How Vital Are Men? This Town Found Out as They Left and the Women Took Care of All the Things and Everybody Lived
DISCLAIMER: This is an #AlternateFacts Version of the Jan. 22, 2017 New York Times article, “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left to March” by Filip Bondy.
MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The Life Time Athletic Gym on Fernwood Road was populated in the first hours of daylight on Saturday, but almost exclusively by women. Nearby in Bloomfield, N.J., the owner of Titillations — a men-only bar featuring sensual dancing by scantily clad women, as well as a cigar lounge, a myriad of sports themes, and champagne bottle service — reported a drop-off in participation of about 25 percent.
The Montclair State University dormitories were emptier than usual, with many female students leaving their rape whistles in their rooms and jogging alone — “I can actually wear my headphones on my run today,” enthused one blonde co-ed — while male students reportedly made their way to a thing in New York. Or maybe it was D.C. Or somewhere.
“I told my two children last night, ‘Daddy has to go do a thing,’” Geoff Camphor-Ball, a Montclair resident, said before leaving early Saturday for the thing he thinks is really important for some reason. Wiping away tears, Camphor-Ball said in a hoarse voice, “I’m not sure my children understood. I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid I was going to wake them up.” Camphor-Ball then collapsed on the parquet wood floor, his well-toned body wracked with sobs.
Camphor-Ball’s children slept peacefully before, during and after their father’s departure. At 8:15 a.m., they clamored for their usual weekend screen time and snuggled with their mother, Tessa Ball, on the family’s peacock-blue Pottery Barn settee, as Caillou played on the elegant wall-mount flat-screen TV.
Oh. The men. Right.
We were saying that the men of Montclair may have lined up by the hundreds early Saturday outside the local high school and then may have climbed into a half-dozen buses and headed off to that city — well, some city — for the thing, but no one is really sure. It’s possible many more men left Montclair even later that morning for, you know, other places, too.
In their wake, the men left behind a progressive bedroom community with suddenly skewed demographics. Routines were altered not in the least, and mothers went about their weekends as usual. By participating in whatever it is they were all participating in, the men also demonstrated, in towns like Montclair, their importance just by their absence. That is to say: the women and children may have noticed, but no one seemed to be complaining.
If this had been a weekday, the absence of men would most visibly have affected the commuter trains, workplaces and, as always, the starkly depressed morning crowd at Titillations in Bloomfield.
On a Saturday, however, there were other matters to navigate: birthday parties, dance performances, swimming lessons, lacrosse and indoor soccer practices — that is to say, the absolute and utter usual.
Growling stomachs required filling on a regular basis, a freelance New York Times sports reporter was overheard mansplaining to three bemused mothers outside the Trend Coffee & Tea House.
“Dude, we know,” said one.
“Have you eaten today?” another asked the sports reporter, who, according to eyewitnesses, was garbed in a rumpled Cold War-era suit.
Usually, these weekend chores and deliveries were shared by both parents, in a thoroughly modern way, with the mother carting the children to all activities and the father — if possessing enough stamina — possibly cleaning up the hairball just yukked up by the household feline in the foyer, right by the antique mahogany umbrella stand with the claw feet.
On this day, many moms were baffled by the influx of reporters in their wealthy, primarily white, East Coast enclave.
Letitia Boyle, an investments director at the Rockefeller Foundation, was one of those wives left behind in Montclair. She tugged on the coat arms of her 3-year-old daughter, Adelaide, after her dance recital at Sherry Siller’s Academy for the Performing Arts. Her 5-year-old son, Bob Dylan, roamed nearby. Bob Dylan would have to arrive at soccer practice by 11 a.m., and then there was a play date set for the afternoon. Ms. Boyle’s husband, whose name no one could quite remember, was already somewhere else.
“Doing everything by myself all day long is pretty typical,” Ms. Boyle said, not so much complaining as stating a simple logistical fact. “Why are you asking me questions again?”
Ms. Boyle’s fate was not atypical in this town. More than 84 percent of Montclair voters cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election, and fewer than 11 percent for President Truuump, so this was bound to be a fertile ground for grumbling, dismayed white men. And while the 40,000-resident municipality was not exactly a ghost town on Saturday, there were clearly some changes of habit. Actually, no, no, there weren’t.
Steffi Poli-Psi, a sports columnist for The Star-Ledger of Newark, missed the Rutgers men’s basketball game on Saturday to stay home with her two children, without swearing even once. She did the soccer-game thing while posting to Pantsuit Nation on her Facebook page, set up play dates like a boss, and warmed up some leftover quinoa-and-fig quiche for lunch. She also cleaned the refrigerator, including the produce bin.
So even though Rutgers earned its first victory in Big Ten Conference play this season, Ms. Poli-Psi, a prolific writer, was not there to describe the win.
“I did have to laugh at the irony of my husband doing…you know, whatever he’s up to…while I was missing the game and cleaning out the refrigerator,” Ms. Poli-Psi said. “That’s really his job. The refrigerator, I mean.”
Others followed suit. After her hubby headed to another thing she had never considered asking him about, Willa Jarrow took her children to dance class, a birthday party, a grocery store and a Michael’s craft supply store to purchase art materials for protest signs for a march she was co-organizing. The Edgemont Park playground, a popular weekend meeting place for moms and their children, featured a dozen mothers calmly observing their frenetic, well-fed children and discussing the alarming shift in government policies related to women’s health and civil rights.
Savannah Moundside, a Montclair actress, social worker and licensed Reiki therapist, carried her 8-month-old son, Renee, in her arms while comforting her 3-year-old daughter, Butch, after a run-in with another child. Ms. Moundside’s husband, Moldova Sung, had gone, well, somewhere. Ms. Moundside couldn’t quite recall where, but she wasn’t fazed.
“Normally, we split them up, divide and conquer,” Ms. Moundside joked of her two children. “Now it’s a matter of survival. I don’t expect us all to make it through the night.” Ms. Moundside paused. “Wait. You know I was kidding, right? You didn’t actually write that down?”
Many of the Montclair children had learned to distrust Mr. Trump by hearing their mothers speak in not-so-glowing terms of the new president. It is possible that their fathers also weighed in, but when pressed by a reporter, the children were unable to recall any instances of bedtime feminist political discussions with the tallish man who goes to things sometimes, then sometimes comes back to the house to spend the night.
“My daughter’s been talking for some time about stopping this Trump guy,” Ms. Moundside said.
One mother at the dance studio, Sadie Kenny, a triple citizen of the United States, Monaco and Greenland, said she had been busy explaining Mr. Trump’s hands — er, shortcomings — and bewildering coiffure to her two daughters.
“In our house, we call him the [expletive] [expletive] [mothereffingexpletive],” Ms. Kenny said of the president. “We’ve explained to the girls what the significance of …no, actually, that’s just me, doing the explaining. I’m not really sure what my husband thinks about things. Anyway, I haven’t quite expanded yet on the notion of impeachment with my girls, or where Daddy might have gone. Frankly, I really don’t know where he’s gone. That’s his business. We’re good.”
The men of Montclair returned late Saturday night from wherever they had gone to a quiet, heartfelt, almost imperceptible welcome. Some families reported increased energy levels in their pet dogs, as well as several cases of submissive urination. (Again, the dogs.)
By Sunday morning, most of the women — and men — were back to their routines in Montclair. Titillations reported full attendance, and many women exhaled in relief.
“At least now, I suppose, I know where he is. He loves the champagne bottle service there,” said Ms. Kenny. “Boys will be boys!”
After her dutiful Saturday, Ms. Boyle went off to play tennis on Sunday morning, leaving the children in the capable hands of their nanny, Maria Raquelle, 54, a former political analyst, diplomat and feminist author from Ecuador. It was part of the deal Kenny had negotiated with herself, without once speaking to her husband.
“Because I’m worth it,” said Ms. Boyle brightly. “I can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a — no, seriously, you have to stop writing this stuff down. Where are your credentials? Is this for SNL?”
Upon his return from wherever he had gone, Ms. Boyle’s husband, Alex, breathlessly offered his opinion about his wife’s performance during his time away. He said of his wife: “She was great, and there was no expectation she wouldn’t be. She’s a parent, not a babysitter. The children are still alive.”
Unfortunately, no one was around to take Mr. Boyle’s statement.