My life-long yearning to become a newspaper reporter plunged my first marriage into an abyss. How could I possibly have predicted what a simple request would do? I asked my husband Richard if I could go back to college.
We had been married twelve years. Richard was a well-paid civil engineer for the City of Los Angeles. I was a stay-at-home suburban mom with two young sons, ages five and three. As they grew older, my desire to work for a newspaper grew stronger.
We lived several miles from Los Angeles Pierce College, a community college in the west San Fernando Valley that had a highly-regarded media-arts program. At the end of two years, a student could earn a certificate in journalism, public relations, or photo-journalism. The program was so outstanding, many of its graduates never went on to a four-year college; they were hired immediately by press outlets upon graduation.
My husband was in his early forties, eleven years older than me. He was conservative in his views—both politically and socially. He wasn’t happy that I wanted to go back to school, but he had known my dream from the beginning of our relationship. Richard’s point of view wasn’t different from other men in our social class in the mid-seventies: He earned a good salary and he wanted me at home, taking care of our sons, making sure dinner was ready when he stepped inside the house.
Although the woman’s liberation movement had begun in the late 1960s, I didn’t feel the draw of it then: I wanted children. The pull toward a career came as my sons George and Jimmy grew more independent. I was influenced by women’s magazines filled with stories of those who trumpeted a woman could do it all. Among my friends, the talk was of change, to be more than just housewives, and my hunger to accomplish my dream gnawed on me even more.
Despite Richard’s reluctance, I persuaded him to let me take one journalism class since George, my eldest son, was in Kindergarten. Pierce College also had a pre-school on campus for kids under five, and Jimmy would be cared for there while I attended the course.
My desire to become a newspaper reporter had evolved when I was about thirteen. I’m not sure where that aspiration came from because the major influence in my life was my mother’s family, all professional dancers who had worked on the stage during the Vaudeville era and then went on to perform in nightclub—glitzy high-end ones in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, where customers dressed in tuxes and gowns. As those kinds of venues came to an end, they still performed—but in crappy bars in the dregs of Calexico, Bakersfield, and Reno, where drunks whistled, stamped their feet, and rudely called out “take it off.” Those days ended about the time I was born, but their stories never left the family repertoire.
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