Above is a link to a piece I published on Gender and the Law Prof blog a little while ago. It is a review of sorts of Debra Spar’s new book: Wonder Women. It may be the best piece I did for them. This balancing act for women–not so much has changed, and if Spar’s reporting is true, the future seems to hold more of the same. Why aren’t we holding classes about this in junior high?
One of the great pleasures of being 61 is that from time to time I get to say, I am done with that. There is a long list: reproductive decisions and monthly periods, worrying about promotions, the what-if-I-end-up-a-bag-lady nightmare. I think the way to mental health and inner peace is to actively search out and add more things to this list. It would certainly free up a lot of cranial real estate and maybe make room for more joy, or maybe at worst some new and therefore more amusing neuroses.
Standing in the inevitable line at the pharmacy recently, desperate to pass the time, I started reading the covers of magazines displayed at the pharmacy desk. I have done this many times before, and have had similar reactions. One is that whatever the crisis du jour–divorce, pregnancy, sometimes even death–in the celebrity world, I am free of all of it because I barely know who any of these people are. The other thing I notice is how, aside from the faces in the photographs, the covers never change. Pick five covers at random and one is bound to see at least 4 stories advertising weight loss, and flat abs are a constant subset of that theme. Stories about hair are ubiquitous. Here is a paraphrase of what I saw recently in a single standing: new spring hairstyles, how to get the perfect cut, how to select the hairstyle for your face shape. Make-up tips: the new eyebrow, new shades of blush, is this lipstick you? Exercise and diet stories proliferate, and then there is always an article about how to achieve (or mostly, give) greater sexual satisfaction. It is no secret that underneath all of this is the same hackneyed message: you aren’t good enough, but you could be, if you take our oh-so-sincere advice and buy a heap of our products.
Done, done, and done, with all of it. At 61, my countermessage is that I am good enough, and have no time for any of these articles, suggestions, tips, information, threats, how-to’s, except to observe them under compulsion of being in the pharmacy line. Observe and dismiss. Some of this is simply further lack of interest in what I probably had little interest in in the first place. But age contributes another dimension. Even if I were interested, I know that at 61, the skinny girl in me is gone forever. Post-chemo hair leaves no room nor obligation to examine and choose from the list of new spring hairstyles, nor summer either. I have found two lipsticks colors that I like and am sticking with them. The fact that I consider walking to be my primary source of exercise means that footwear choice is simple and never includes heels. My brain and heart are feeling ever lighter already.
Food and travel porn, that is another matter. I can’t get enough of new foods, new recipes, and the jury is still out on a host of issues, like non-stick or cast iron, in my kitchen. I pore over Paris apartment sites as if I will be leaving home any minute, and am always trying to figure out where to go next. My worries are of the variety that I will run out of time before seeing absolutely everything, so the picking and choosing has to be well-informed.
I am drawn to conversation about my own and others’ life experiences. I am guzzling up courses and learning opportunities. I am flirting with meditation if such a thing is not too disrespectful. I am partaking with abundance, and maybe that has a side effect of making me a better person, or even just one with different experiences. But this whole phoney, superficial, and endless self-improvement campaign that shouts from magazine covers and the rest of the media? I am, happily, done.