When I have conversations about this with other women, I often say things like "but he's a really good cook". I say things to protect my image as a feminist and to protect his image as a good husband because I have these expectations for myself that I want met, and sometimes settling for appearance is the only way to make me feel like I'm winning.
But today I'm admitting to you, shamefully, that I'm losing and I'm not even throwing punches anymore. In a few minutes I'm gonna get off my ass and clean my house and he's not even gonna hear a peep about it. Because I'm goddamn tired.
There I said it. And I don't say it to vent, where we all shrug at the end and say "Oh, that's a man for you!" and then the next girl tells the story about how her hubby puts his wet towel on her pillow every day after his shower and then we move on to talking about shopping. That's probably more respectable than what I do, more contented. I say it cowering slightly behind my screen, eyes slightly squinted fearing the blow of judgement of other women I respect, but most importantly of myself.
And this brings me to what I find to be the most difficult thing about being a woman: never fucking measuring up by anyone's standards anywhere ever. In one way or another, I just don't make the cut and I'm weary in failure. You see, I have all these yardsticks I've been collecting over the years. They're the tools with which I measure myself against which have, without exception, told me I didn't quite cut the mustard: yardsticks of the family I was born into, the religion I grew up in, academia that I was formed in, the family that I married into, the working world that I'm immersed in, and the yardstick of knife-and-fire-ball-juggling women around me with their clean homes and ironed sheets and fulfilling careers and impeccable children, and finally my own yardstick that I've built out of feminism, the one that slaps me and shames me the hardest when I don't make the grade.
The thing is, I am finally starting to realize at 33 years old that the game is totally rigged, no matter the path I choose. But at this point I'm really out of breath and my muscles ache from all the race running and scoreboard watching. My path will always be the losing one. The only thing that can temporarily make me feel like I haven't failed completely is to effectively project an image of egalitarian perfection to those around me. But fuck, I'm not fooling myself, and I'm running out of air. I'm close to having burned all the yardsticks I've come across. But my own nags at me that I'm giving up the good fight by opting for peace in my home with the person I love.
But right now? I'm trying desperately to find balance and you know, live. You know, life?
'Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come'.*
This is what I want now: to bear hug the life I never anticipated without suffocating the shit out of it while letting go of the tethered and discarded morsels of self respect I've clung to that have not allowed me to get a firm grip on happiness. This requires burning all my yardsticks, not just the ones that leave me liberated and enlightened.
I'm a feminist. I was one before I met him. I question how true I am to it now and the guilt towards myself that I carry for not fighting harder, a fight that may have eventually broken us as a couple, is harder than I ever imagined. But feminism was never meant to make anyone happy until it's goals were fully achieved. Right now, it's a war. And fuck, right now I just feel willing to make compromises for a peace treaty already and hope that the next generation can pick up where I left off.
*quote from The Wire