Personal Essay: "I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing women's voices, telling what it really means to be a woman reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays by women about their experiences as a woman in science fiction.
"I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon"
When I was six years old, my teacher asked everyone to tell her what they wanted to be when they grew up. She went to each desk, one by one, and we were to whisper it in her ear, and then she would tell the class. When it was my turn, I whispered in her ear that I wanted to be the first woman on the moon.
The class tittered. I whispered it again. I wanted to be the first woman on the moon.
She smiled and nodded. But then she started giggling as she told the room. Everyone laughed. The class stared at me, uninterested in Becky, who wanted to be a mom and Tom, who wanted to be a fireman. I kept my head up and stared at the blackboard.
The principal walked past the classroom and our teacher beckoned him in. "Come here, you have to hear this. Sylvia, tell him what you told me."
So in front of the whole class, I said it again. I want to be the first woman on the moon.
He laughed and said, "But what if some other little girl, some little girl who is already sixteen, wants the same thing. What then?"
I chewed my lip, looked at my feet. He patted me on the head and left the room.
It was my first lesson that some things aren't worth trying for, because you aren't going to get them anyway.
No one said, hey, so you want to be an astronaut! No one noticed that I had already internalized that women were only in competition with one another. I didn't want to be the first person on Mars or the first person to explore to the edges of the solar system. The best that I hoped for was to be the first woman to do something that a man had already done. This was our world. This was how it had always been.
I gave up on that dream. When people asked what I wanted to be, I picked more realistic goals. A rock singer. A movie star. An author. And no one laughed anymore.
But I keep thinking about the past and the future and how that six year old could have been told being an astronaut was a worthy goal, whether or not she was the first. Luckily, my mother encouraged me to dream, so all those dreams about outer space made it onto paper . . . and still do. I write about recreating recipes on far-off colonies and the trials of living a million miles from Starbucks. I write about the daughters and the mothers and the great aunts. I write about the lack of Tampax. I write about those left behind. And in the end, I believe that as a woman writing real science fiction, I bring more than I ever could have if I'd actually traveled to the moon. Although there's still time, maybe, if I act fast.
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley obsessively writes letters to her mother, her teenage offspring, her accountant, as well as to unknown beings in outer space. Only her mother admits to reading them. Born in Heidelberg, she spent her childhood in California and now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia, two coastal regions with almost nothing in common. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres and Lightspeed. You can find out more about her at http://intrigue.co.uk.