Being a feminist, even a moderate feminist like me, can make it tough to dodge duties unsuited to the squeamish. In my case, squirrel removal.
Like most people, I prefer my squirrels outdoors. So I wasn't exactly pleased when a squirrel decided to invade my turf. One morning last winter, when I was barely awake and shuffling down our basement stairs, something with a bushy tail flashed past me, mere inches from my toes. So I ask you, what's a feminist to do? Yell hysterically? Scream for help? Well, ... yes. I also scrambled up the steps, slammed the door, and told myself the squirrel would find its own way out.
For the next few hours I wondered what my squirrel was up to. I even tried to talk myself into marching downstairs and facing him down. Or creeping downstairs and checking things out. Or opening the cellar door just a crack, peering down the steps, and shutting the door fast before the squirrel became suspicious.
What kind of feminist was I, I asked myself, as I paced a floor above the intruder. Surely Gloria Steinem would stand her ground against a tiny rodent. Thank goodness I wasn't famous enough to be a Rush Limbaugh target. "Femi-Nazi hypocritical wimp Madeleine Begun Kane is ascared of a wee little squirrel," he'd surely say if he knew I existed. "It takes a tough man to dispose of a tender squirrel."
I'm embarrassed to admit I remained safely upstairs and waited for my husband Mark to come home. But when he finally heard my tale of the bushy tail, he insisted it must have been a cat. All I had to do, said he, was go downstairs, walk several yards to the cellar's outer door, and let the feline out. So would he take care of it? No, he wasn't that sure it was a cat.
Did you know it's even harder to hire a squirrel-hunter, than to employ a plumber on a Saturday night? Nobody would take the job, although one fellow helpfully furnished some do-it-yourself advice. "Just leave your outside door open, sprinkle flour near the exit, and watch for paw prints."
We did as he suggested, although we suspected that more wildlife would wander in than out. Every morning for the next three days, Mark and I reluctantly braved the basement, hoping to spot paw prints facing the right direction. But our flour remained virginal.
One day, desperation for clean underwear overcame queasiness, and I gingerly approached the washer. Not quite gingerly enough, I'm afraid, for I promptly tripped over something furry and dead. Not only had the squirrel sneaked into our cellar, but he'd had the audacity to croak. Being a mature, adult feminist, I calmly disposed of the carcass, right? Well, ... not exactly. I screamed, bolted upstairs, and left the wretched, retch-inducing chore for my mate.
I didn't claim that it's a man's job, when I asked Mark to dispose of the corpse -- I'd never do that. Instead, I argued that I'd done my share. Had I not spotted the squirrel alive and tripped over it dead? Besides, the next time Mark wouldn't claim I'd seen a cat.
We negotiated one floor away from the decomposing corpse. Finally, Mark agreed to deal with it, but not before extracting my pledge to get rid of the next dead squirrel that crossed our path. It seemed a safe promise at the time.
What I didn't know then is that squirrels enjoy doing acrobatics on branches one-gazillionth their weight. And that several months later, a chunky, failed trapeze-artist squirrel would plummet to its death in our yard. And that Mark would say "Your turn," and escape to the sanctuary of his office. I'll admit it. As I faced that second squirrel, I yearned to beg Mark to make it go away. "Dead squirrel disposal is a man's job," I longed to say.
But this time, I knew where my responsibility lay -- on a broken, bloody pile. Yes, fifty/fifty means fifty/fifty ... even when you're talking dead squirrels. So I shoveled the rodent remains into a trash bag, hosed the yard down, and celebrated with a shower.
Only one task remained; a phone message to Mark -- one that was sure to make the rounds of his office. "It's safe to come home," I said. "I've disposed of the dead squirrel."