At 8 years old, my stories are of female characters having adventures in the wilderness. I don’t realize they’re plants from my mom. That other kids are reading books where female characters play entirely less interesting roles. When I read those mainstream books I inhabit the male characters as easily and fluidly as the female ones. Just enjoying the story.
At 14 years old, I have a negative view of feminism. I hear my North Idaho community’s opinion on the subject spoken through the mouths of the kids on my bus and absorb it in total. Crazy bra-burning feminists. They’re angry. Bitches. Ugly. Also dykes. Why do they hate being women? (I get all sorts of other alternative facts on those bus rides too, like how the Civil War was about “economics.”)
Wanting to be a well-liked member of my community with a someday interesting job, my life plan evolves to be both nice and excellent at whatever I want to do; the rest will fall into place. I won’t need feminism because it is the 21st century. I have the Y2k glasses and the good report cards to prove it.
You can be likeable, female, successful. Pick two.
At 28 years old, I still employ this strategy while microaggressions pile up around my ankles. I excuse each one as an action from a person who doesn’t get it; a product of the past. I am the future. Each comment about my clothes and inappropriate workplace hug a barrier I’ll barely pause to step over on my way to my good life. I am right, they are wrong. I am smart, they are dumb. I am also nice (life plan), so I don’t tell them this outright. I smile, oblivious that it’s social conditioning.
At 28.5 years old, I’d like to have a child. I realize my life plan is not set up to do this. My hours are erratic, my boss won’t meet with me until after 5:30pm, and he’s mentioned more than once he’d like to fire the sole part-time mother in our office. Part-time doesn’t work for him. It’s the second of two consecutive jobs where a mother’s schedule has been a reason for termination.
At 29 years old, I’ve found no answers and leave my job, go to a Women in Architecture meeting and realize for the literal first time that my problem is systemic. Women don’t make it in my career. They have it pretty dang tough in most careers. I’m doomed. We’re doomed? History class lied. Try to start over as an artist. I love it, obviously, but it’s lonely and I don’t contribute much financially.
At 29.5 years old, I’m tired, pregnant and jobless. I watch my talented husband present at a conference.
At 30 years old, I have a baby; he’s awesome, obviously. He needs everything from me and I want to give him everything.
At 30.25, Theo is three months old. He is slightly more independent and I feel comfortable starting work part time at Jake’s firm. It’s totally fulfilling and the perfect balance of designer and mother. I am refreshed when I see Theo. I am refreshed when I go to work in the morning. I am positive I could not work full time in a design firm and pull this off. I acquire this excellent job totally because of Jake’s value to the firm, my qualifications for it ancillary. My odds of finding another like it slim.
You can take care of your career, your baby, yourself. Pick two.
At 30.5 years old, Theo is five months old. I have an idea for a graphic in the shower that explains the motherhood-designer predicament. Do I have to jump out to make it immediately or do I have time to wash my hair? Theo wakes up and cries. Time was an illusion.
You can be a designer, a mother, clean. Pick two.
I finish Infinite Jest and it’s brilliant. The male characters are the interesting ones. I can’t imagine myself as them so easily anymore.
At (I dunno anymore 30.5 still? You can remember your age in decimal points, your kid’s age in decimal points, to floss your teeth. Pick two.),all I want is to read books written by women. How have I not read more books written by women? My inattention let male voices define my worldview. It’s not the future anymore and we’re not the same. Is anatomy destiny?
You can be well-read, a mother, productive. Pick two.
At seven months (0.58 years!) old, I wonder how Theo will understand his sex, his gender identity, with whom he’ll identify in the books he’ll read. I hope he can be like me, but get to stay that way.
Let me burn my bra with you, feminists. I’m sorry.