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On Women's Equality Day, Give Yourself Equal Time

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MARLO THOMAS
AP

Today is Women's Equality Day. In past years, I've honored this day by taking part in a march, or giving a speech, or writing an essay. But this year I'm asking myself, "Equal to whom? Equal to what?" I'm tired of comparing myself to what someone else has and what someone else is doing. Today I'm thinking about comparing myself to who I was last year, and what I was doing.

2011-08-27-womanequals.jpgAm I better at speaking up for myself when someone I work with tries to shut me down? I'm so good at being sure that everyone in my family has what they need , but am I getting any better at identifying what I need, and taking care of that need, too?

I spoke with Suze Orman on my Mondays With Marlo series
, and she said this surprising thing: that women don't think about saving money like men do. Hmmm, I thought, that's an interesting fact. It took months for it to sink into my head: "Hey! I'm one of those women!" There are some instances when I can be a very slow learner.

My mother used to say, "Charity begins at home" -- maybe equality does, too. Very close to home. Like within ourselves.

So much of who we are is learned at home. We have a saying at the Ms Foundation: "Girls are watching. What are they seeing?" I remember what I watched when I was a girl: my mother always taking charge of the house, the meals, where everyone had to go and what everyone had to have from the moment she woke up in the morning. Great on the face of it -- that is, till my sister and I grew up and realized that Mom never took charge of herself. Where was her equality? And the worst of it -- no one even noticed.

I've often made the joke that when I see a man in a terrycloth robe I get an uncontrollable impulse to squeeze orange juice. It makes everyone laugh, but we all know who always squeezed the O.J. in our childhoods. That's why I'm beginning to have -- once again -- some of those click moments.

So this year, to celebrate Equality Day, I am going to make a heartfelt effort not to compare myself to my mother or to anyone else -- but to take stock each and every day of the personal equality -- and quality -- of my life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm going to keep marching and speaking out for the very things this day was created for -- the ongoing struggle for women to have an equal footing in all things. But this year I'm adding myself to the equality-awareness list.

Justice and fairness were what Bella Abzug was striving for when she introduced the legislation for Women's Equality Day 40 years ago. So in honor of Bella -- and in my personal quest for justice and fairness -- for the next 365 days I resolve to:

1. Open my own savings account.
2. Not "make nice" when I really should take on the person who is trying to undermine me at work.
3. Turn off the phones and shut out the world when I want to read or study because that is I what I need.
That's just a start on my list...what's yours?

Happy Women's Equality Day to you...and me!