Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xiv)

It was also on Lehman College’s campus that I met a new womanfriend one weekday afternoon on a warm Spring day in April 1971. After walking from my apartment, breathing in the fresh air of springtime and getting the spring fever feeling, I arrived on Lehman College’s campus and decided to eat lunch that day in Lehman College’s student cafeteria, since I was hungry and had never eaten there before (and would never ever eat inside there again).

After filling my lunch tray with some cheap food and then paying the cashier, I looked around the crowded cafeteria to see where I could sit. The student cafeteria at Lehman College was smaller than the student cafeteria at Queens College, where I had often eaten lunch while taking a few summer school courses there nearly two years before, in the Summer of 1969. But nearly all the students in the Lehman College cafeteria in 1971 looked a lot more culturally straight than the students in the cafeteria at Queens College had looked in 1969, and the ratio of women to men in the Lehman College student cafeteria was much more equal. In the Queens College student cafeteria in 1969 there seemed to be about 7 women students for every 3 male students, and a much larger percentage of the Queens College men students had long hair; and, although mainly apolitical, the young men there still seemed to identify more strongly with the hippie youth culture of the late 1960s than did the Lehman College male students eating lunch in its student cafeteria in April 1971 (when being a hippie had become a less fashionable youth trend in the U.S. mainstream mass media marketing-manipulation-disinformation-system).

Finally noticing a table on the right side of the cafeteria with mostly vacant seats, I walked over to that table, which was also near the front of the cafeteria, put my tray of lunch down on the table, and started to quickly eat my food, since hanging out in the Lehman College cafeteria on such a nice Spring day seemed like a much less interesting and less pleasurable option than hanging around outside on the campus or in a local park for awhile.

But about five minutes later, across the cafeteria table and about a yard to my left, a young white woman student, about 5 foot three, with long, light brown hair, little make-up, no lipstick and intelligent-looking blue eyes, who was wearing blue jeans and a white blouse, put her tray down on the table and, without noticing me, sat down. Since the only reason she seemed to have chosen the seat across the table from me seemed to be that it had been the first vacant seat she had noticed in the cafeteria and not because she particularly was interested in sitting near me, after I glanced at the woman student, who looked like she was also in her early 20s, I, at first, assumed that once I finished eating my lunch I would just quickly get up and go on my way.

But right before I was about to leave the Lehman College cafeteria, I suddenly noticed that the woman student sitting across from me was reading a copy of the current issue of the Village Voice as she ate her lunch. Because nobody else in the whole student cafeteria was either reading that week’s issue of the Village Voice or even looked like they ever read the Village Voice, I became curious about what she was into.

So I moved a little more directly opposite and directly across from her on the cafeteria table and asked with a smile: “Is there anything interesting to read in the Voice this week?”

Surprised that I had noticed what she was reading and had asked her a question, the woman student looked up, glanced at me and answered: “A few articles seem interesting.”

“Not many other people seem to read the Village Voice at this school. How did you end up going to school at Lehman College?” I replied.

She then started to chat with me and we got into a heavy philosophical conversation for the next half an hour before she had to leave for an afternoon class. And by the end of our first conversation she had told me that her name was Eileen.

Eileen had a part-time job working at a day care center for pre-school children in the morning, but was taking some undergraduate courses, including some kind of a women’s studies course, at Lehman College on weekday afternoons, in order to get her BA. I can’t recall exactly what Eileen was majoring in, because she then seemed kind of vague, herself, about what exactly she wanted to get a BA degree in. But I think she was more into getting a degree in something related to getting a job in the human services field—like in child psychology, psychology, or sociology—than in some more go-to-grad-school-oriented heavy academic subject—like English, history or anthropology.

At the same time she was working part-time in the mornings and attending Lehman College in the afternoon, Eileen was also living with an apolitical guy, about the same age as us, who hadn’t gone to college, but who was apparently already making good money at a 9-to-5 blue-collar day-job.

But being a Village Voice reader and taking a women’s studies course at Lehman College in 1971 had apparently caused Eileen to feel more dissatisfied with the traditional kind of relationship she had with her boyfriend—who apparently didn’t have much of a feminist consciousness and apparently loved her more because she did the housework, cooked and fulfilled her sexual needs than because he also found her intellectually interesting and also enjoyed talking with her.

So, not surprisingly, once Eileen heard me articulate a radical left male feminist cultural critique of U.S. society, the 9-to-5 world, CUNY’s institutionally sexist and then-interpersonally sexist mass educational system, and the way U.S. women were then generally still exploited in both the home and in the U.S. work-world in 1971, Eileen seemed intellectually intrigued by me. Because what I was saying seemed to reflect the intellectual and philosophical wavelength she had drifted towards since she had started reading the Village Voice and begun taking undergraduate college courses.

But although I felt an attraction to Eileen after we first met and talked in the Lehman College cafeteria, once she left to go to her next afternoon class I assumed that, since she was living with her boyfriend, it was unlikely that I was going to get any closer to her on an emotional level in either the short-run or the long-run in 1971.