We Can’t Afford To Be 24 -Hour Girls
I’m newly sober and dog-paddling through the booze all around me. It’s summer, and Whole Foods has planted rose throughout the store. Rose is great with fish! And strawberries! And vegan protein powder!( Okay, I stimulated that last one up .) At the office, every desk near mine has a bottle of wine or liquor on it in case people are too lazy to stroll the 50 feet to one of the well-stocked communal bars we’ve built on our floor. Driving home from run, I pass billboard ads for Fluffed Marshmallow Smirnoff and Iced Cake Smirnoff and not only Cinnamon, but Cinnamon Smirnoff. A local pharmacy, the same one that fucks up my prescription three months in a row, installs self-service brew taps and young guys line up with their empty growlers all the way back to Eye& Ear Care.
Traveling for run, I steel myself for the company-sponsored wine tasting. Skipping it is not an option. My plan is to work the room with my soda and lime, make sure I’m seen by the five people who am worried about these things, and leave before things get sloppy( which they always do ). Six wines and four beers are on display at the catering stand. I ask for club soda and get a blank seem. Just water, then? The bartender pouts apologetically. “I think there’s a water fountain in the vestibule? ” she says.
There is. But it’s transgres. I mingle empty-handed for 15 minutes, fending off well-meaning offers to get me something from the bar. After the fifth, I realize I’m going to cry if one more person offers me alcohol. I leave and cry anyway. Afterward I order vanilla ice cream from room service to cheer myself up.
“People love this with a shot of bourbon poured over it, ” the person taking my order says. “Any those who are interested in treating yourself? ”
That’s the summer I realize that everyone around me is tanked. But it also daybreaks on me that a lot of the women are tanked — that to be a modern, urbane female means to be a serious drinker. This isn’t a new idea — just ask the girls( or the flappers ). A female with a single malt scotch is bold and discerning and might fire you from their own lives if you fuck with her. A girl with a PBR is a Cool Girl who will not be shamed for belching. A girl drinking MommyJuice wine is saying she’s more than the unpaid labor she dedicated birth to. The things girls drink are signifiers for free time and self-care and conversation — you know, luxuries we can’t afford. I ask myself., I answer back. That summer I consider, though. I see that booze is the petroleum in our motors, the thing that keeps us purring when we could be inducing another type of noise.
*** One day that summertime I’m wearing unwise( but cute, so cute) shoes and trip at the farmer’s market, cracking my phone, blood-staining the knees of my favorite jeans, and scraping both my palms. Naturally, I post about it on Facebook as soon as I’ve dusted myself off. Three women who don’t know I’m sober comment speedily 😛 TAGEND
“Do they sell wine there? ”
“Definitely wine. And perhaps new shoes.”
Have I mentioned that it’s morning when this happens? On a weekday? This isn’t one of those farmer’s markets. And the women aren’t the various kinds of beleaguered, downtrodden beasts you imagine drinking to get through the day. They’re pretty cool chicks, the kind people ridicule for having First World Problems. Why do need to beverage?
Well, perhaps because even cool chicks are still females. And there’s no easy style to be a woman, because, as you may have noticed, there’s no way to be a woman. And if there’s no acceptable route to be the thing you are, then maybe some girls drink a little. Or a lot.
The year before I get sober, I’m asked to be The Woman on a panel at the company where I work.( That was literally the pitching: “We need one woman.”)
Three guys and me, talking to summer interns about company culture. There are two female interns in the audience, and when it’s time for topics, one says:
“I’ve heard this can be a tough place for women to succeed. Can you talk about what it’s been like for you? ”
As The Woman, I presume for some reason that the question is directed at me. “If you’re tough and persistent and thick-skinned, you’ll find your way, ” I say. “I have.”
I don’t say she’ll have to work around interruptions and invisibility and micro-aggressions and a scarcity of role models and a lifetime of her own conditioning. My job on this panel is to make this place sound good, so I leave some stuff out. Particularly the fact that I’m drinking at least one bottle of wine a night to dissolve the day off of me.
But she’s a woman. She probably learned to read between the lines before she could read the lines themselves. She thanks me and sits down.
“I disagree, ” says the guy sitting next to me. “I think this is a great company for women.”
My jaw gently opens on its own.
The guy next to him nods. “Absolutely, ” he said. “I have two women on my team and they get along great with everyone.”
, I believe but don’t say.
Guy# 1 continues. “There’s a woman on my team who had a newborn last year. She went on maternity leave and came back, and she’s doing fine. We’re very supportive of moms.”
Guy# 3 leaps in just to make sure we have 100% male coverage on the topic. “The thing about this place, ” he says, “is it’s a meritocracy. And merit is gender-blind.” He smiles at me and I stare back. Short of hijacking members of the panel for my own agenda, silent balefulness is all I have to offer. But his smile vacillates so I know I’ve penetrated some level of smug.
The panel organizer and I fume afterwards. “Those fucking fuckings, ” she says. “Ratfucks.”
What’s a girl to do when a bunch of dudes have just told her, in front of an audience, that she’s wrong about what it’s like to be herself? I could invite them out for coffee, one by one, and tell them how it felt, and they might actually listen. I could tell the panel organizers I could buy myself a superhero dres and devote the rest of my life to vengeance on mansplainers everywhere.
Instead, I round up some girlfriends and we spend too much money at a hipster bar, drinking rye Manhattans and eating tapas and talking about the latest crappy , non-gender-blind things that have happened to us in meetings and on business trip-ups and at performance review day . They toast me for taking one for the team. And when we are good and numb we Uber home, supposing
Do you recollect the Enjoli perfume commercial from the 1970 s? The chick who could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a human?
I blame that bitch for a lot. For spreading the notion that girls should have a career, keep house, fuck their husbands when the only sane thing to do is pick two and outsource the third. For stimulating it seem glamorous. For indicating it was going to be fun. And for the tagline she dragged around: “The 8-Hour Perfume for the 24 -Hour Woman.” Just in case you thought you could get one fucking hour off the clock.
More narratives of my first sober summertime: I go to an afternoon illustrate of at one of those fancy theaters that serve cocktails to blunt the terrible stress of watching a movie in air-conditioned consolation. A few rows ahead of me, a group of women are drinking champagne through straws. They whoop and hollering at the screen as though at an actual Chippendale’s. In the parking lot afterwards, one of them says to the others: “Girl day! We have to claim our girl time.” “We’ve this, ” another replies. And then they drive off in separate directions.
A baby shower is in progress at the fingernail parlor. Except for the guest of honor, everybody has drinking wine, lots of it. I wonder if the mom-to-be intellects, if it feels like they’re rubbing it in. “Thank God there are places like this where we can have lady period, ” a woman in a yellow dress says. She tells the mom-to-be she’s far enough along to have some wine. It seems to her that the mom-to-be drinking with them. I catch myself nodding. You, I think. There’s always one person who can’t deal if someone isn’t drinking. At periods, I was that person.
“I’m going to feel hungover by dinner, ” a different woman says. “But it’s so worth it. How often do you get a chance to get away from your kids for an afternoon? ”
I personally think this is an insensitive thing to say at a newborn shower.
Is it really that hard, being a First World woman? Is it actually so tough to have the career and the spouse and the pets and the herb garden and the core strengthening and the oh-I-just-woke-up-like-this makeup and the face injections and the Uber driver who might possibly be a rapist? Is it so hard to work ten hours for your rightful 77% of a salary, stroll home past a drunk who invites you to suck his cock, and turn on the TV to hear the men who run this country talk about protecting you from abortion regret by forcing you to grow children inside your body?
I mean, what’s the big deal? Why would anyone want to soften the edges of this glorious reality?
I operate a women’s half-marathon on a day in August when temperatures are fifteen degrees above normal. It’s a — what do you call it — a horror prove. But I finish and someone puts a finisher’s medal on me. I’m soaked, chafed, limping, and still triumphant. Until they say: “The margarita tent is right over there! ”
A yoga studio where I sometimes practice starts a monthly “Vinyasa& Vino” event: an hour of fast-paced yoga in a hundred-degree room, followed by a glass of an addictive, dehydrating substance( stimulated locally !). Oh, but it’s about, I’m told. Well, then. Apologies for believing it was about mindful reciprocal advertising to an overwhelmingly female audience, and om shanti.
A local kitchen store offers a combining knife-skills and wine-tasting class — yes, wine for people who have as being so clumsy with sharp objects that they need professional instruction.
At the waxing salon, a cut-glass decanter of tequila is at the ready for first- day Brazilian clients, which — okay, you know what, that tequila was actually fairly helpful back in the working day, and far be it from me to deprive other first-timers.
But knives and liquor, yoga and booze, 13 -mile runs and booze? What’s next to be liquored up: CPR training? Puppy ballet class?( Not actually a thing, but someone should get on it .) Is there nothing so inherently absorbing or high-stakes or pleasurable that we won’t try to alter our natural response to it? Maybe women are so busy faking it — to be more like a man at work, more like a porn superstar in bed, more like 30 at 50 — that we don’t our natural responses anymore. Maybe all that wine is an Instagram filter for our own lives, so we don’t see how shallow and cracked they’ve become.
Toward the end of summertime, I take a trip to Sedona and post a photo to Facebook that captures the red rocks, a stack of volumes, a giant chocolate smoothie, my glossy azure toenails in one frame. It is scientifically the most vacation-y photo ever taken.
“Uh, where’s the wine? ” someone wants to know.
“Yeah, this vacation seems to be missing wine, ” someone else chimes in.
I go to a stationery store to buy a card for a girlfriend. I couldn’t keep it together enough to track greeting card occasions when I was drinking, so it’s been a while since I’ve visited a card shop. There are three themes in female-to-female cards 😛 TAGEND
1) being old as fucking, 2) men are from Mars, and 3) wine.
“Wine is to women as duct tape is to men…it fixes everything! ”
“I construct wine disappear. What’s your superpower? ”
“Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can…and wine to accept the things I cannot.”
Newly sober women have a lot of wonderful qualities, but absence of judginess not one of them. I don’t merely stand there mentally tsk-tsking at the cards. I actually physically shake my head at them like Mrs. Grundy. I think. — yes, at this phase in my sobriety I called wine ethanol, wasn’t I charming? —
The longer I am sober, the less patience I have with being a 24 -hour woman. The stranger who tells me to smile. The janitor who stares at my legs. The men on TV who want to annex my uterus. Even the other TV humen, who say that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” I think.
The magazines telling me strong is the new sexy and smart is the new beautiful, as though strong and smart are just routes to hot. The Facebook memes: muscles are beautiful. No, wait: fat is beautiful. No, wait: thin is beautiful, too, as long as you don’t work for it. No, waiting: As though we are toddlers who must be given shares of princess dust, or we’ll hurl a tantrum.
And then I start to get angry at females, too. Not for being born wrong, or for failing to dismantle a thousand years of patriarchy on my own personal schedule. And not for enjoying a glass of wine, alone or with their girlfriends — cheers to that, if you can stop at one or two.( I could, until I couldn’t .) But for being so easily mollified by. For thinking that the human rights of get as junked as a man entails anything but the right to be as useless.
“What, ” says a woman I enjoy arguing with, “so they can get fucked up and we have to look after them? ”
No, I tell her. We have to look after ourselves.
“That still doesn’t seem fair, ” she says , not unreasonably.
But who said anything about? This isn’t about what’s carnival. It’s about what we can afford. And we can’t afford this. We can’t afford to pretend it’s fine that all efforts we do or think or wear or say yes or no to is somehow incorrect. We can’t afford to act like it’s okay that “Girls can do anything! ” get translated somewhere along the line into “Women must do everything.” We can’t afford to live lives we have to fool our own central nervous system into tolerating.
We can’t afford to be 24 -hour women.
I couldn’t afford to be a 24 -hour woman. But it didn’t stop me from trying till it shattered me.
I am very angry with women that summer and then I’m very, very angry with myself. And I stay that way for months, trudging through my first sober Christmas and chore change and influenza and birthday and that anger at every turn as a reminder to pay attention and go slow and choose things I actually want to happen. By the period summertime comes back around I realize I no longer reek like 8-hour perfume.
That second summertime, I satisfy my friend Mindy outside San Diego, where her adopted son is days from being born. Mindy’s dark alleys differ from mine, but she strolled them all the same and strolled herself out of them, too. Sometimes, talking about the recent past, we blink at one another like people struggling to readjust to sunlight after a long, bad movie. More and more it’s the new that gets our attention: my new job, her newish and happy marriage, the book I’m writing and the classes she’s taking. The things we are attaining happen, step by step.
We expend the weekend moving slowly and sleeping late and — hypocritically — wishing the lazy baby would hurry up already. On Sunday morning we’re reading by the deep objective of the hotel pool when the shallow end starts to fill with women, a bridal party to judge by what we overhear. And we overhear a lot, because they arrive already tipsy and the pomegranate mimosas — one woman keeps telling the others — only keep coming until that side of the pond seems like a Greek chorus of women who have major grievances with their bodies, faces, children, homes, chores, and husbands but aren’t going to do anything about any of it but get loaded and sunburned in the wilderness heat.
I give Mindy the appear that girls use to say with merely a slight tightening of the eyeballs. The girl on the other side of her catches the looking and devotes it back to me over her laptop, and then woman next to her joins in too. We engage in a brief, silent four-way exchange of discouragement, irritation, and bitchiness.
Then Mindy slides her Tom Ford sunglasses back over her eyes and says, “All I can say is it’s really nice on this side of the pool.” I chuckle and my heart swells against my swimsuit and I pull tints down too, to maintain my abruptly watery eyes to myself. Because it is. It is so nice on this side of the pool, where the book I’m reading is a letdown and my legs look too white and the ice has long since melted in my glass and work is hard and there’s still no good way to be a girl and I don’t know what to do with my life and I have to actually deal with all of that. I never expected to make it to this side of the pond. I can’t believe I get to be here.