Recently an ex college professor wrote to me and asked what I thought the American Dream looks like for women. Initially I was hesitant to answer, unable to adequately generalize what women want, much less what I want. In an effort to avoid sounding vague and predictable, I tried to upgrade where I saw myself in twenty years, but ended up sounding just as shallow. So I gave honesty a try.
Truthfully, my academic experience spoiled my appetite for such discussions, as my perspective was often overshadowed by overemotional rants by my female peers. Women tend to quickly victimize themselves or aggressively defend their right to breastfeed in public during these debates, so I carefully avoid them. Too often we are stereotyped as erratic and hormonal; when there are just as many men making similar or worse choices (Perfect examples would include government, church, and suicide rates).
When I try to visualize what the term “American Dream” means for women, I find it difficult to picture anything but feather dusters and Prozac, which is probably more a result of the media than reality. I suppose some of my own personal “American Dream” has been influenced by my faith, though I’d hardly call myself religious. Growing up in a non-ethnic Mennonite middle class family within in a wealthy Mennonite community affected how I visualized the “Christian” American Dream. I entered college completely misunderstanding the Mennonite faith and its people, assuming all Mennonites were self-absorbed hypocrites who donated money to each other instead of their alleged beliefs in global service and peace. Since graduating, however, I’ve found some clarity and have tried to adopt the lifestyle I preach, visualizing my future without the conventional materialistic lens. I want to: live simply, exist responsibly, become a global citizen.
But let’s be real. Living in the American suburbs does not exactly encourage simplicity. As I grow older, it becomes increasingly more difficult not to want the big house, two and a half kids, and swimming pool. Though I certainly don’t want it now, it’s hard not to want it eventually, despite the fact that I know it’s flawed and highly exaggerated.
Beyond the house and the kids, however; what do women want? I suppose that’s the inexhaustible question. I believe many women want marriage and the lot until the honeymoon ends and their husbands stop kissing them goodnight and start conveniently forgetting to help with the dishes, the kids, and marriage at large. It’s easy to “check out” in 2008. As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve become an increasingly self-involved society. Who has the time and energy to invest in a marriage when you’ve become accustomed to devoting everything to yourself?
Perhaps that’s too dismal of an outlook. More importantly, maybe I should change my tune before I turn into a 45 year old bitty with cats.
After college, there comes a moment when you stop thinking about life in terms of possibilities and begin seeing it as a set of limitations. This is the transition into the real world, one that I grapple with every morning while trying to get out of bed. Within those bounds, I think most women just want to end up as good or better than their own mothers and feel appreciated. Part of the problem is the average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think. There’s a quote, I think. Something along the lines of imagining a world without men. No crime and lots of fat happy women. That always makes me smile.