Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sleepless in New York

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I hope that you choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women." -- Nora Ephron

When trying to say something really important, it's good to do it after a couple of drinks and even better to use someone else's words. And it's best if those words are by one of New York's most prolific and almost impossibly witty women. Renowned director, screenwriter, producer, and author, Nora Ephron not only graced us with her films (most notably: Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail), but effortlessly penned several novels, all of which feature complicated, robust, female lead characters.  Nora championed women's rights - our right, that is, to be ambitious, contradictory, independent, dramatic, exhausting, hysterical and anything else we can come up with. 
Because the thing is, even as a woman living in the twenty-first century and in arguably the most progressive and tolerant city in the world... it's nearly impossible to get it right. 

As a kid, I was never aware that at any point in the history of the world, women were ever treated differently than men were. Why would I think twice about playing baseball instead of playing with dolls? When Dad says I can do anything, why doubt it? But recently I felt a pang of embarrassment when I told someone that I don't usually eat dinner because I don't know how to cook and if by chance I'm hungry, I'll pick something up on the way home from work.  I wished for a second that growing up I had spent more time watching my Mom in the kitchen than playing in the dirt.  But I'm a "career woman" so I'm exempt from all of that. It's enough that I work hard every day and support myself. I don't have to know how to sew because I've chosen a different path...  right?

A man walks into a meeting and is assumed to be the leader until he demonstrates he isn't capable of it.  A woman walks into a meeting and is evaluated first by her appearance. Dress or pants? What does it say about her? Then she opens her mouth... aggressive or trying to please? (which is better)? Finally, people consider the important stuff, like the substance of what she says, but only after everything else.  (If you think i'm being oversensitive, I thought so, too. That's why I polled some of my female friends. It's not just me). 

So I started thinking. Who is capable of putting so much pressure on others? Of being so judgmental and narrow-minded? Who perpetuates these norms? Women.  We do it to ourselves... constantly up the ante and hold one another to impossible standards.  What would happen if we we all got together and re-wrote the rules? Let's throw everything out the window and start from scratch -- housewives and doctors alike. From now on we'll spend more time reading newspapers than doing our hair. And we'll cry when we want and we'll cook if we want or we'll order Chinese every day. We won't avoid math and we'll get dressed up for no reason. We'll stop caring what others might think and we'll laugh at ourselves as loudly and as often as we can. 

Because that's much more fun than being a lady.