John regretted the words as soon as they left his lips. He closed his eyes and
hoped that something suddenly came up, something like an emergency meeting
in he had to fly out for or a maybe getting hit by a bus. It was to be their third
date, the one that indicated Angie was actually interested in him and he'd just
agreed that to start the evening they would attend a Womyn's Empowerment
Seminar sponsored by a local feminist group.

It wasn't that John was against women's empowerment or thought that going to
hear a speech might not be interesting; he just figured that starting a date in a
room full of rabid feminists might not be conducive for setting the stage for
romance. Or as he hoped, maybe even some consensual nudity later in the
evening. He rested the phone in the cradle and leaned his head back, letting
out a silent curse. Mentally he wrote the evening off to bad luck.

The turn of the century hall they entered just as it got dark was neat and nicely
kept, and the crowd didn't look like the manly band of lesbians John had
assumed would attend this sort of thing. He trailed his date around quietly and
smiled weakly at the few women who looked his way, the mental clock in his
head already ticking towards the scheduled end time. In the ensuing days since
they planned to attend he talked Angie into a late dinner after the seminar, a
quiet little Italian place he hoped would set the mood for their next outing.

"This looks interesting, doesn't it?" Angie asked looking at one of the colorful
displays in the lobby. The few women he'd smiled at had returned hostile looks
and he put himself a little more into his date's space for protection. "Do you
know the speaker?" John asked to distract himself from the attention. Angie
admitted she owned a book or two by the speaker and really liked her some of
her views. Half paying attention to her and half to the room he picked up
snippets of conversation.

"I don't see why we can't castrate..."

"..better physically equipped to be astronauts, athletes..."

"... not a dialogue, more of a monologue. We know what they..."

John considered faking an upset stomach, but the doors into the main
auditorium eased open and it was too late. He followed Angie through the broad
archway and into the darkness.

"Tonight's speaker," the pinched faced hostess started, "is many things. I'm
sorry, I meant Keynote speaker. She is an accomplished author with nine books
to her credit, a scholar respected in her field, an educator, a social activist, a
marathoner, a sailor, a woman. She is a wife, a mother of two and I understand
she makes a mean cherry cobbler." This last brought a chuckle from the
audience. "She started many years ago, many many," she looked back and
grinned at the waiting speaker," well, not that many years ago, but didn't let the
times or the obstacles of society keep her from achieving her dreams. She
pulled herself up and made herself more when the world had told her that she
was enough. Where she endeavored, she has excelled. Where she has
ventured, she has conquered. Wherever she looked, she gained insight. She is
a forerunner, a trailblazer, it she whose success put the cracks in the glass
ceiling that we break through today. She is a model we can look to when we
falter, a leader whose footsteps we can follow when we are lost. Ladies it is my
honor to present to you, no, it is my privilege to present to you tonight's keynote
speaker, my friend for a long time, Dr. Agatha Copple, PhD."

To John's surprise the speaker was interesting. A pleasant looking woman who
must have been in her seventies but could have passed for much younger, her
voice was mild but tinged with resolve. Her remarks weren't the mean spirited or
righteous tones he expected, but more informative and inspirational as Dr.
Copple extolled the virtues of persistence and how she'd been helped along her
path by luck and determination, winning the admiration of colleagues and
staying true to her principles. John found himself reading through her
accomplishments in the program, impressed at her nearly forty years of work.
Later when he stretched after sitting for so long her glanced around the room
and noted the other attendees in rapt attention, as though Dr. Copple had
hypnotized the crowd. He got a little nervous feeling surrounded in the dark. .

After the formal program, Angie insisted that they stay a few minutes for the
reception. The couple eased into a side room off the main hall following the
crowd, John with his hand on Angie's elbow so he wouldn't lose her. One of the
women they moving with noticed and gave him a look of disapproval. John
shrugged it off, now that he could see his social captors.  

The room was long and relatively narrow, only a little wider than the entrance
hall. John looked over the crowd with distaste and was surprised to find a
decent buffet lay out. For a few minutes he actually thought they if they hung
around and ate that he might get away with just paying for a few glasses of wine
and some dessert instead of a full dinner. But Angie rebuffed his ploy and
hooking him by the arm dragged him over to a small circle of women gathering
about Dr. Copple. John found himself the only man in a circle of reverent
admirers. He forced another smile.

Dr. Copple had switched from speaker and more into casual conversationalist,
but still holding an impromptu court and spoke about the changing gender roles
in a the economy, about healthcare for women and a few other topics as the
circle swelled and shrank. A few photos were taken. John looked at his watch
and thought maybe he and Angie weren't going to dinner.

A tall lanky blonde in a ankle length skirt leaned forward and asked "Dr. Copple,
how did you do it? I read your biography but I would like to hear it in your own
words. ."

"Well that book wasn't well written I admit, but how I got here, that's not really
important. What is important are the lessons I learned and am able to pass on,
and there are some things about private life that you keep private. "

One of the women in the front made the point that a lesson without context
wasn't a lesson at all. The doctor looked her with a sideways grandmotherly grin
and said simply "Touche. You have to understand feminism when I started was
in its, well not infancy but in its adolescence, still hitting it's stride. A lot of the
concepts you have the advantage of just having we had to build on our own.
Some things we did because it was how it was done at the time, and we had
other battles to fight. More important battles."

"But how did you do it, really not the PR crap, but really." Another tall blonde,
this one with glasses and a look of upper management about her.

"Not the PR crap. I like that. I'm going to have to use that. There was no magic,
no book or program, I just figured out my priorities, what was really important,
the things that had to be done and balanced that against what I knew I wanted
to do."

"The things that had to be done?" John couldn't see who asked the question.

"Had to be. I had a family when I decided I wanted to go back to school. My two
were still little boys, and they had to be fed, the clothes washed, a house to
keep, meals to cook, a husband to look after."

"Surely your husband helped with the housework." This came from John's left in
the group.

"This was a different time. How many women in here remember their father
helping with the housework? My husband was my husband, not as you say
today, my partner. He worked and I kept house. I knew...well, you could say that
I knew my role." Dr. Copple gave a knowing half smile.  

"He didn't support you?" The tall blonde who started this round of questions
asked in disbelief, her eyes a little wider behind her glasses than relaxed.  

"Of course he supported me. I told him I wanted to go and he paid for it." The
elder doctor chuckled at her own joke.  

"But.."

"Young lady," the elder doctor paused for a second and then resumed in a
more pleasant tone, "young lady, my husband went to work for eight or nine
hours a day. I was a housewife. He paid the mortgage, the car note, and all the
bills and all he asked for was that I have dinner ready when he got home and to
be his wife. But I decided I wanted to go back to school, and I knew what I was
getting into."

The room exhaled a bit as Dr. Copple kept took a sip from her glass, her look
having moved from pleasant to a little more serious. John got the sense she was
annoyed and had he been a moderator, he would have stopped the questions
right then.

"Ms. Copple," started an oblivious brunette with a serious look equal to the
doctors on her face, "I can appreciate what you've done but this is, as we've put
it, the PR crap. Like you I'm married, I have a two year old and job and I'm
thinking of going back to school. What did you actually do? What were the
choices you made? I need specifics."

John could tell Dr. Copple was a little pissed at not being addressed as doctor.
So when she broke into a broad smile the sole man in the group got a tingling
he used to get whenever his mean older cousin looked happy to see him.

"Your situation is your situation. What worked for me might not work for you.
You just have to learn to what is important and what's not and work to make
sure those things that are important are taken care of. Prioritize." Dr. Copple
said this last with a lazy zee on the final syllable.

"So you're not going to tell me?" The dark haired woman crossed her arms a
little defensively and John found that he'd been holding his breath.

The doctor's voice was like honey, but her tone belied her annoyance. "You'd
really like to know? How I got two doctorates and wrote nine books and still
managed a house,  a husband and two kids? Well it was simple young lady. I
learned how to make simple meals for my kids and get them arranged for the
week on Sundays, I got to where I could compartmentalize my day so I could get
shopping done and errands run and still focus on my studies, I figured out how
to schedule my studying to maximize my time and to memorize I would record
myself and playback the recording while I did the housework, and with some
practice I finally able to get the blowjobs down to about two minutes."

In the momentary silence that suddenly fell over the group Dr. Copple took
another sip of her drink and cut her eyes at the younger woman, whose face
had gone blank at the answer.

"I'm sorry, you got what to two minutes?" Someone in the group suddenly
ventured.

"The blowjobs." Dr. Copple swirled the glass making the ice clink. John could
hear it from six feet away.

"Why would you..." the dark haired woman who demanded an answer finally
started, but the older woman cut her off as the words left her throat.

"How many times have you told your husband you're too tired or not in the
mood? Do that for six months and you won't have to wonder why he cheated on
you. If he's even still there. Look, I would have run errands in the morning,
cleaned house that afternoon. Have dinner on the stove, a load of laundry in
the machine, two kids in the living room and four chapters to get through before
bed. And my husband comes home and wants to get a little frisky. I could have
said no, I'm busy. But I wouldn't still be married today if I had kept that up. So I
would turn the food on low, make sure the kids were busy and slip upstairs, lock
the door and take care of him. Then I could get back to the other things I
needed to do."

John had to restrain himself from clapping and fought to keep the grin off his
face. A few of closer women cut their eyes at him.

"He should have understood..." the dark haired woman had regained her
composure and started back in, Dr. Copple stopped her mid-sentence.

"Understood? You're thinking about going back to school for a month or two?
Maybe he'll understand a month, but looking at you I'm thinking you have a
graduate degree, and you want another, a specialty, so you're looking at three
or four years since you're not going to want to give up your career. Maybe three
years.  One kid, so with job and school you'll have maybe four hours a week for
quality time with your understanding hubby. Only you'll be too tired from
everything else. So sweetie, if you don't want to walk on him and ...let's see, I'm
betting it would be that woman he works with, who sometimes calls the house at
night and you're not sure it's about business, yeah her, if you don't want to walk
in on them in your bed, you either need to push back your education plans or
learn to suck dick like a pro."

The younger woman withered and then drew herself back up and without
another word turned and stalked away.

Dr. Copple swirled the ice in her glass again and looked around blithely. Anja
chose that  quiet moment to decide that they should go as well.

In the little Italian bistro John looked at Anja as he sipped at the wine. The mood
he had hoped to set in the intimate setting was lost as his date picked through
her food. "The program was interesting," he ventured.

"Yes, I'm glad we went," she answered distractedly.

"That Dr. Copple really was something. I mean wasn't she. Her viewpoint was
um...well, what did you think of what she had to say on relationships and
marriages?"

"Huh? What do I think? That old bitch is crazy." Anja said with no trace of humor
and ate a forkful of pasta.