Hey Girl

Sometimes I’m not sure how female I want to be.

I mean, if we’re having an either-or conversation, it’s pretty clear which side of the line I fall on. And I love both my X chromosomes very much, but sometimes I get this really intense guilt about one fundamental aspect of being a girl: how much should we be spending (money and time) on improving our appearances?

Maybe it would be easier to find an equilibrium if the women around me had a more consistent set of beauty values. But they run the gamut, and I can completely identify with all of them. It is obnoxious to spend precious funds on waxing and salon haircuts, and wouldn’t that money be better spent on traveling? And blow-drying my hair after.every.shower. just seems like such a pain. But then I go to work (or school) and feel so frumpy amid the throngs of shiny-haired, manicured girls who clearly didn’t get dressed in the dark. We’re only young for so long, and at 50, I’d like to look back at pictures of myself now and say, “Damn, girl” …and not because 2012 fashions then look totally ridiculous.

I had a friend in college who was very beautiful, in a way that I can only describe as “well taken care of.” Hair like spun silk, luminous skin. The shelves of her bathroom were lined with a staggering amount of “product”…cleansers, toners, hair masks, all of which multiple trips to Sephora have taught me were extremely expensive. But she looked so wonderful! All those products really work! And when I mentioned that bathroom beauty shrine offhandedly to M, his response took me by surprise. “Why don’t you get those things too, then?” I had expected him to reject that level of self-care as frivolous, but he saw it as just part of the territory of “being a girl.” Why don’t I? Why when I try to order makeup online does some bizarre part of my brain shriek, “Selfish! Children in Africa!”

One thing I know for sure: nothing you can buy at a Benefit counter makes as much of a difference in how I look as getting a lot of sleep, working out like a beast, and eating like a cave dweller. Fact. So this is pretty much a fourth-tier consideration (and a first-world problem). And it’s all been a very long-winded way of saying that I have a pretty sexy NARS lipstick in my online Sephora checkout bag, and I can’t decide whether I need it or not. Where do you guys come on down on this issue?

Good Choices

I found something really interesting last night when I was totally wasting time  celebrating the fact that it was Birthday Eve and trolling through the archives of my newest, most favorite Mormon hipster mommy blogger. (Sidenote: is it ok for someone who is not Mormon to be so enamored of these blogs? I think yes. But mostly because BABIES. You cannot argue with that.)

So, I had just found this blogger via her guest post on another blog (dear lord, the wormholes the internets can lead us into) and I was struck by her funny, intelligent voice. I’m clicking on post after post, and then I come across one wherein she responds to a reader’s request for marriage advice. “Excellent!” I say to myself, and then the first piece of advice I see leaves me SO cold. What was it?

“Conform to your gender roles as much as possible.”

GAH. I had an immediate mental spasm, and was actually kind of confused…this woman is so bright, so articulate, so in touch with a worldview that matched mine so well. How could she be stumping for something that seems so antiquated and limiting?

But then I read on, and was equally floored by what she said to flesh out that statement. Things like “Dress up for him” and “Speak in a sweet voice” and “Make him dinner once in a while.” Things that I, um, do all the time. Things I never considered “conforming to a gender role” and instead thought of as being a good partner to the person I love. So strange, to reconsider the actions you take to keep your husband happy…am I being slowly transformed into a Stepford?

I mean, obviously not. That’s just dumb. I don’t even have a pearl necklace. The reason I do all those things (aside from trying to look hot as often as possible, because duh why would you not) is that, when I do, he flips out in a fit of joy. Seriously. When he came home from jujitsu last night, he saw that I had made him pesto shrimp, and he told me exactly 70 times how good it was. And oh my god thank you. And how good it was. And I love you. I love shrimp. Oh man. Making this guy food is like deworming orphans. No, that is disgusting. It is like doing something very, very wonderful, because he is so incredibly thankful. That’s why I do it, and why I try to make his life easier/better in every way…because I love him, and it makes me happy to see him so happy.

But once I started to think about it, those improvements that I try to make to our lives are all super-feminine. Holiday decorations. Baking. Wearing heels and makeup and doing my hair. Why does it bother me so much to call all of that “conforming to my gender role?”

I think the reason is largely that I made the choice to do those things after meeting M, and because of him, specifically. Had he been a super outdoorsy dude who didn’t even notice blow-dried hair, or a PB &J man who wouldn’t know a truffle if it bit him (bad truffle!), there’s no way I would put so much effort into those things. I’d be a ponytail-rockin peanut butter connoisseur, and there’s nothing inherently female about peanut butter. (….right?) I want to be half of a partnership that looks at each life hurdle together (laundry? college tuition? childcare?) and decides how to tackle them as a pair. With no preconceived notions about who does what, and no mantles that we have to shoulder alone because we were born into one gender or the other. Those hurdles will get divided up, and in a few years I could easily be walking down 2nd Street at 3pm on a Tuesday, wearing a Baby Bjorn. But if so, it’ll be because I wanted  it. Because as an adult with other options, I chose it.

Probs I will make him be the stay-at-home parent, though. I mean, come on.

The End of An Era

M (reading excitedly from the Economist): “Did you know that Myanmar is TOTALLY punking China right now? They’re refusing to build this giant construction project, and everyone is all amazed.”
Me (distractedly looking up from a Kim Kardashian story in a fashion magazine): “Um…huh?”

Apparently we’re being “adults” now.

Pretty much sums up how I feel about that.