From the first moment that Cinderella tells little girls that we need a man and his money to save us (although I’ll say this, Cindy worked her ass off), to the barrage of ads and articles in Vogue, Glamour, Cosmo and other “women’s” magazines that bombard us with examples of how we should be rather than who we are (or have the potential to become), we are led to believe that something in us is missing. That we’re not perfect just the way we are. That we need to change.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s during the Women’s Liberation Movement (yes…it was a thing…a very important thing and it deserves its capital letters). The Movement told me that I could be anything I wanted to be…which was good. They also told me that Disney was trying to keep women in their “place” with their spanking clean fairytales of Princes and happily-ever-afters. Then they told me (well…not me, I was only a kid) to burn my bra and let the girls hang free. They ALSO told me that the work world had a glass ceiling which meant I’d never make it in a man’s world without a fight. This was very confusing to young me since I really, really liked the concept of happily ever after, the women on TV shouting and burning their bras were very scary, and no office had glass ceilings or you’d be able to see up every girl’s dress which the nuns at St. Thomas Moore told us was a no-no.
I did, however, take away some very good lessons. I learned that just because it had never been done by a woman didn’t mean I couldn’t do it if I wanted to do it. But what if I didn’t want to do it? What if I had something more, um…traditional in mind? Well then I should do it anyway…you know…for the good of women everywhere. It was my job to break down doors and bust through barriers for womankind all over the world. I was a trailblazer! No pressure.
Just for the record? I never burned my bra. No one was ready for that nonsense.
I spent the 80’s denying what I wanted out of life and what my gut told me I should be doing. WAAAAAAY down deep (way, way down deep…did I mention it was way, way, way down deep), I wanted to be a mom first and an English Literature teacher second. I wanted to create the kind of home I’d always dreamed I’d have and make high school kids love literature the way I did. That didn’t happen. I took a job in the banking industry because it was a man’s world (while teaching was women’s work) and I vowed never to have children because it would get in the way of my career and I’d probably just fuck them up the way my parents did me. So I would take one for the team. What did I know? I was just a snot nosed twenty something who thought she knew everything and was going to set the world on fire one man at a time. Hey…I earned that “FemiNazi” nickname! (And the “Funnelface” one but that’s another post entirely.)
Then the 90’s came around and all of a sudden I was in my 30’s, and a kinder, gentler woman emerged. I had children and began questioning my career choice, finally settling on teaching within the banking world. That’s about when my confidence headed south along with my ass and my breasts. I had children and became the best mom ever (I have a mug AND a t-shirt that says so) but I was starting to think that being a mom and having a career wasn’t going to work (pun intended). My job required travel but how could I be a good mom if I traveled so much? The stay at home group said I was the devil incarnate and that my children were going to grow up to be neurotics who would prey on the normal people in their Stepford neighborhoods and torture guinea pigs while sucking the life out of the Maytag repairman with their tales of how bad their mama treated them. The career women wondered why I refused to travel on my children’s birthdays and questioned my commitment to a job I was only doing until the Lottery Gods finally decided it was my turn to win. Oh…and by the way, Vogue and Glamour and Cosmo said I was fat and my clothes were ugly and that I shold give it up anyway, 30 somethings were so last week!
Finally my forties arrived and while it was a tough time for me (my drinking got really bad then and my own mother – living with us at the time – tried to kill me by just being herself), it was also the time I started to question those “other women” and so called “friends” who were constantly giving me advice about my life.
Let’s start with all of the women who, because they couldn’t figure out how to do it all, thought I couldn’t either and had the balls to say so! Like my stay at home mom “friends” who were frustrated by talking to kids all day and secretly wondered if their husbands were sleeping around because they were BORING and therefore found joy in tearing me down because I had a life outside the home.
“I am so sorry you HAVE to work…that must be awful.” Well no…I actually really love my job and oh…are those the same yoga pants you had on yesterday?
“But what will the kids do when you travel? How will they manage?” Well they have a father and my mother lives with us so I’m sure they’ll muddle through somehow and how come your kids are always eating at my house…oh that’s right YOU DON’T COOK even though you’re HOME ALL DAY.
All the while I was feeling guiltier and guiltier about not being there for them, even though they were happy, well adjusted kids who everyone loved and got great grades. The truth is that I would have LOVED to stay home and be boring (no really…I would have) but I couldn’t because WE COULDN’T AFFORD IT so give me a fucking break and back the hell off.
Then there were my career women “friends” who hated to be at home because their kids were brats and their husbands were assholes so they threw themselves into their work and made their co-workers miserable instead of their family. THEY decided it was a good idea to question my devotion to my job because I actually liked spending time with my family and would do anything to be with them more. How about you lighten up a little and pull that Blackberry out of your ass and lend some support to your fellow women rather than tearing them down?
Oh and by the way, now Vogue and Glamour and Cosmo said I was really fat and my clothes were still ugly and I was peri menopausal and cranky and I couldn’t remember how far to tighten my bras because I didn’t know where the girls were supposed to be on my chests and my shorts had to be worn down to my knees otherwise my ass cheeks were peeking out. (And you wonder why I was cranky.)
But now? Now I’m in my fifties. I am through menopause, sober and guess what…I don’t give a Jack Keebler what anybody thinks. I love my job and I love my family and I love being sober. I’m softer and squishier than I used to be and my kids could care less. My husband still thinks I’m sexy. My grandchildren like me this way (“I love you Grandma Sherry…you’re soft.”). Vogue and Glamour and Cosmo still say I’m fat (as well as that damn nurse in the doctor’s office) but I’m more concerned about not dying like my mother than whether or not I’ve got a thigh gap. (Really? With all the problems in the world we’re not focused on daylight between our thighs?) Besides…I cancelled all of those subscriptions years ago. They could say what they want about me but I’ll be damned if I was going to pay for the priviledge!
I’m looking forward to my sixties. I don’t care if they are the new 40’s or 30’s or what-the-hell-ever, for me they’ll just be my sixties. I’m also looking forward to another round of bigger and better “I don’t give a fucks.”