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Free to Be You and Me

Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s we listened to an album a lot as kids called Free to Be You and Me, and we listened to it on vinyl.  This was a project put together by Second Wave feminist Marlo Thomas, and I think it had a lot to do with the way I think and feel about gender roles.  There were little skits, songs, and stories that all made a fairly huge impact on my life and psyche.  A particularly cute little skit – don’t worry, it is only about 2 minutes long:

In high school, I often told people that when I got married I would keep my last name.  People would respond with, “What if your future husband wants you to take his last name?” and my arrogant reply was always, “No one I would want to marry would make a big deal about it.”  One of the reasons I love Will?  He didn’t particularly care.  I had a cool last name so it made sense to him that I kept it.  I am pretty thankful every day that he was raised by a feminist mother who had a different last name than Will’s father.  It allowed my arrogant, 16 year-old self to be right.

Free to Be You and Me was and is something often quoted in my family.  There is a story about a “tender sweet young thing” who always cries, “Ladies first!  Ladies first!”  and I have quoted many parts of this particular story throughout my life.  Lines such as “So hand over a whole mango please.”  It makes more sense in context.  This one is only three minutes.  Have a look.

Anyway, this album was a huge part of my life growing up and when I got older, I realized that very few people were familiar with it.  We quoted various lines from it in my family, but once outside of family confines, people would look at me blankly.

There are tons of moments when you get to know someone that makes you like and eventually love them.  One of the moments I had with Will is he was completely familiar with Free to Be You and Me.  However, he was not as big of a fan of it as I was.  In trying very hard to subvert gender roles, there is one story on the album called William Wants a Doll and the refrain from this story song is a group of mocking people singing, “A doll, a doll, William wants a doll.”  With Will being a William, you can guess what the children he was around who listened to this album with him took from it.  Not the lesson that boys can play with dolls, but more that Will should be mocked with this song.  Another one that is three minutes long.

Now, while Will was not a fan of this album due to the whole William Wants a Doll situation, he did get what I would be quoting, especially handy when mango shopping.  He even eventually came to appreciate the album as much as I do, through seeing it through my eyes instead of the lens of mockery.  Because he is awesome like that.





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