“Rights”

               “Honey, this is where I belong. Women belong in the house to keep it clean and tidy for their husbands and make sure there’s a hot dinner waiting for them when they get home,” Rita said, staring up into her husband’s eyes.

               Jim stammered for a few seconds before he could overcome his frustration enough to talk. “Rita, women have rights. You don’t need to be here all day just to take care of me! I’m a big boy, if you happen not to be home when I get home, that’s okay! I can make dinner for you, too, you know.”

               “But that’s what a wife is for—to take care of her husband!”

               “Stop saying that. You’re not a fff—,” Jim almost cursed at his wife. He caught himself, took a deep breath, and resumed talking. “You’re not a slave. You need to get out of the house, get a job if you want to, take your car and drive somewhere – anywhere—and enjoy yourself! It’s your life and it’s just wasted if all you do is sit and wait for me to get home.”

               “My love, I don’t sit here all day. I vacuum, I dust, I make a list of small things that could use fixing whenever you have a chance,” she said, smiling up at him.

               “That’s another thing! You’re so smart, love, you can figure out how to fix those little things. The car and the air conditioning and stuff like that, yes, I can do that. But little things like a loose screw or a squeaky hinge on the kitchen cabinets? You can do that! You don’t need me to fix little things like that for you.”

               “A woman shouldn’t get her hands dirty, honey. Fixing things is a man’s job.”

               “Rita. We’re not in the fourteenth century here. We’re in the twentieth century. Look at all those movements people are starting to get women more rights! You have power! You’re not inferior!”

               “But we are inferior, honey. We’re women. A man is always above a woman.”

               Jim was so frustrated that he couldn’t help but yell. “No! You’re not inferior! You can vote, you can go into a bar and drink, you can go out and get a job and earn money to buy yourself things instead of relying on me! Sometimes I can’t afford to get you something you want because the car breaks down or whatever, but if you had your own money, you could get whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it!”

               “I’m not strong enough for a job, Jim.”

               “I’m not talking about construction, Rita, I’m talking about a job as a waitress or a small sales position or whatever you want to do!”

               The more Jim yelled, the quieter Rita got.

               “You really do believe you’re not strong enough to do anything more than do housework. You really believe you don’t have the rights I have.”

               Rita nodded. It was all she could do, because if she tried anything more, her cheeks would soon be wet with tears. In fact, a few tears did fall even though she really wasn’t that upset. She was just as frustrated as her husband was—frustrated that he didn’t understand that in the house was where she belonged. Jim was frustrated because he knew that Rita deserved to exercise her rights in the world and enjoy her life.

               The two were silent together for a few minutes. Jim pulled his wife into his arms as she cried, holding her tight and not caring that the front of his shirt was going to be soaked when he let go of her. He breathed deeply, the scent of the shampoo that she always used bringing back memories of the romance they shared for so many years.

               When Rita could finally take deep breaths again, Jim spoke. “Tell you what, sugar. I’ll take the day off tomorrow and we can go to a few places that you might like to work and you can talk to the managers to see if they could use some help. You can tell them that you’re not sure if you want a long-term job right now, that you just want to try it out. There are a few places where I’m friends with the managers, and we can see if they’ll bring you on temporarily, so you can see what it’s like for a month or two. You can decide if you like it or not, but only after you spend enough time there to get a real feeling for the work. Okay?”

               She thought about it and decided she would try, if only to make Jim happy. She had always been curious about what it would be like to work and bring in her own money. Maybe, if she got comfortable enough with working, she could try other rights she apparently had, too. Things like voting, or maybe going out for a drink like Jim said. Yes. She was going to enjoy her life from now on. People were out there fighting for her to have rights like men, and she was going to make their time worth the effort.

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