taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Monday, April 14, 2003

When you're a young woman, anything is possible. Traffic tickets disappear, drinks are free, you change lanes with impunity. And then you get up near thirty. Good grooming can compensate somewhat--you suddenly become conscious of your eyebrows and toenails--but ultimately, you have to realize that your true magic is gone.

It was powerful juju, whatever I had from age twelve on, and I'm sad to watch it go. It occurs to me now that my only cushion is money, or at least the appearance of it. After all, the world looks at women in a very Jane Austen way: if you're not young or rich, or both, you're invisible. Your potential is severely curtailed.

I've noticed that a lot of women take refuge from this reality in childbearing and mothering--hence their bad, helmetlike hair, their ill-fitting pants, their minivans. They think that by desexualizing themselves--getting out of the game--they can escape their female doom.

Personally, I like the money route better, not because it will buy me more things, but because it's a more honest currency than either sex or mommyhood. Anyway, it lasts longer. When I had that ineffable youth, I knew it was a chimera after all, I knew I was bargaining my way through the world--I've always been fine with a fair exchange. I worry, though, that I'm losing my bargaining chips.

There's a third way, there must be... and it must have something to do with letting go of other people's expectations. But relinquishing is much harder than it sounds. You have to be willing to face the consequences--snooty shopgirls, lower-paying jobs, and flax skirts. I don't think I'm there yet. We'll see in a few years.


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