-- $25.00 prize
Written by: Marie
American Feminist in Venice
I was traveling alone in Venice, Italy
and utterly romanced by the beauty of the city - its
art, palaces, people, food and waterways. The one thing
I really wanted to do that I had not done before I left
was ride the gondola. The best time to ride was at sunset
and immediately thereafter when the city lit up with
the warm light of an old masterpiece in ancient oil.
I had seen couples in the gondolas at
night, and families during the day. I had seen men traveling
the water alone guiding the boats as gondoliers. I had
not seen a woman riding alone – either as master
of the boat or as passenger.
I approached a gondolier, negotiated
a price and both somewhat surprised, we pushed off into
the golden light. It sank into the palaces around the
town square. The houses kissed the edges of the canals
and the light reflected back against their warm red
hues like courtship. Yes, it was worth it to have overcome
my fear of being “the only woman” to have
asked the gondolier to take me on the ride.
I was high on the adventure, when I suddenly
realized we were not in well-lit canals anymore. The
gondolier had steered us to a side canal.
He asked, “You are American, no?”
I said “Yes.” All romance in the night vanished.
He said, “You like Italian men?”
I said, “No reason not to – not yet anyway.”
Silence. He stopped the boat. Suddenly
I stood up and asked if he could teach me how to steer
the boat. He was surprised, but yes, he would teach
me. I stumbled next to him at the prow. He reached around
me and showed me how to steer. I grasped the long oar.
It was hard to push, and I didn't know where I was,
or how to get back to the main canal.
He said low under his breath, “Do
you like me?”
I said, without turning around, “Well...I
am an American feminist.”
He said, “Feminista?”
I was shaking but speak even if your
voice shakes, Gloria Steinem says, and so I did, “Yes,
and I know karate. I am almost a black belt.”
I handed back the oar, and stumbled back to sit, saying
over my shoulder, “If you don't steer this back
to the main canal, I will tip it over, swim to shore,
call the police and have you arrested. That's what American
He said, “Are you sure? I am a
very nice man.”
I said, “Of course, I'm sure. I'm
an American feminist. That's what we do.”
Slowly he turned the boat from the noorish
dark canal lit by the crescent moon, back to the golden
light of the busy thoroughfare.
Before I left, he asked, “Are all
American feminists like you?”
I said, “Oh yes, definitely.”