1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 19

1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 19

Chapter 10

“Praise be for a real bed,” said Gayle Mason. Examining the item of furniture in question and then her two companions, she added: “It’ll be a tight fit, though. That’s without adding any extraneous males, you understand.”

Julie Mackay and Vicky Short both grinned, albeit for different reasons. The down-timer’s grin was cheerful, recalling instances in which her bed had been shared with a male whom she did not consider extraneous at all, one Darryl McCarthy. She wouldn’t be enjoying his company this night, though, because the town they were staying at — say better, village; better yet, hamlet — lacked an inn and the only cottage they’d found with an extra room the inhabitants were willing to rent had nothing more than a bed any American would have called a single bed.

The bed was normally shared by two young daughters — neither more than ten years old — who would contribute to the family’s finances tonight by sleeping on the floor of the main room. The men in their party got to sleep in the barn. Which was at least a lot roomier.

The up-timer, Julie, whose enjoyment of marital privileges had now lasted long enough — three years, almost — that she took them for granted, had a grin on her face that was more resigned than anything else.

“Praise be,” she muttered, remembering less seventeenth-century times when she and Gayle, dyed-in-the-wool Americans, would have said Thank God without even thinking about it. But both of them were now romantically linked to Calvinists, who took the third commandment dead seriously.

Vicky left the room to bring in the few supplies they’d want for the night. Julie and Gayle exchanged a rueful smile.

“Look on the bright side,” said Julie. “Most of what we grew up hearing about up-tight fun-hating straight-laced Puritans turned out to be bullshit.”

Gayle chuckled. “Complete bullshit, at that. But” — she glanced around quickly, to make sure they were still alone — “dear God, they take their theology seriously, don’t they?”

Julie sat down on the bed and bounced up and down on it a couple of times. “Well, at least it isn’t too soft. With three of us in it, a soft bed would leave the middle one buried beneath the other two. Ain’t it the truth about the theology? But I will say this: it works mostly in our favor, when it comes to dealing with the menfolk. At least of the husband variety. The Calvinists are so bound and determined to pick a fight with the Catholic church that if the pope frowns on sex, they approve of it, and if the bishops and priests yap about the virtues of celibacy your good Calvinist — sure as hell my husband — is bound and determined to prove the papist bastids is full of crap.”

The smile what came to her face this time wasn’t rueful in the least. “Which is fine by me.”

She then bestowed upon Gayle a look that might be called speculative.

Gayle shook her head. “I can’t say from personal experience one way or the other. Oliver’s no prude, that’s for sure, but he is… what’s the word?”


“Yeah, that’s it. When it comes to some things, anyway. And it’s not as if opportunity is knocking. It’s one thing for married couples like you and Alex — even Darryl and Vicky, for that matter — to figure out ways to squeeze in a little nookie here and there. But when you’ve got two people like me and Oliver who are groping around trying to figure out…”

Gayle shrugged. “Everything. How we feel about each other. What he’s going to do with his life now — and do I want to fit myself into that? Because whatever he does you can be sure and certain it’s going to involve a grim determination to shorten one Charles Stuart by about eight inches — and let’s kick over the whole damn rotten applecart while we’re at it. Not to mention that he’s got a bunch of kids to deal with if and when we can find them.”

She took a deep breath and sighed it out. “Like I said. Everything. And while we’re doing so there is no way that Mr. Serious Cromwell is going to dally with my affections. As they say. Which… I have to admit, just makes him that much more attractive to me. The more time I spend in his company, the more time I want to spend in it. Which my hard-headed grandma once told me is the only definition of ‘falling in love’ that’ll stand the test of time. I think she was probably right.”

She went to the room’s one tiny window and peered out. As bad as the glass was, she couldn’t see much. In the seventeenth century, except for palaces and the homes of the wealthy, through a glass, darkly was a simple statement of fact.

“The truth is,” Gayle said quietly, “if Oliver and I do get married — and that’s all that man would ever settle for — the only big problem I see is that Puritans seem to find a theological justification for the wife being subordinate to the husband. And that’s sure not something I agree with. I’m no feminist, but –”

Julie laughed. Gayle turned to give her an inquisitive look. “What’s so funny?”

“You.” She waved at herself. “I guess I should say, us. I once said that except same thing to Melissa Mailey. ‘I’m no feminist, but — ‘”

Gayle smiled. “She must have reamed you a new one.”

“No, actually, what she did was worse. She just made fun of me. Ridiculed me, dammit. What she said was that every working-class American woman — girls, too — said exactly the same thing. ‘I’m no feminist, but.‘ And then we proceed to follow the ‘but’ with the entire litany of feminist demands that we’re in favor of. Each and every one.”

Julie raised her hand and began counting off her fingers. “Lessee, now. Right to vote. Check. Right to hold property. Check. Right to get paid the same for the same work. Check. Right to divorce the bum when he turns out to be a bum. Check. Right to make contracts in your own name. Check.

She dropped her hands. “Melissa challenged me to come up with a single feminist demand I didn’t agree with. Best I could come up with was that I thought burning bras was stupid.”

Gayle chuckled. “Same thing I would have said.”

“Yeah — and then Melissa explained to me that that was a bunch of bullshit invented by assholes. Turns out no feminist ever burned a bra.”


“Nope. Melissa told me the myth got started when a group of women protested the Miss America contest in Atlantic City — that was in 1968, if I remember right — by tossing bras along with girdles, cosmetics and high-heeled shoes into a big trash can. They also crowned a sheep. But they never actually set fire to the can.”

“Ha!” said Gayle, shaking her head again. “You learn something new every day.”

She looked back through the window. “I wish I could see the future better than I can see through this thing. I have no idea — well, okay, that’s not true; I have an idea, you bet I do — what’ll happen between me and Oliver. But…”

“Don’t sweat the wifely obedience business too much, Gayle,” Julie said. “Alex will swear by the same silly crap.” Her voice got a little sing-songy and picked up a Scottish burr: “It says right here in the Good Book that — prattle, prattle, prattle. But in the real world? He never pushes it. Men who are sure of themselves — which is part of what makes them attractive to us, let’s face it — just don’t seem to feel the need to keep proving who’s wearing the pants in the family.”

She and Gayle both looked at Gayle’s clothing. Which consisted of a bodice, ankle-length skirt and a bonnet — the same thing Julie was wearing herself.

“I sure do miss blue jeans,” said Gayle. “Although I admit this stuff isn’t as uncomfortable as I would have thought seeing it in movies. By now, I’m used to linen instead of cotton. Don’t even notice the difference anymore.”

Julie nodded. “That’s pretty much how it is being married to a seventeenth century fella, too — as long as you pick the right one. There are some differences, even a few big ones, but after a while you hardly notice anymore. But I emphasize the part about picking the right one.”

Gayle turned away from the window and cocked her head slightly. “So what do you think about Oliver? Think he’d be a right one for me?”

Julie pursed her lips. “Well… He’s a little… Well. Scary, I guess.”

Gayle snorted softly. “We are talking about Oliver Cromwell, girl. The Oliver Cromwell. Cut off a king’s head, ruled England like a dictator for years. Not to mention, if you listen to Darryl, slaughtered half the Irish.”

“Darryl hasn’t said that in a long time. I don’t think he even still believes it. The truth is — he won’t admit, at least not yet — but he likes Oliver. A lot, if I don’t miss my guess.”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Gayle. “Darryl’s a real hillbilly and when you get down to it, for all the obvious differences there’s something very hillbillyish about Oliver Cromwell too. If nothing else, they’re both bloody-minded in that scary-as-all-hell practical way they have about them.”

There was silence in the room, for a moment. Then Julie said: “But I’m not trying to duck the question. He’s a little scary, but the truth is I like Oliver myself. A lot, by now. And, yeah, I think he’d do okay by you, Gayle.”

A grin came back to her. “Keeping in mind that some people — whole lot of people, being honest about it — would say that you and me are pretty hillbillyish ourselves.”

Vicky came back into the room, carrying a bundle in her hands. She studied the bed for a moment.

“How’ll we do it?” she asked. “Decide which of us has to sleep in the middle, I mean. Draw straws? Flip a coin — assuming either of you has one, because I don’t.”

Gayle and Julie looked at each other.

“We could fight for it,” said Gayle.

Vicky sneered. “Me — against a couple of hillbillies? Do I look mad? I’d as soon wrestle a bull. No, we’ll do it civilized.”

In the end, they settled on rock-scissors-paper, after they explained the rules to Vicky.

Vicky won right off and picked the side away from the wall. Julie lost the runoff to Gayle.

“I’m fucked,” she grumbled.

“Not tonight,” said Vicky. “There’d be no room even if you weren’t in the middle.”


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19 Responses to 1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 19

  1. Terranovan says:

    About the “I’m no feminist, but” –
    There might be several issues that a lot (I’ll concede probably not a majority) of working class women would disagree with feminists on, depending on how you define the word “feminist” in the first place. Abortion comes to mind rather quickly.
    If you define “feminist” to mean one who advocates to give women (although “give” sounds like it might be a little patronizing) the right to vote, to initiate divorce, to sign a contract, to own property, and to avoid rape/harassment/discrimination – then it sounds like you’re taking shelter behind a popular stance and making the other side into a straw man.

  2. VernonNemitz says:

    According to Wikipedia, rock-paper-scissors is a game old enough to have been imported to Europe from China by Marco Polo, 300 years before the Ring of Fire. Wikipedia also says the game wasn’t described in a book until about 1600, but I’m thinking about it spreading by word-of-mouth. Something so simple and convenient (no tools needed besides bare hands), to settle minor decisions –why wouldn’t is spread like wildfire?

  3. Cobbler says:

    I was fully onboard with that entire list. Living in a subculture that was fully onboard with that list. We were exploring ways to make such ideals practical in American culture.

    Then I met my first self-identified feminist. I wasn’t used to being called a Male Chauvinist Pig. My next encounters were no better. Feminism has gotten no saner over the decades.

    I find no contradiction between wanting a gender equal culture and legal system, and rejecting feminism. Most American women agree. That’s why they say, “I’m not a feminist, but…”

    • Terranovan says:

      Just occurred to me a few minutes ago – does “feminism” mean advocating equal rights (in which case “masculinism” could describe it equally badly) or advocating womens’ rights? Self-described feminists wouldn’t see a difference between the two, though.

      • Cobbler says:

        In the early 60’s Analog ran a story about “The Masculinist Revolt”. The only thing hapless men could figure out, that women couldn’t copy, was the suddenly fashionable codpiece. That and dueling. Doctors had to treat a rash of, “I fell on my car’s areal” injuries.

        The story confused me. I had never heard of a feminist, let alone masculinist.

        In the early 70’s I was in the trenches of counterculture social experimentation. We didn’t have a word for what we were doing. Except being fair in an unfair world.

        It was feminists who first introduced Political Correctness. I will never forgive them.

        Many feminists howled in furry when legitimate scientific research dared to discovered any results that suggested (gasp!) that women were anything other than totally equal with men in any area but the physical. They protested such results being published is scholarly journals.

        Andrea Dwarkin said, “Any sex that involves penetration by a penis is, by definition, rape.”

        Gloria Steinem said, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

        Most American women liked their men “raping” them was just fine. They discovered that men were more fun in bed than bicycles.

        In the end most women didn’t hate men enough to be feminists.

        • Cobbler says:

          To answer your actual question: A realistic assessment is that a gender-neutral culture is helps men just as much as it helps women. Working for women’s rights is working for men’s rights.

          The only men I might describe as masculinist, actively working to improve men’s lives, are just as nut-case extremist as any feminist.

          • Bret Hooper says:

            We should all try to do what we can “to improve men’s lives” and to improve women’s lives. If that makes each of us both a ‘masculinist’ and a ‘feminist,’ fine. But it doesn’t require us to embrace lunatic fringe masculinist or feminist positions, e.g. misdefining consensual sex as ‘rape.’ or claiming that every woman has a rape fantasy (I have known at least one woman who did and dozens, probably hundreds, who didn’t.)

            We should keep in mind that supporting equal (or when necessary, equivalent*) rights for men and women (as I do, and firmly believe everyone should) does not constitute lunatic fringe masculinism or lunatic fringe feminism.

            There have been times in the 37½+ years we have been married when my desire for sex exceeded my wife’s desire, and there have been times when her desire exceeded mine. Was I raping her in the former case and she raping me in the latter? I think not.

            *eqivalent rights include, e.g. my right to have a male body and my wife’s right to have a female body.

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              I hope we don’t get too much into current day politics as that can get very “interesting”. [Smile]

              Off topic (in a way), Brent’s comment reminds me of something I read about the Puritans in early America.

              A Puritan man could get in trouble (socially) if he didn’t have sex with his wife.

              She had a right to have sex with him and society had no problems with her complaining (at least to her female friends) about it.

              IE The Puritans believed that a male had marital rights to his wife’s body but also believed she had marital rights to his body. [Very Big Grin]

              • Cobbler says:

                Jews did and do have the same attitude. If a wife wasn’t getting any action, she could complain to her Rabi. He would give hubby stern talking to and tell him to get busy. Marital satisfaction was her right by Jewish law.

                The whole thing was less complicated for them. They never thought the Eden story was about sex. They saw it as a story of disobeying God.

                If that wanders too far from the subject….Drak made me do it.

              • Terranovan says:

                Apologies for anything inflammatory that I said.

        • John Cowan says:

          Can you cite the source where Dworkin said that? I don’t think so.

          As for the “fish without a bicycle” line, it’s a joke.

          The term “politically correct” also began as a joke among old lefties, probably mostly men; it referred originally to dogmatic Stalinists and was applied to them by their opponents.

          • Cobbler says:

            Courtesy of Wikipedia.

            In 1987, Dworkin published Intercourse, in which she extended her analysis from pornography to sexual intercourse itself, and argued that the sort of sexual subordination depicted in pornography was central to men’s and women’s experiences of heterosexual intercourse in a male supremacist society. In the book, she argues that all heterosexual sex in our patriarchal society is coercive and degrading to women, and sexual penetration may by its very nature doom women to inferiority and submission, and “may be immune to reform”.[62]

            Citing from both pornography and literature—including The Kreutzer Sonata, Madame Bovary, and Dracula—Dworkin argued that depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasized heterosexual intercourse as the only kind of “real” sex, portrayed intercourse in violent or invasive terms, portrayed the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism, and often united it with male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the “carnal” woman. She argued that this kind of depiction enforced a male-centric and coercive view of sexuality, and that, when the cultural attitudes combine with the material conditions of women’s lives in a sexist society, the experience of heterosexual intercourse itself becomes a central part of men’s subordination of women, experienced as a form of “occupation” that is nevertheless expected to be pleasurable for women and to define their very status as women.[63]

            Such descriptions are often cited by Dworkin’s critics, interpreting the book as claiming “all” heterosexual intercourse is rape, or more generally that the anatomical mechanics of sexual intercourse make it intrinsically harmful to women’s equality. For instance, Cathy Young[64] says that statements such as, “Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women,”[62] are reasonably summarized as “All sex is rape”.

          • Cobbler says:

            Of course the fishy bike was a joke. A mean spirited joke that supported us at the expense of them.

            A women is in love with her husband. They are comfortable through shared years. Each supports and trusts the other. Does she enjoy hearing him dissed? Does she favor the obnoxious group insulting her husband? Or does she say, “I’m not a feminist, but…”

            As for politically correct, thanks for the information. The feminist version is still the seed from which all modern PC springs.

            • John Cowan says:

              Funny you should ask me that, as I’m the son of an avowed feminist, the husband of an avowed feminist, and the father of an avowed feminist. All of them have had plenty to say about male assholery, and I generally agree with them — out of conviction. My daughter is still young enough at 28 to think I might take offense at this, because when she tells her mother and me what she thinks of men, she generally adds, “I don’t mean you, Dad.” My wife of 36 years doesn’t bother to say so, because she knows that I know what she thinks of me.

              Occasionally I find myself saying “Men!” in an exasperated tone, and then they kinda give me an old-fashioned look, which indeed I find very amusing. I used to sometimes refer to myself as “one of the girls”, but I found that it gave offense, so I don’t say it now. So no, my wife wouldn’t enjoy hearing me dissed, except it turns out that the people being dissed don’t actually include me.

              You carefully left off the following few paragraphs in Wikipedia where Dworkin explains that she neither said nor meant any such thing, and yet you persist in saying she “said” it.

              • Cobbler says:


                We agree on all the basics. That doesn’t change, no matter what connotations we bring to the word feminism. No need to drift into adversarial rolls.

                Your experiences are positive. I’m delighted for you.

                I’m not certain of your point, about Men! I’m trying to imagine the self-named Liberated Ladies of my youth being reluctant to criticize “those of the male persuasion.” Nope.

                My well was poisoned. I looked for allies and found enemies. Don’t expect me to give them the benefit of the doubt.

                Dwarkin’s denial is technically correct. She is known far and wide for saying what she only almost said. That convinces me. Just as Clinton’s definition of the word is convinced me.

                The woman spent her lifetime spewing hate. That was bad for men. It was worse for women. Dworkin was a major poisoner of the feminist well. A lot of, “I’m not a feminist, but…” can be laid at her door.

                What do you see in her that’s worth defending?

              • Jeff Ehlers says:

                Take it to a room, you two.

    • John Cowan says:

      Feminism is a big tent, and includes both nutbars and Susan B. Anthony (“Men: their rights and nothing more. Women: their rights and nothing less.”)

  4. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Please end the discussion on Feminism. [Polite Smile]

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