Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On being a woman.

I've been reading a lot of YA lately. I mean, a lot. And mostly Blake Nelson, of whom I have a HUGE author crush on, really, ever since I read GIRL way back when. If you haven't read that book and you are literate, you should be ashamed of yourself. I identify with Andrea Marr in that way I identify with Jane Eyre. Anyway, in the last two weeks I've read PROM ANONYMOUS, THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL, ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR, DESTROY ALL CARS- all by Blake Nelson (PARANOID PARK is next in queue) and WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. Also JANE EYRE and DUNE ROAD (Jane Green)- those are not really YA, just giving a complete list here. And I picked up KARMA FOR BEGINNERS by Jessica Blank. I'm trying to get an idea for the genre to see if it's something I think I could write. I know I stepped into that territory for a bit- the first 3 original chapters of JALR all take place in high school- and, actually, it was pretty fun.

Here's what I love about YA: These teenagers have problems. They have complexion issues. They have trouble fitting in. Their clothes are all wrong. They're misunderstood. They can't find a boyfriend/girlfriend. If they do, they worry about having sex. They drink or do drugs and it messes with them. Or not. Anyway, it's a hell of a lot like being an adult, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, if we're honest, we worry about this shit just the same. Or maybe that's just me, and I'm somehow "special." But the lovely thing about it all is, despite all the problems, despite the trauma/drama, there's so much hope. Even in WINTERGIRLS, where the protagonist nearly kills herself with an eating disorder, there's *FUTURE* looming ahead, filled with possibility. Like graduation. Or college. Or that next big love.

Here's what I hate about being a woman: Upon entering the realm of adulthood, the idea of possibility is cruelly snatched away, something like the rug being pulled out from under you. When you're a woman, becoming an adult is the end of you. If you choose to strictly have a career, you are not a caring person or something must be intrinsically wrong with you to not have had a family. If you have a family and work, you are not spending a) enough quality time with your kids; and b) enough quality time at work; and are therefore a failure at both. If you stay home with your children and devote your life to them, you are a soccer mom who has lost her sense of self. If you stay at home with your children but try to have outside interests, you are selfish and a horrible mother. How do you win at this? How is it possible to recognize these facts (because that's what they are) and have any desire to do anything at all? When whatever you do is wrong.

I know this. I feel it. I worked ridiculous hard before I had kids. I was criticized for being too involved in my job. I got pregnant, had a baby and stayed home for several years. I did the homegrown thing in my house, all for the sake of my kids. I stopped going out with my friends because I found I had nothing besides all my in-home projects to talk about. I went back to work and felt the pull of my job and my family. I could never give enough to either. I quit again to be home and to write, but again feel the strain. When I write, I'm taking my time away from everyone else. When I don't write, I'm miserable. Where's the middle ground?

There isn't any. Because there's no win. There's guilt and condescending attitudes. There's anger and resentment. There's sadness and invisibility.

I write a lot about choice. About taking back control of our lives. Truth be told, there are a lot of times I don't believe a word of it. Still, like those YA books I so adore, I like to believe in the possibility. I like to think that hope isn't just something we feel in vain. That maybe it just sucks because I'm in the middle of it, and there's some kind of a graduation looming ahead to look forward to.

Listening to: Headlights "Wildlife"

xo. kb.

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