I’m planning to tell you an adventure that is so common hence painful it is effectively split off from the emotional lives of young women, tucked away into whatever neural recesses prevail for the purpose of shelving information that looks unimportant yet distantly terrifying. I wonder if young women will read this? The irony is that they most likely won’t, and the silently nodding heads will be ones that are graying, like mine.
After passing out of childhood and into adolescence, I, like most women, entered a three-decade phase of my life that included an adolescence and young adulthood that was peppered with the unwanted sexual advances, sexism in the workplace, mommy wars, pay gaps, and gendered put-downs that few females escape. It was a significant chunk of time. The issues feminism undertook throughout those years were vital, and they remain to be. I am grateful to all the women and men who battle and continuously fight for women’s equal rights, reproductive rights, and freedom from violence and harassment. It is courageous and necessary work.
But then something occurred, and if not for the mirrors in my house, I would be very baffled about what shifted and why. Young women, you’ll experience this too, some day. You’ll catch your reflection and your breath at the same time and be quickly reminded that your facade no longer matches how you feel inside, and that it now undermines the power of your voice, the tone that took several years to develop. I was talking about this to a friend recently who is 51, one year younger than I am. She said, “Oh wow. I remember my grandmother mentioning to me the exact same thing about being stunned by her appearance in the mirror because she still felt like a young woman inside, and she was 78.” So this most likely will not end for me, nor for any of us given the gift of not dying young. It worth keeping in mind.
Men don’t catcall me anymore, and I’m happy to have aged from that, although a number of my buddies are not. My daughter is grown, so the momma wars rage on without me. I’m now happy to be self-employed– an escape hatch from workplace sexism that is not offered to all women, and one that I fully cherish. I charge what I want as an expert and will never again stumble across information at the office that a male co-worker who is younger, less educated and less seasoned than me earns more money than me merely due to the fact that he comes from the penis-owning sex. I am not beyond the tangible and sexual dangers all women suffering from, but they have declined somewhat for me at this stage of my lifetime.