Growing up feminist comes with its own unexpected challenges.
My parents raised me in a bedroom wallpapered with “Girls Can Do Anything” posters, never daydreaming aloud about my wedding or future grandkids. Being smart always trumped being pretty, and they weren’t the least bit fazed when I grew up to be a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed journalist.
But as my twenties roll to an end and I watch yet another one of my friends get married, I have to admit I’m freaking out about my future.
I have more opportunities available to me than my mother or grandmother did, and I’m thankful for the hell-raising my feminist forebears did to provide this, but some days it feels like I’m idling in front of 800 on-ramps, all headed in different directions.
Without the guaranteed personal landmarks of past generations — you meet a nice man, you get married, you have children — it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed by choices. While I wouldn’t trade my personal freedoms for a cookie-cutter future, I’d kill for a better sense of direction.
A few weeks ago, the media was buzzing about a University of Pennsylvania study called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” which suggested that over the past 35 years, as women’s opportunities have increased, their happiness level has decreased.
If this study is accurate, it’s likely because women are still expected to be the primary caregiver at home, nurturing a spouse, children and aging parents, while holding their own in the boardroom.
But what about those of us who are unmarried and childless and don’t do it all? What’s our excuse?
I think part of it is a lack of female mentorship. I had to laugh this weekend when I read Caitlin Moran’s column in U.K. paper The Times, where she admitted she found more inspiration in bad-ass Courtney Love than she did in any of history’s great women. (Moran writes, “I needed a hero who’d repeatedly done incredibly embarrassing things, yet had signally failed to die of mortification.”)
Though I wouldn’t recommend Love as a role model, I do like the idea of connecting with women so far off the beaten path that they seem to have forgotten there ever was a path.
So I’m giving myself some homework: Find women who are blazing their own trails and let their successes, failures and adventures fuel my own.
I’ll let you know how it goes.