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The Gifts of Toothbrushes and Anarchy

A timeless problem-solver if ever there was one, Emma Goldman dishes out life advice to 21st-century women. In her responses to letter writers, the legendary anarchist, freethinker, and feminist offers up pearls of wisdom and a no-holds-barred approach to life. Send your questions and quandaries to Emma!

Dear Emma,

Recently, I stayed over at my S.O.'s apartment and needed to borrow their toothbrush. They looked horrified that I would suggest such a thing and said it felt unhygienic. For me, it feels like a non-issue. It has led to a few fights so I have to ask: is it okay to expect a S.O. to be willing to share their toothbrush?

Yours in quandary,

Share the Brush

Dear Share the Brush,

I’m with you: what’s the big deal? If this is a good relationship, you’re sharing more than just toothbrush germs, amiright? Tell your S.O. either to get over it (and enjoy the many ways you can get dirty together) or to buy you a toothbrush of your own.

Emma

Dear Emma,

I’m going to my partner’s cousin’s wedding in a month. I’ve never met the cousin who is getting married, and I don’t know if I should bring a gift. My partner isn’t providing any help with this at all. Do I need to give a wedding present? If so, what’s an acceptable gift?

Yours in quandary,

Partner of the Cousin of the Bride

Dear Partner,

Don’t let those bastards shake you down for a gift! Weddings are one of capitalism’s worst inventions, and don’t even get me started about marriage in general. What’s an acceptable gift, you ask? Your presence.

If anything, give the couple a nice card congratulating them and saying you’re looking forward to getting to know them better. But if your partner continues to be so unhelpful (why don’t they get a gift from both of you?), you may soon not need to get to know the cousins after all.

Emma

Dear Emma,

My best friend and my husband don’t get along. Their mutual antipathy has never erupted into a full-scale conflict, but they are certainly not warm to each other. Much of this conflict stems from the fact that my husband loves to engage in dialogue about controversial topics he doesn’t understand, while my best friend hates conflict and would literally almost rather die than engage in it. This dynamic leaves me feeling uncomfortable and trapped in the middle. My parents and more traditional friends say that marriage is the time to drift out of your close female friendships, but Rebecca Traister (and I) would disagree. How do I navigate this dynamic?

Yours in quandary,

Stuck in the Middle

Dear Middle,

If you ask me, marriage is a State-begotten weed, so it’s crap to think you’d have to cut off the rest of your life and give up your friendships when you tie the knot. I’m also a big believer in associating with whomever you want—friends, lovers, fellow disrupters—whether they like each other or not. Some people might encourage you to get out of the way and create a reason for your husband and best friend to spend time with each other to find some common ground. Not me. If other people can’t be grownups, why should you try to engineer adult behavior? See them separately, and relieve yourself of the stress of trying to broker a detente. Easy peasy.

Rebecca Traister, eh? Where can I read her?

Emma

Dear Emma,

My roommate has recently begun to online-date and sometimes brings guests over to our apartment. I want to celebrate her dating and genuinely want her to have a variety of romantic experiences but at the same time, it freaks me out to run into people I don’t know using our bathroom late at night. How can I convey my support of her right to rambunctiously enjoy life but also let her know I feel uncomfortable with the amount of Tinder-traffic in our apartment?

Yours in quandary,

Freaked-Out

Dear Freaked-Out,

Full disclosure: I love having multiple partners in and out of my life. And my apartment. It keeps things exciting, you know what I mean? I always say, a woman should live for herself, love whomever she pleases—and as many as she pleases. So, big shout-out to your roommate! But, since you’re the one writing to me, I suggest two things: first, put a lock on your bedroom door and/or the bathroom door if you don’t want to run into strangers in the dark. Second, you gotta talk to the roommate. Tell her you support her choices, but your rent check carries just as much weight as hers. Maybe you and she can agree on an acceptable waiting period before she gives the green light to the Tinder traffic.

Emma

Dear Emma,

I recently RSVP-ed yes to an out-of-town wedding of some friends who I haven’t seen in awhile. Since RSVP-ing yes, I found out that one of them recently voted for a political party whose views I find personally abhorrent. Suddenly, I’m feeling less than enthusiastic about attending this wedding. Are incompatible political beliefs a justifiable reason to bail? And if the answer is yes, should I tell my friends why I’m bailing?

Yours in quandary,

Political Malcontent

Dear Malcontent,

IMO, we all have the right to the free expression of our views. That goes for your friends, but it also goes for you. You can always decline the invitation (you can tell them why, but be prepared to delete them from your contact list)—but I recommend you use this as an opportunity to get up on a chair at the reception and make a proselytizing speech to denounce the party you object to. It’ll be a captive audience. Go for it!

Emma

Want to learn more about the real Emma Goldman? Visit JWA’s Women of Valor Exhibit and our encyclopedia!

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1 Comment

I love this. More Ask Emma!

Toothbrushes
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Photo of toothbrushes, courtesy of Flickr. Image by Marco Verch.

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How to cite this page

King, Emma G. "The Gifts of Toothbrushes and Anarchy." 20 March 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 18, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/gifts-of-toothbrushes-and-anarchy>.

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