The Free to Be You and Me Club
Growing up, I listened to records. In fact, I had a little box with all my 45's, including a pretty awesome Star Wars read-along. But by far, my favorite record was Free to Be...You and Me. The cover was worn and falling apart from so many of us playing the record over the years (remember, I'm the youngest of five...and by a long shot).
If you're not familiar with Free to Be...You and Me, it was an album (and then a book, too...and yes, I had both growing up) created by Marlo Thomas that had songs, poems, and stories that were all about rejecting gender stereotypes. So, you had songs like "William Wants a Doll", "It's All Right to Cry", and of course the title song, "Free to Be...You and Me." It also had many stories and poems, including my personal favorite, "Atalanta," about a princess who wishes to see the world, but whose father wants her married to a nice prince. He holds a race and the fastest man gets to have her hand in marriage. However, Atalanta, being the modern princess that she is, begs her father to let her race, too. If she wins, she gets to see the world. If she loses, she'll marry the prince. Of course she ties with a boy from the village named Young John. He is awarded her hand in marriage, but refuses, saying really he just wants to get to know her. Atalanta says she cannot marry him without seeing the world first. So the two remain friends saying that maybe one day they'll marry, or maybe not, but they'll be happy in the end. People, this is feminism at its best!
I would post a picture of my record, which I still own, but unfortunately when I was a kid, I got really possessive and wrote my real name all over it in crayon. Then, in 1991, my grandmother wrote my name and "dedicated" officially making it mine. I love that and it only makes that record even more special.
When I went off to college, one of the first things I did was to get nostalgic. I went to a Coconuts Records (remember those??) and special ordered the CD of Free to Be...You and Me, which I would then put on when I wanted to nap and fall asleep to it. Yes, that's right. Even at 18 years old, I found comfort in this old recording.
As I've gotten older, I've realized that knowing about Free to Be...You and Me is like being a part of special club. It's one of those things that when its mentioned, you smile because you "get it." And if something I love (e.g. a TV show, a radio station, an actress) mentions it, I get super excited! So far, I've seen references made by Gwyneth Paltrow on Inside the Actor's Studio (it was her answer to what inspires you), Sex and the City ("The Right to Shoes" episode), Half Nelson (the family listens to "It's All Right to Cry"), and Target used the title song in a commercial not too long ago.
The thing is, I'm starting to realize, too, how influential that silly, little record has been on my life. I really believe that I'm the independent person I am and that I approached love the way I did because I listened to Atalanta more times than I care to share. It's also why I hate housework (listen to Carol Channing's awesome reading of the poem here). It's why ages ago, I decided I'd never be my mom and slave over housework all day long. It's also one reason, albeit a tiny one, why I want to have kids one day (one day far, far away)...so I can share the awesomeness that is Free to Be...You and Me with them.
Do you know Free to Be...You and Me? Are you part of the cool kids' club? If you weren't before, consider yourself inducted. : )
(Free to Be...You and Me album cover via here)