I take vacation in July. It’s my birthday month and one of the best times to be in Maine. Two long weeks are slowed way down with activities like reading, swimming, eating and not going anywhere.

The ever-so-popular staycation is my vacation choice. That I believed I was turning 59 years old, then realized that I’m actually 58, was a bonus.

This year, however, I started my vacation with a head full of anxious thoughts. I can’t remember which one of the countless national or international tragedies had just happened, but I do recall making the decision to stay off social media and give myself a break from the news for the duration of my free time.

I felt guilty about not reading the news, but it was a matter of survival – mine as well as Frederick’s. I was not sleeping, and I was crabby (more than usual).

Instead of obsessively checking my Facebook page and my various social media feeds, I avoided them. It took about a full week for me to stop missing the virtual stimuli and to accept that no one was waiting in cyberspace for me to post pithy thoughts.

In fact, after several weeks of ignoring social media, I came to the conclusion that I could probably delete all my accounts and still have a full and rewarding life.

I seriously believe, though, that I’d miss my Facebook friends. Especially one: My friend Dan.

According to Facebook, Dan and I have been friends since 2013, but Facebook is wrong. Dan and I have been friends since 1999, when he walked into the nonprofit I was working for and asked if we needed volunteers. At the time, I was working for Portland Performing Arts, a long-gone nonprofit that eventually morphed into One Longfellow Square.

To him, I said, “Yes.” And although I have not seen Dan in the flesh for eight months, we talk to each other almost every day on Facebook.

My friend Dan is the biggest mouth on Facebook. He is a fully functioning professional with more time logged on Facebook than anyone I know. How he does it and still manages to run his own business, help raise two kids, be a political activist and, theoretically, contribute to a marriage with a reasonable woman who is not on Facebook 24/7, I do not know.

I may just have answered my own question.

I stayed off Facebook for most of the two weeks, but I did peek just once. On that day, my friend Dan posted this: “One of the interesting things about current events is the opportunity to re-examine what feminism is. It’s always a contested term, but has some new urgency. No one would have called (Margaret) Thatcher a feminist.”

He went on to ask, “Is feminism the collected lived experience of women, or is it an analytical framework looking at power structures, independent of the identity of the analyst?”

“Whaaat are you talking about?” I thought but did not post. Being a dude, was he even allowed to define feminism?

I wondered if I could define feminism in my own words without all the “analytical framework” academic jargon.

The feminist revolution of the 1970s influenced my worldview. For the first time, I connected the dots between the political and the personal. If what was happening in society negatively affected me, it probably negatively affected others. Better wages, healthier food, shelter and equality for all were core values of the early feminist movement.

Feminism is a point of view. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with gender – especially now in this gender-fluid age. If you were designated male when you were born but have come to realize that you are female, you may or may not be a feminist female. It’s a choice.

Feminism is the filter I use to view the world. I was not born a feminist – I became a feminist. The same way that socialism can be how one defines their ideal society, feminism is how I define my ideal society.

In my world full of feminists, we are all equals. We are all paid the same for the same jobs. We all have the power to make decisions about our own bodies. We all respect each other regardless of gender or race.

Are dudes allowed to be feminists? I say, “Yes.” Expand the circle.

To Dan, I say, “Girl, you need to get off Facebook.”

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]