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Ms. Romney

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There is more to Ms. Romney than meets the eye.

How odd to wake up with Romney dreams.

I don’t remember much detail, but I was very aware of the letters of the name. Romney, Romney, Romney was everywhere. It was like a typed dream. And then there was the knowledge that Mrs. Romney, Ann Romney, has multiple sclerosis (MS). I awakened with the dream image of her name, Ms. Romney, and I knew it pertained to the disease.

I have to admit that I hadn’t given her a great deal of thought up until this point, except to consider the toll MS could take during a campaign and in fulfilling the responsibilities of first lady. However, after reading up on the symptoms, which vary widely depending on the degree of damage to brain and spinal cord, I realize that she may be able to manage very well.

I am assuming that she is also fortified by will, love, and a sense of marital duty defined by the Mormon Church she chose to join as a teenager. I am very curious about what kind of voice she would have as first lady.

By coincidence, I have recently finished reading a wonderful memoir by another Mormon woman. When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. It was inspired by her mother’s death from breast cancer. Her mother had willed Terry her journals but told her not to open them until after she died. When Terry did, she discovered that every single one—in shelf after shelf—was empty.

Terry says that Mormon women were expected to keep journals and bear children. I wonder if the blank journals were her mother’s act of rebellion. Whatever the explanation, Terry’s speculation about the intent inspired the “variations of voice” in this new book.

She had grown up in a culture in which it was a sin, as she put it, for a woman to speak out. Nevertheless she became an activist as woman after woman in her family—ten altogether—were diagnosed with breast cancer after living downwind from the atomic-testing grounds in Utah. The suggestion is subtle, but one gathers from her book that she has distanced herself from the church.

Williams has produced thirteen books including Refuge, possibly her most famous and described as an “environmental essay;” and her voice is revered among many women. She is an enormously gifted writer who has a mystical connection with nature that evokes an ancient time when women may have been priestesses of earth religions.

Interestingly enough, she too is afflicted by a serious disorder, a benign vascular tumor in her brain that bleeds periodically. When it does, her right side goes numb and she becomes weak, although she can still speak. When she was deciding not to have surgery, the doctor asked her how well she could live with uncertainty. “What else is there?” she responded.

The contrast between these two Mormon women seems significant at this time. The outcome of this election is very uncertain, and one wonders what role feminine issues will ultimately play. I think Ann Romney is much to be admired, but I see her standing at Mitt’s side in valiant support of the tradition of the feminine voice denied.

But back to my dream. The Ms. title seemed radically feminist when it was first introduced; now it has become a normative preface for any female. I have learned that the Dream Maker is a lot smarter than I am, and there is more to Ms. Romney than meets the eye. Ah, more uncertainty to live with.

 

 

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