Some people might refer to a 35-year-old female as a woman. I suppose it happens all the time. Most 35-year-old females would probably not even recoil violently from such a label as though they had just been victimized by the park flasher. I wouldn’t know.
It happened recently that a friend referred to a female my age as a woman, and I found myself dismayed. Of all the journeys one must make from the sparkling land of self-idealization to the hard and sometimes jarring pavement of self-realization, this has been the hardest for me. I am 35 and I still in many ways consider myself a girl. I don’t even know how this “woman” thing happened. And when did it happen? And is it reversible? And is there a Dark Art spell or antidote? And how do I secure a virgin to throw into a volcano just in case that sort of thing works?
It’s just that I see a woman as being one who is maternal and big-breasted (check, check), domestic and uncool (check, check), is selfless and has lost all sense of individuality (sometimes check, check for sure), and is baffled by the proclivities of America’s youth, like Justin Bieber fever or skinny jeans (big check). I have been so phobic of womanhood, like I would rather have been locked in a Mexican prison if given the choice, that I never noticed that I have actually embraced it, or it has embraced me (or tackled me, rather, from behind and then hog-tied me, bound me with duct tape and thrown me into a nice house with a husband and two kids and tortured me with the task of selling Girl Scout cookies). But it has, because this is what I do. This is what a lot of girls, oops … I mean women, do. This is pretty much what every girl I know does. Woman. Shit.
Coming-of-middle-age for girls is tough. I remember when I first got married, and I would make the best of monotonous chores, i.e. laundry, by making “trick socks.” I would mismatch one pair of socks on purpose because I actually thought this was funny. My profound naivety is heartbreaking. I feel sad for that poor little imbecile who had no idea that one day all of the socks would be trick socks. I know. I can’t believe it either.
My three-year-old, Bo, is lying across me as I write this. She just looked up at me and said, “Mom! I’m using your boobie as a pillow!” She was so obviously proud of her ingenuity, as though she had just found a new use for a retired object, like she had plugged a hole with an old mismatched sock. Geez! Do I need more evidence?
But I admit there is a certain happiness, or at least contentment, that settles into place when one does not wrestle with the inevitable. Once kids are born, there must be a house to protect them from lightening, there must be health insurance, there must be plumbing and electricity, there must be clean clothes and food to eat. This is where being a woman is a necessary evil. It must be done. Someone must provide these things, and it is an enormous responsibility that can be overwhelming and does not allow much room for free time or creativity or individuality or whimsical moves across the country or a summer in Spain or drunken all-night poker games or philosophical rants or listening to Hank III as loud as it will play or watching William S. Burroughs biographies or reading anything or even taking an uninterrupted shower. Once one becomes a mom, housework grows and multiplies. And once one closet is cleaned and organized and manageable, there always sits the next closet. And around and around the woman goes … and her work is never done! (This makes me laugh because I never clean out closets. I’m just making a point. And I shouldn’t complain too much, when it is actually time to dust, we usually just move.) I do have three bathrooms that I clean in monotonous turns as the months plod along. I think that counts double. Triple, actually. And just thinking about it makes me want to drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes as I apathetically toss cards into an old coffee can. It’s a good thing I don’t always think about life in terms of closets or bathrooms.
But despite the occasional dead-inside feeling, I do realize that my being a woman is necessary for a functioning family. It is necessary for my girls to grow in a stable and somewhat organized environment. And when I think of the reasons I do what I do, it makes the tasks not so bad. I guess I have kicked, screamed, and resisted enough and have finally settled down and taken my medicine (the boring kind, like Zoloft. I’m not over here eating mushrooms or peyote). Yes, sometimes I wonder why exactly I went to college. I would have been more effective in my current role if I had taken home economics and learned to cook food and darn clothes or learned how to keep my whites white. I’m really not very good at this sort of stuff, but doing it poorly is better than not doing it at all. So what if our whites are a little grey or our Girl Scout cookies are a little late. At least we WEAR underwear and fuckabuncha Thin Mints. Life will go on.
I guess I have managed to reconcile all this womanly-ness in my own life, but what I have a difficult time doing is trying to reconcile this culturally established end goal of the human female into rearing my own girls. If finding one’s stride as a woman in 2011 America is difficult, raising two girls is almost impossible. It is so influenced by cultural dictates and kind-hearted advice that I feel like I have as much chance of standing on my own two feet as I might expect in a mosh pit.
Here’s the problem: I tend to have some liberal leanings in regards to politics and family values. I just don’t see that what makes other people happy has anything to do with me. It’s simply not any of my business. If people want to marry same-sex individuals, or even two or three of them, I don’t mind. We all celebrate life in different ways, and there are many paths to happiness. And I don’t think that mommy, daddy, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a hamster is the only way to achieve contentment or happiness or success. In fact, about every woman I know who is doing this is on some sort of SSRI to help them clean closets more cheerfully. Others love it, and I think that’s great too. But when it comes to teaching my girls how to live, I get confused because it seems that most people have very strong opinions as to how others should live. It can get pretty scrappy out there. Before I had kids, I could tell them where to go, but now that I have kids, I feel some pressure to assimilate. I am perfectly comfortable being the black sheep of a community or even an outspoken villain, but my kids are not. They just want to fit in and have friends. So I find myself walking the walk that gave me the willies at one point in time. I am tempted to discuss Nietzsche with the girls, but perhaps they would be better served learning how to remove grass stains or keep bread fresher longer. I even wonder if I am doing them a disservice to encourage a life less ordinary. I can teach them one thing, but it seems the rest of the world is teaching them another.
I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I make a mean quiche. I’m the Donald Trump of Girl Scout cookie sales. I am looking for a church and keep my atheism on the down low. I take the girls to dance class on Wednesday nights. I drive a mid-size SUV. I complain about gas prices. I rarely listen to anything other than kid tunes. I have a short haircut that dries easily. I wear mostly t-shirts and sweat pants. I spend a good portion of my life at Wal-Mart searching for bargains. I am just like everyone else. Except I hate Nicholas Sparks and Alice Sebold. That’s the only difference.
No wonder I’m on Zoloft.
I am woman. Hear me roar.
Where is a young virgin and a volcano when you need one?