Looking Back to See the Future?
posted by Amy

At a party my husband and I went to recently, I noticed something a little unsettling: I was one of the oldest women in the room. I'm 34, and at least right now, the only time this usually happens to me is when I'm teaching classes at the university. Here's why this realization bothered me, though—while the women were nearly all in their early twenties, the majority of the men were my age or older.

We were with a group of my husband's long-time friends, several of whom have been through divorces in the past few years (not one of them, I should add, left his wife for a younger woman—or for any woman at all). But without the other wives, who were all women my age, I felt oddly out of place. Being the last wife left out of this group is more isolating than I'd expected.

So this piece by Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times called "What's a Modern Girl to Do?" struck a chord with me. Dowd writes of her own feelings of otherness during the seventies, "What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity."

But, she writes, "What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvy, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling."

Dowd goes on to wonder, "Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?"

She concludes, "It's easy to picture a surreally familiar scene when women realize they bought into a raw deal and old trap. With no power or money or independence, they'll be mere domestic robots, lasering their legs and waxing their floors - or vice versa - and desperately seeking a new Betty Friedan."