Tonight I am sick.
I’ve been sick most of the week. Sneezy, itchy throat, take a pill and soldier through it sick. But tonight, I can feel it getting into my lungs and chest instead of my head, and I know tomorrow’s going to be a horrid day.
I went upstairs and tried to sleep. I’ve got just enough fever to be having those brilliant flash dreams and sudden insights and floaty I’m-not-awake-and-I’m-not-asleep-and-this-is-such-a-cool-state-of-awareness moments.
Earlier today, about three hours ago, I finished the edits of Dragon Haven and sent them back to Jane at HC. I inserted this whole section in the last chapter, about ten pages I think. At the moment, it seemed essential that I do so. Now I’m wondering if I inserted a rambling mess in there and if my editor will think I’ve lost my mind. Tune in next week, folks.
So, after I did that, I went upstairs and lay on my bed with CSI playing to keep me company. Drifting in and out so the plot made even less sense to me than usual. And then I was in a corridor and all the doors were shut except the one at the end. And suddenly I knew that what my book really needed was another passage through the plot. So I opened a door, beyond it was all sunshine and flowers and birds calling. And I stood there, wondering if a book would hold up if it had two passages through it instead of one, or if the roof would fall in.
At the time, that made perfect sense, and I was a bit worried because I didn’t want to shut that door.
Then I sort of surfed around, in and out of sleep and the tv show, which had abruptly changed into Monk. Then I had a brilliant insight. For most women, we spend a great part of our lives in this immense competition to be attractive to men. We all succeed at various levels. Some of us obsess about our weight. I swear, I have friends who every day, almost every hour, have to say something about what they ate or didn’t eat, or if their weight is up or down by a pound. One dear friend said to me, "It has been years since I went into a restaurant and really ordered what I wanted and then ate it." That seems so sad to me.
Anyway, so the majority of women are in this huge competition, all the time, worrying that we are not attractive. Or not attractive Enough to get what we need to get, be it approval or a man or a promotion.
And then suddenly, we hit a certain age . . . and it’s lower in the US than it is in Europe . . . and we are suddenly out of the running. It no longer matters what we do, how fit we are, how skinny, how pretty we are, because we are past the age to compete. And if you haven’t won a pretty prize by then, then it’s too late for you. Your desirability score has dropped.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that women can succeed in other areas, in significant areas, be it business or family or what have you. But there will come a time when no matter how hard a woman tries, she’s at an age when she is not going to be the most lovely woman in the room. And that is seen as a significant loss, no matter what your other victories are.
Why is that? Why do we let that be the reality?
And my brilliant feverish train of thought was, ‘Why don’t we tell women that when they are young? When they are girls or young women and obsessing about this great competition, why don’t we tell them, ‘There will come a time when none of that will matter?” There comes a time when no matter how good at it you were in the past, you are not allowed to enter the pretty competition. So you’d better have something else up your sleeve.
And wow is my punctuation screwed up in that last sentence.
So I’m sitting here, feeling pretty sick and coughing too much and trying to pass on this sudden bit of inspiration. It’s this. You can’t win, girls. You might win for an hour or a week or even for five years. But sooner or later, you cannot be the prettiest, no matter how hard you try.
The sad part is that even when you find the important thing and achieve it, if you don’t win the pretty contest too, it doens’t count so much.
I see that happen to smart women all along. There are thousands of Hollywood movies where that is the plot. Look, she’s smart and successful, but she didn’t win the pretty race. Oh, but take off her glasses and pull off her scrunchy and suddenly, ‘wow’ she’s beautiful. And now she is really the winner.
Or is she?
Aren’t we saying that until you are the pretty one, you are the loser, no matter how smart or successful you are?
I think this is running through my head because I’ve been talking a lot with young women lately, mostly at the high school age. Talking about colleges and (areyoutoofat) majors and (myhairisgreasy) scholarships and life decisions and(hedidn’tevenaskmeout) real life after high school. And the signal to noise ratio is awful. and I am sad for all the girls crying in dressing rooms because the homecoming dresses insult their bodies. I am sad that one dress and one night can be so, so important, as important as your SAT score or whether you were kind to that old lady on the bus.
Am I saying anything new? No. And I’m not saying it very well, even. I think I should go back to bed and sleep until tomorrow. kids have a judo tournament tomorrow. Why on earth do weigh-ins have to start at 7 in the morning? Are we all nuts?
And probably I’ll read this in themorning and say, ‘wow, I was really sick last night’. And then I’ll delete it.