A sorority sister chats about a strategy at work. She regrets she didn’t pounce sooner. Looking at this chick all I see is success. She’s talented, famous and, I always thought, a badass. She, however, has doubts. Whaaaa?
Says she, “I’m done not standing up for myself,” a scenario I can nary imagine. I take her at her word, understanding her frustration.
“I’m tired of playing small,” I add.
Each is astonished at the other’s feelings. I’ve always thought of her as a kick ass kind of girl. Evidently she thinks higher of me than my opinion might warrant as well.
The conversation haunts. What happened to us? We, of a certain age. We are neither the willy-nilly armpit hair growers nor the girls “old feminists” brand ungrateful for their struggles. We’re the ones directly behind those first ones—the ones branded militant. Women on either side of us embrace their choices. We, for some reason, got the bag filled with doubt.
Emblazoned on my dorm wall was the “A Woman Needs A Man About as Much as a Fish Needs a Bicycle” poster. I believed I could do anything. I was one of the first female sports reporters, sidelined when I became pregnant; yes, legally allowed at the time. After that I covered city councils and fashion shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some politics and a great shoe.
I don’t remember when it got easier to remain static. Was it the birth of a second child and then a third paired with the realization that dollars to daycare were more than take home pay? Or was it that having it all was just so damn exhausting? Was it that we had the husbands still so coddled by their mothers they thought the wash magically appeared pressed and ready to wear? Or did it just become tiresome to call in the marching band every time they put a dish in the dishwasher or “babysat” their own children?
No doubt, a time came when the fight was too much. It became easier to agree that it was easier on the whole family to divide and conquer family labor along penile lines; non penises doing the lions share in exchange for country club memberships and ladies lunches. Fault lies with neither of us because the truth is—it is easier. He makes more money in one hour than I make in ten and cooking, cleaning and checking homework isn’t the end of the world.
Then an old friend reminds me it’s bigger than that. Her path couldn’t be more different from mine. She never married, dedicated herself to career, is massively successful on all counts but feels a lacking. I married, gave up my career for a time and feel the same lacking. What do we have in common? We gave up our fierce along the way. We don’t speak up. We certainly don’t lean in. And it’s taken thirty plus adult years to scream from the inside out, “No more.”
I hear from her last night. The strategy worked and she’s getting what she wants. Me? Pieces are making their way to falling into place. Baby steps. Kick ass. Badass. Either way, our asses are in gear. Better late than never, non?