Cincy was my sports town in the days of Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. We rolled in from the nearby hills of northern Kentucky where my family ran a local newspaper. Folks, this was going to the city. I still associate Cincinnati with ball park peanuts, fountains, and German-influenced culinary fare. It was easy to stay connected to the Reds at boarding school where my rolled-up Ashland Daily Independent newspapers got shoved into a wall of brass mailboxes (the centrally important prep-school nexus of care packages, detention notices, letters from far-away friends, and the occasional anonymous valentine.) The sports page built my anticipation of early summer games where my dad and older brother told me the rules and politics of a play, as they always had, with that mix of condescension, delight, and annoyance we now know as “man-splainin'”. Much love to the boys, but these lectures were insufferable to an all-knowing teenager like myself. My strategy: crack a peanut shell, pretend not to listen, grab the essential kernels of info, then go off and buy a lucky rabbit’s foot at the concession stand. As a result of it all, I actually care if a batter breaks the plane on a fastball low and outside, and I always long to see one of those Reds steal a base. I shrugged off the attitudinal stuff the way we girls do when micro-aggressions combine with information we need. Why do I remember the subtle smarts of it now? Is a catcall on the street outside a stadium a compliment or a danger alert? Why must so many women now evaluate the line between insult and assault and wonder when they both will stop? Should I be disgusted or flattered when someone calls me a MILF? These memories and questions came roaring up at the Women’s March On January 21, 2017, when feminism overtook my sports town in a way I’ll never forget. Over 4,000 protesters composed of young girls, guys, gays, straights, drummers, families, performance artists, old broads, young moms and everything in between circled the third largest city in the rusty swing state of Ohio.
Heidi, my close friend from those prep school days, met me there for three reasons: her elderly mother, mine, and the March. We are sandwiched between 2 generations of those who need our care; we both work full time; we raised three children; and we now escort our over-90 moms through the physical and emotion labyrinth of their twilight. We grew up feminist despite sexism everywhere in our dangerous, privileged, preppy world where man-boys, teachers and coaches sometimes picked us off like runners on a field. The Women’s March was another moment in the curious odyssey to a simple, balanced concept: Equality. My 23-year-old daughter fights the uphill battle toward equality with strength and edgy tolerance, and she sent me this post. It captures the mix of outrage and humility inherent in the feminist response to a white man’s world. Why is it still white? Why is it still a man’s? Why can’t I break in? We shrug it off, we keep going, and we remember. In protest of, among other things, The Donald’s egregious misogyny, the Women’s March inspired us and gave us hope for progress. There were so, so many of us.
Politics and marching require fuel for those of us in the middle, so we went in heavy with the famous Reuben sandwiches at Izzy’s. Light sauerkraut and very fresh corned beef distinguish the sandwich here. Less cheesy and less greasy than its NYC cousins, the Izzy’s Reuben is not specific to Cincy, but important in the mid-west sandwich pantheon. Reubens have plenty of social relevance: created during the turn of the century like the local architecture; imported and adapted by immigrants; an icon of the Jewish deli; popular across gender, age groups, and ethnicities. If a sandwich could vote, this one would have gone democratic.
If you want an Izzy’s-style Reuben, get a very light rye bread, don’t toast it, and put a little thousand island dressing there but not a lot. Add light, white-cabbage sauerkraut (storebought OK but drain it first), a light layer of swiss cheese, and SO MUCH thin-sliced, fresh corned beef from the best butcher around. Serve it with dill pickles and potato pancake (latkes) like they do in this favorite Cincinnati spot.
We’d love to hear the stories about the March – food/politics/gender/whatever. Where were you? What was your favorite sign from the day? If you missed the March, what the heck were you eating? And will you march again?
Backlash by Susan Faludi
The Feminie Mystique by Betty Friedan