Women, girls, feminism, and happiness in America

18 Nov

Recently, a study was released indicating that women are less happy than before, and that there is a “happiness gap” between the genders.  People act surprised, and now wonder why.  (See the report here.)

Duh.

We really have some pretty dumb people both in the media and in universities, don’t we?  They really aren’t in touch with what it is to be an American woman.

While the lack of general happiness is universal among American women, the problems of being an American woman are also universal, although different facets play out in different ways throughout our lifetime.

It’s also about stereo types and trying to meet these impossible standards.

  • All American women are beautiful.
  • All American women are slender.
  • All American women are independent.
  • All American women are sexy.
  • All American women are promiscuous.
  • All American women are youthful/young.

These are obviously NOT true statements.  Seriously…where do we even get these ridiculous ideas?  Look at Betty White, Rosie O’Donnell, and the women in Walmart.  We aren’t those things, we are so much more, but we are forced to try and meet the standards or we’re just not right.  We diet, we do Botox, we head to the gym, we go to the doctor for answers, we hit the beauty shop, we buy clothes, we force smiles to our lips, we avoid the cameras, we are internally ashamed of our inability to be what everyone says we are…and we’re not happy.

Then we have children, and once again…we’re trying to be Super Mom.  We have to do all of the first set, plus we need to lose baby weight, dress well, have ourselves put together, be energetic, and have the perfect child too.  From the time our babies are born, they become an extension of our goals as Super Mom, an extension of our own egos.  We are also passing on our own insecurities and fears as we push them towards that goal of perfection on a scale of standards that few will ever measure up on.

  • No child left behind.
  • No fat kids.
  • No misfit kids.
  • Gotta be athletic/smart/academically gifted/musical/artistic/dramatic kids
  • Make them Super Kids
  • No ugly kids

Kids don’t come with owner’s manuals or make over kits.  They aren’t designed as miniature adults for beauty pageants and spelling bees.  They shouldn’t be on the stage wearing sexy costumes and singing suggestive songs either.  However, the days of mud pies, skinned knees, drinking from the hose, and climbing trees are long gone, and permitting that sort of activity is liable to result in a visit from the Child Protective Agency.

Now we’re trying to keep up with scouts, PTA, lessons, tutoring, scheduled play dates, and extracurricular studies.  We have to meet and greet other parents, and look the role of Super Mom with a smile.  We need the right address, the right car, the right schools, and the right kids, and we usually don’t have the ones we consider “right” which just leads to more dissatisfaction.

In the mass media, we’re continually bombarded with more reasons to run on the consumer treadmill to meet the standards that someone else is telling us is the ideal.  Buy, buy, buy…and if Johnny’s and Janie’s teacher doesn’t think they are wonderful, it’s a personal assault on our entire effort and self esteem.

It’s ridiculous, utterly lacks logic or common sense, and there is no way anyone can win.  We will never measure up.  Add in pressures to “measure up” in terms of career, academic achievement, sports, hobbies, religious goals…or anything else, and no wonder women aren’t happy.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be judged against a yardstick with the odds stacked not only against us, but against any real human ever measuring up.  Who do we really think we are?

It’s more than time to step back, take a really deep breath, and think about things in terms of reality.  I know I will never be twenty again, why on earth shouldn’t I revel in the fact that I’ve survived this world more than twice over twenty?  So what if I’ll never be a super model, I bet most super models can’t do a lot of other things that I can do.

I quit dyeing my hair about four years ago, after going through a phase of “reverse streaking” my hair to gradually blend the natural gray with the tinted hair.  It was necessary because of the fact that I also have long hair, which is also decidedly unfashionable.  I once had a beautician actually tell me that I had no style…

He can stick his style.  I have a style, it’s MY style.  I am not trying to look like Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga or the girl that married that British prince.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the way they look either–I’m just me, and I look a whole lot better as me than if I stuff myself into ill fitting clothes and wear makeup I despise and waste hours of my time trying to make my hair mimic theirs.

There is nothing wrong with being me either.  Yeah, I’m not perfect, but I have never met a real person that really was perfect anyhow. Trying to be perfect is as impossible as trying to be a “normal” family–we’re all dysfunctional to one degree or another, depending on whose standards you are using at the time.

I’m quirky, I’m creative, I’m moody, and I’m a damned good friend.  I’m very happy and recently married my best friend.  I have three dogs and two cats, and I’m a mom and a grandma too.  I’m a lot of things even if I’m not perfect.  Most of all, guess what?

I’m happy.

Yeah, we have problems.  No, we don’t have a perfect life.  Heck, Greg isn’t even perfect, but he’s my perfect husband anyhow.  Perfection is boring, flaws are what makes us all so interesting.  They give us character and ensure we’re unique.

I don’t have to have perfection to be happy, and I don’t have to be perfect to be happy.  I don’t have to use somebody else’s yard stick to measure my life and determine my value either.  I do that with my own choices and actions, all by myself.  Not even my marriage determines whether or not I have value–I’m truly grateful that Greg is my husband, but I’d still be ME even if he wasn’t.

Sometimes I embarrass my daughter when I wear salmon pants and a purple shirt with white socks that show between the cropped pants’ bottom and the tops of my shoes.  Maybe I forget to comb my hair now and again.  Once in a while, even Greg puts his foot down and refuses to go to the store with me until I change into something presentable.  That’s okay, I can live with that too.  After all, the real thing is that I don’t see the clothes I’m wearing because I am on the inside of them and I’m really focused on things that are far more important to me.  Telling me to change is what daughters and husbands are for, I suppose.  I’ve been known to occasionally request a wardrobe change for Greg too, although it’s been a long time since I’ve told my daughter that she was not going out in THAT outfit.

I don’t even realize that what most people see is an aging, gray haired overweight woman who dresses weird.  To me, I’m still young and slim and strong and agile…until I go to move too fast!  I forget I’m old and fat and stiff now.  I look at my granddaughter and I’m mystified how my baby had a baby…especially one that is the spitting image of her mother.

Time is a strange thing, I’ve realized.  Even so, it’s no stranger than the ridiculous standards that American women have begun to hold up for themselves.

Get real.  You can’t be it all, do it all, and be happy too.  You have to pick and choose what is important to you.  You need to realize that you have value as a person, and it’s not dependent on meeting somebody else’s standards either.

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