I should know by now to keep my Saturday nights strictly superficial — boxed wine and a couple Quinnipiac kids. (Keep it simple, keep it real.) Unfortunately, it’s just when you least expect it that gender issues jump up and bite you in the ass.
So one Saturday night I found myself draped across a booth at Toad’s, sucking away blissfully at an apple martini (as usual), with my dancin’ shoes up on the table and my boy-pal Jon at my side.
JON: Hey, what do you want to do when you graduate?
ME: Go into corporate law (of course I was kidding, but this is not the point).
JON: HA! Are you JOKING ME? You’re definitely the stay-at-home-mom type.
Maybe it was just that my feet hurt, or maybe that my glass was empty, but I like to think I fired back with the righteous anger that can only be felt by a gal whose imaginary career plans have just been shat on.
ME: WHAT? Of course I’m going into corporate law. I was born to be a lawyer. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I’m very entrepreneurial, and just because I’m not a boy doesn’t mean I don’t want a real job!
For the next 15 minutes, spurred on by the vodka and schnapps surging through my veins, I ran the gamut of feminist cliches, working myself up about how women can do anything men can do (including lie about their career plans apparently) and how we were all Yale students and all equally talented — blah blah blah. In a finale just as saucy as the ones I’ve seen on Lifetime Television for Women, I slammed empty cups on the table. Gloria Steinem would have been proud.
JON: Well if you’re so modern and liberated, why did I buy little Ms. Corporate America that martini?
Whoaaaa girl. Sorry G. Steinem, no victory is worth THAT.
I woke up the next afternoon with two worries weighing on my mind. First, had I missed brunch? But more importantly: Does being a modern woman mean I have to buy my own drinks?
Cue Aretha on my MP3 Player: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.
Preach it sister. It’s the year 2002 and Jon’s feeble attempts (via late-night IM) to look less like some 1950s sitcom husband really weren’t making the grade. Like:
“I would agree that girls are as smart as guys –“
Thanks Jon, and welcome to the biggest social revelation of the 18th century.
“I don’t know many career women who would say their role model was Madonna :)”
Was I in the freaking Twilight Zone or something? Jon was saying I couldn’t have a real job because I didn’t cite Marie Curie as my personal hero. And the smiley face was just insulting at this point.
It only took me until halfway through The Immaculate Collection before I saw what was going on here. I’m talking about a very real danger haunting Ivy League campuses everywhere.
I’m a victim of feminism.
Take a little speed-walk with me through the 20th century. Once upon a time (circa 1955) a girl got her kicks by hopping around in a poodle skirt, getting pinned by a football player, and then living happily ever after trapped in a creepy suburban house and popping out kids with names like “the Beave.” Then Betty Friedan and Lilith Fair laid the smackdown. Now it’s the new millennium and we have boys hopping around in poodle skirts and girls playing football, and “the beave” refers to something completely different. All of a sudden a girl can’t bake her boy a brownie without feeling like a total sellout.
Of course, one thing to come out of the Feminist Revolution is a stereotype worse than the cheesy poodle skirt girl: Jane Feminazi, the angsty “liberated” woman with an agenda. She’s a women’s studies major and her favorite singer is Ani Difranco. She not only buys her own dinners and carries her own bags, but she can build a fire better than you. She has a Palm Pilot and a bad relationship with her mother. And oh yeah, she hates me because I can’t change my own oil.
So what’s so bad about that?
I love being a girl. I love pedicures, frozen yogurt and flat irons. At some point I may well have loved Tiger Beat. I love cooking, especially foods with cute names like “popover.” I adore cashmere. I think boys are “dreamy.” I prefer skirts to pants, pink to blue, Cary Grant to Rupert Everett, and silk to flannel. What’s more, I just won’t let that archaic chivalry thing die.
But people at Yale refuse to see the traditional girly-girl as a valid person.
It’s not that I’m trying to live like the past 50 years never happened. I want guys to see me as an equal, but that doesn’t mean I want to be less of a girl. And to tell you the truth, if I felt like being “liberated” from anything it’d be having to open my own car doors. Besides, my bras are all way too pretty to burn and leg hair nauseates me.
Just because I wear Mary Janes and not penny loafers doesn’t mean I don’t have my feet on the ground. Just because I read “W” doesn’t mean I don’t read Kant. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. My commitments are no less academic scheduled in a pink patent leather planner than an oh-so-blah Yale assignment pad (SO status quo). You get my drift.
I still want to be a lady, just not a “little lady”. And so this is my answer to Jon: I will have my cake and eat it too. I will proudly flaunt my femininity and still know that when the chips are down, this little flower gets it DONE.
Liz Gunnison benches 280.