The Inner Life of Someone’s Mother – Tales from the Archives
We are at a meeting of 4-H Leader Council. I am on the ballot for First Vice-President, chosen to run by a committee, so I agree. The committee gives their report a month before elections, so everyone can think about their choices. The other nominee for the job is a lady who stays with her child in Youth Council meetings instead of coming in with us so no one knows her. I feel funny while they tell about her and what a good leader and responsible person she is and then just read my name off. I feel like maybe I should have been given equal time but do not say anything, having already decided I don’t really want the job. I’m not even sure why they nominated me. I haven’t acted like officer material, and all I’ve done to draw attention to myself was to overflow the coffee pot and create a big mess at a meeting early in the year.
When the night for elections comes, everyone is joking and kidding. Campaign slogans are written on the board. Well, my opponent has declined to run so nominations are opened to fill her spot. A very popular man is convinced to run. He doesn’t even know the most important task is to provide refreshments for each meeting. His wife is up for president and all he worries about is whether he’ll have to take orders from her if they’re both elected. He clowns and tells everyone how unreliable he is. For a minute I am afraid they might actually elect me so I mention how my club was supposed to bring refreshments for the Youth Council meeting in January. We forgot all about it and were embarrassed in front of the largest, hungriest attendance in Youth Council history. Having established equal incompetence in the eyes of the voters I go confidently into the election, writing Joe’s name on my ballot.
The counters leave the room and return five minutes later with grim expressions. They hurriedly hand out blank papers and we know there has been a tie for one of the offices – but which one? I am amazed to find out it is between Joe and me! I am surprised and flattered to realize half the people there must have voted for me. I am also amazed that “Joe-come-lately” charmed his way to the other half of the votes without even being serious about the whole thing. Now I know I am going to feel bad if I lose. It is pretty clearly a popularity contest.
But then I look at Joe and see this great guy who clearly enjoys being involved with his family in 4-H. I know that he deserves to be sucked into some responsible position, just to make it hard for him to leave. The truth is, 95% of leader’s council members are women and any man who comes is likely to be elected to something at the earliest opportunity. It comes clear to me – a vote for Joe is a vote for masculine leadership in family affairs. He’s a shoo-in. I know I can organize refreshments for meetings. Joe needs to know he can do it too.
After he is elected I am able to go up and congratulate Joe and tell him I voted for him. I don’t mind losing the popularity contest. I enjoy reminding him what his new duties will be and even though he blanches a little, I don’t feel sorry for him. His wife wasn’t elected as president so not only will he not have to take orders from her, he’ll probably have her organizing refreshments before long.