Saturday, August 16, 2008

When Will I Be A Woman?

On Thursday, all three of my fellas rode off into the sunset, headed for my oldest male child's basketball tournament in Las Vegas. I was supposed to head out this morning to 'The Ranch', my bros' Cam and Chris, with Ciera and My Lovely Mother. It's My Lovely Mother's birthday tomorrow, and I also wanted to meet Patchy, the new puppy. Instead, I spent last night and most of the morning keeping company with the toilet bowl and one very obnoxious stomach. Sigh. My only alternative for so-called activity has been to lay in the bed with Zoe upside-down beside me and the remote control in hand. [Side Note: odd feeling, that, the remote control in MY hand.]

That means I've been channeling between the rowing & running & volleyballing of the Olympics, What Not To Wear, The Iron Chef (secret ingregient: pastry dough), American's Next Top Model, Project Runway, 10 gag-filled minutes of Hugh Hefner's "The Girls Next Door", The Millionaire Matchmaker, and ... let me see ... the last 40 minutes of a Clint Eastwood shoot-em-up show.

Because my head is swimmy & foggy & throbbing & not generally paying attention very well to the (cough) plots, what I noticed over and over and over and over is the way all these shows refer to women as 'girls'. I'm going to cut Tyra Banks some slack on that, because since most of those models are under 20, maybe there's some leeway there. But Project Runway? What Not to Wear? And The Millionaire Matchmaker -- ok, this matchmaker woman [who desperately needs to go on What Not To Wear herself!] is trying to hook-up millionaire bachelors [most of whom are late thirties and up] with serious romances, but she talks to the men about the 'girls' she has to 'show' them.

If I wasn't already sick, I would've been pretty soon. Call it the Rabid Feminist in me if you must, but I think it's wretched, demeaning, and insulting. Sad. Pitiful. Degrading. I think it's just one pervasive collective means to take the edge off WOMEN. Women, real ones, fully developed ones, the ones with intellect and emotional maturity and explorative, creative, confident natures -- we scare the general population, men, sure, but also including 'the girls', the women who want to stay in that less-is-more trap and wear the Girl Sash.

I started referring to my female friends as 'woman' when I hit 25. As in: 'Hey, Woman!' I was married that year, had my first child a month shy of my 26th birthday. Women don't seem to have those stereotypical transitional moments that take males from boy to man. We don't qualify as women when our menstrual cycles begin, right? [And we're the butt of jokes when we hit menopause - go figure!] Or when we purchase our first real bra. Or host our first dinner party, including our or our husband's boss. Or when our income is critical in our ability as a married couple to purchase a crib, a car, or a home. Having a baby doesn't even count, anymore, since in our culture as it exists today, baby-hatching has become a trend for 13 year olds. Earning a living, raising kids, getting an education, establishing ourselves in careers -- it has no bearing on how we're addressed. The men I work with now, and have worked with all of my professional life, still refer to me and any other woman/women in the office as 'girls'. 'You girls have a great weekend!" In my current office, the other of us two 'girls' working there is a) one of 3 owners and b) the president of the company. She's also nearing 60 years of age.

Speaking of age: Women hit our 18th, 21st, 25th, 30th birthdays without the kind of fanfare that hails WOMEN. In fact, we're taught to backpedal, deny, count backwards, fudge, ignore, or outright lie about our true ages. God help us, if we can't stay hard-bodied 22 year olds to all eternity, we have no value. And that's not even true, so much -- look at Britney Spears -- the girl has 2 children and bloats from a size Minus 18 to a Size 4, goes on MTV with a body most of US would kill for, and she's dissed, dismissed, put down, criticized. Celebrities race to see who can have their Celeb Bod back the fastest after giving birth -- but that's a whole different rant, so I'll save it.

What we women know isn't enough. What we've seen, learned, experienced, assimilated, tasted, tested -- none of that is enough to earn us the Woman Badge. Why didn't they tell me that in Brownies? That'd I'd be a girl all the way to my grave? Why didn't someone warn me that cloistering my intelligence, masking my confidence, downplaying my decision-making abilities, muting everything about the WOMAN I am, is what society at large would prefer? Embrace? Applaud?

Botox and boobs, yes sir and 'how do you want your coffee'? Be the efficient and effective decorative office accessory, SILENT of course, no original thoughts, no questionning or innovation, no parlaying of my 25 years of construction experience into a better way of doing anything. Make the coffee, happily clean up the grounds and goobers left by the men, be the smiling approving face, the listening bright eyed audience as if fascinated by any and all male conversation. Never notice that said men never reciprocate with even a single personal question, let alone lend the same listening ear. You are an appliance they call 'girl'.

LESSON: BE A GIRL. A girl who can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and turn up the heat in the bedroom later, but a girl nonetheless. If you have an independent thought, for crying out loud, get thee to a therapist who can prescribe prohibitive and quelling medications, imbibe said concoctions and GET THYSELF IN HAND.

I won't do it. I refuse. Just thought I'd let you know that. I AM a woman, and I'm not going back. And whenever I discover that my WOMAN-NESS scares someone, I'm going to consider that my Woman Merit Badge.