Why marrying a feminist man was the best decision I ever made.
My husband is a feminist. A powerful, understated feminist. And it took me years to realize it.
As 17-year-old college freshmen friends chatting over dorm food one day, I shared with him that my new dance rehearsal schedule would have me at the on-campus dance studio until 10:30 every Wednesday night. He gently offered to meet me after rehearsal and walk me home, in a way that did not assume that was what I wanted or needed.
I was relieved he offered, because that 10 minute walk late at night across campus to my apartment made me uneasy as a newly minted San Franciscan. Every Wednesday for that entire semester, he waited outside the door of the dance studio at 10:30, walked me home, and said goodnight from the bottom of my front steps as I walked through my door. Then he headed back to his dorm room.
As sophomores, we often went to parties together. Still “just friends,” I was always drawn to his energy: he poured everyone drinks, blasted Italian rap music, and never got out of control. He was the friend who inserted himself politely in a conversation when a drunk guy was getting a little too close to me, talked calmly to the campus police when they knocked on my door with a noise complaint, and stayed late to help clean up my empty jello shot covered kitchen.
When I was 19, I began to realize our friendship had a foundation of really sincere love for one another, and we started officially dating when I visited him in Italy while he was studying abroad our junior year. Before we decided to become a couple, on a train somewhere between Florence and Milan, I felt in my gut that I needed to tell him the truth about something really important: that summer, I’d had an abortion. The truth was much more than that though. I’d had an abortion, and it changed me, a lot, for the better. And I was proud of those changes. And he needed to know them to know me.
He listened carefully as I told him everything — from the fling with the guy, to the amazing nurses I had at Planned Parenthood, and most importantly how deeply empowering the whole process was for me as a young woman making an important healthcare decision about my body and my future.
His response? “You are so strong.”
And finally, I was strong. I had struggled with depression for the majority of my teenage years –as my closest friend in college, he was aware and supportive. Around the same time I got pregnant, my psychiatric treatment had finally started to show true progress. The inner strength and personal agency I found through the abortion process helped me see how much I’d healed and grown, and that strength became an important part of my identity as a young woman.
My feminist husband respects my story and my experiences. He looks at me affectionately as I freely share my abortion experience with friends over dinner. He stands beside me at pro-choice rallies. He thanks me when I go to the gynecologist for birth control, as he says, “for us.” My feminist husband doesn’t shout his feminism from the rooftops. And he doesn’t need to. He’s been showing it to me everyday since the first time he walked me home from dance rehearsal.