Boobs of Burden

Tina Fey’s Bossypants at one point explores the identifying moment when women realize they are “women.” The women she spoke to realized they were women when some guy noticed or cat called them. Later, I reflected that my the inability to place this revelation could be the result of one or two things: the awakening might have simply never happened (perceived kid-feelings persist, because of actual extended adolescence, or simple obliviousness) or the lack of a necessary juxtaposing “man,” whose absence, by the book’s and personal anecdotes, precludes the Real Adult Woman Defined by Man-state from ever being fully realized. What follows is a short history of how I became conscious of the fact that I’m a woman-kind of grown up.

Part I: Elementary school.

I am amused and appalled by the evidence I found of the internalization and construction of Woman in my young psyche: a series of short books written ages 6-8 as school projects from grades 1-3.

Book 1, age 6: “My Trip to Six Flags,” is about how going on rides at Six Flags is awesome and how when I went with my family we got home at an impressive 1am and I went to bed late like a tween or a badass.

Book 2, age 7: The overarching theme of this touching juvenilia is how I consider my older brother my friend.

Book 3, age 8: Displaying a certain maturation and growing cognizance of pop-culture, I was no longer blatantly a character in my books. This work is about a “girl” with modest means who is visited and taken away by a prince-like character.

The mundane and discernible progression makes it seem redundant to state that a year later I was obsessed with Nick Carter.

Part II: Middle school.

I place my becoming a conscious (human) being around 11. I had developed a comprehensive understanding of the importance of being pretty before I understood the socio-political relevance of dismissing God and that one day I was going to die. Before 8th grade it seemed obvious that I should focus my attention on being smart and funny because I placed little faith in the future development of looks, a thing believed to be greater value.

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The awesomest, the naughtiest

While I was bullshitting about questioning the extent to which my generation has reflected on the past decade, a very good friend of mine was reproducing a show she did as a senior and Drama major at Tisch. So, last night I laughed until I cried watching The Machine Sketch Comedy perform i HATE the naughties!!! at Bowery Poetry Club.

The show is so brilliantly sculpted around what I remember about 9/11, the advent of youtube, the rise of social media during my most narcissistic years, and the absurdity and confusion of the political landscape, that I can’t imagine anyone over a certain age getting what feels like a huge inside joke. Concerned that the humor of a sketch-comedy musical focused with such precision on the Millennial coming of age experience might be lost on the older crowd, I conducted a very non-scientific survey of a few baby-boomers in the crowd who affirmed it was universally hilarious.

Exhibit A:


And I won two free drinks at the bar!

Boom. No promotion.

I’m not sure if this is a gendered phenomenon, but I’ve spoken to at least a few college-aged women who agree: it is Not Acceptable to poop at work.

My college roommate said, aghast, after confessing to coming back to our apartment to relieve herself privately, “You can’t be that intern that poops all the time. What if your supervisor heard you? Boom. No promotion. ‘Brings her home life to work.'” Others react with similar horror, slowly beginning to cover their mouths with their hands in projected embarrassment: “Oh my god, no. Of course not. And our bathroom doors are paper thin. You can hear everything. No.”

I realize anxiety about using public restrooms is fairly common, as Michael Showalter’s relatable experience of using a Starbucks bathroom demonstrates (3:00), and if you went to public school in the United States, the thought of using your schools’ bathrooms probably grossed you out, and at least made you uncomfortable. (How much of this adulthood bathroom anxiety stems from having to publicly ask to use the school bathroom for years of our lives, this submission of our own bodily functions to a figure of authority, in classrooms of structured civility? We might never know.)

I’ve been socialized to feel the same way. But I don’t know if it’s right. And if there is a gendered difference, then I want to be conscious of this unfairness. And what of the important and totally justified movements to normalize other bodily functions, like breast feeding, which are, in fact, unique to women? Why are we so uncomfortable and grossed out? In the case of breast feeding, there are definitely externally imposed standards of “professionalism.” For pooping, there’s less of a case.