking my head” reaction to the “top this” national news of 2020 and yet, I mourn.
I mourn because she reminded us that you can ”disagree without being disagreeable.” I mourn because she fought so very hard to outlast a president she didn’t trust to replace her and lost the race. I mourn because she spent her life’s work fighting to give me more opportunities. I mourn because I see the impact of her influence on my daughters’ lives, careers and relationships. I mourn because as a national figure she made a difference in a way that feels personal to little old me.
When Ruth began fighting the gender discrimination she came across in her own life, I was a girl growing up in the 60s in a very traditional household. Dad worked, Mom stayed home with us and cooked our meals, sewed our clothes and occasionally drove Dad to work so she could have the car to run her errands. If there were households out there that did family life differently I was not aware of them.
I grew up. I went to college. But, while Ruth was working to draft equal opportunities for me, I was rather unfocused. I was too immature and unworldly to understand all that was laid before me. I wanted to be a writer, but shrank away from the unknown world of journalism and instead got a teaching degree. Through it all I fell back on what I knew worked for my mom: a home, a husband, a family. I married 6 months after graduating and soon after became one of the last of the housewives. I gladly stopped teaching full time when I started having babies and turned my focus to raising children.
Ruth became a Supreme Court Justice the same year I had my second child. The year I had my third child she led the court in deciding that college doors must be opened for women in the same way as they are for men. During the 90s her circle of influence stretched across a nation, mine across a family room.
Now I will never say I made the wrong decision. I have truly been blessed with an incredible life, marriage and children. For me and my family, being a stay-at-home mom worked. But as I grew older, I grew restless and focused a bit too much on the “what could have beens.”
Fast forward to an empty nest and I sometimes feel as if I am hurtling towards the Golden Years. I also feel as if I am on deadline. There’s too much to learn, too much to pursue, too many gaps to fill in my own story.
Few have the drive to be as notorious as RBG. I cut myself some slack but I don’t let myself off the hook either. There is much in me that can be fine tuned and improved upon, even as I bump up against the realities of a calendar that just keeps turning to the next week, month, year with alarming speed. I realize that Ruth’s tenure on the Supreme Court started when she was 3 years older than I am now and that feels like the gift of inspiration. I turn to some favorite RBG quotes, (yes, I have a list, it’s that girl crush piece of this story.) “Real change, enduring change happens one step at a time” and “You can’t have it all, all at once.”
Ruth Bader Ginsberg wanted more for me when I didn’t even know what I wanted. Her legacy isn’t as outwardly evident in my life story as I wish it would have been, but it is trickling down through my daughters. They are both stronger women than me in their own ways. I am a late bloomer though and thanks to her it is easier for me to continue to shape my legacy now, after raising them.
So, thank you Ruth. Thank you for your example. Thank you for dissenting with grace and dignity, never compromising, never settling. You are a great example to me, the last of the housewives.