Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of Mallards and Men

Before The Lull, I never had time to watch television. Work always beckoned, as did the pooch and other responsibilities. Same went for my husband. Hence our decision to remain cable-free.

The decision has saved us money over the years and prohibited us from watercooler discussions about the latest episode of whatever show has captured the public's devotion.

Sometimes the decision has put us at a pop-cultural disadvantage, but more often its shock factor has entertained us: "What do you mean you don't have cable? Do you not have a television?!"

Yes, as a matter of fact, we have a television. And lately, thanks to Netflix, we've been catching up with Mad Men. We're just getting through the first season, which is so steeped in stereotypes of the era that it's sometimes difficult to stomach, especially the dynamic between the men and the women.

For those who have forgotten and those who never knew women's place in the workplace of yesteryear, Mad Men brings it home searingly. It wasn't that long ago. "You've Come A Long Way, Baby"—that old cigarette slogan—means a lot more when placed in the context Mad Men provides.

I was chewing on this the other morning when the pooch and I strolled to the beach. Every year, about 12 ducks winter at our beach. And true to form, there they were—7 males and 5 females.

I wondered about this gender imbalance and what it signified. I know nothing about mallard behavior. Were some of the males juveniles? Or had some of the females not yet chosen a mate? Did the females feel safe or insecure with the extra males around?

Though the ducks flee from other dogs who delight in terrorizing birds, they've always relaxed around my pooch. Which makes her happy because their every movement enthralls her.
But that day, as the mallards dipped and dove for breakfast, one of them sounded an alarm. They all swam or flew away from us—all but one.

The lone duck was, I believe, the one who had sent her brethren away. And as if to answer all my earlier gender questions, she alone continued eating and swimming in the contours of the rocky mount at one end of our beach. Sure, she swam in a male-dominated society. But her mind flew in an independent direction. She could take care of herself—even if it entailed some underhanded (underfeathered?) means.

Ahhhhh. Another smile brought to you by the beach. Who needs cable for entertainment?

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