In some ways, I feel like I was born too late. Not that I’m unappreciative of being born at a time when, as a woman, I could fully use my talents both in the workplace and at home. Really, I wouldn’t trade that for the life that many of our mothers and grandmothers lived. But when I think about the Gen X stereotypes–you know the whole extended adolescence, postponing adult responsibility thing–I’ve just never fit in.
I’ve been thinking about this recently since I picked up this month’s O magazine and read the article “Divorce Dreams.” The author, Ellen Tien, writes about her “mid-wife crisis,” a time which she describes as “a period of high irritation that lasts roughly one to two decades.” She’s talking about a frustration with the institution of marriage and the daily drudgery that often falls to women within it. Her theory is that women today question the institution more, contemplate divorce more readily than did our mothers and grandmothers. She posits that we Gen Xers, convinced of our ability to have it all have now discovered that
We can get jobs, get pregnant, get it done. We can try–with varying levels of success–to get sleep, get fit, get control, and get those important Me-moments where one keeps a journal with thought-provoking lists that go “I’m a woman first, a mother second, a laundress third.” We get upset; we get over it. What we don’t always get is: Why.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think about divorce. I’ve been married almost 18 years now, so I’m thinking I’d be eligible for that “mid-wife crisis,” especially if it’s going to last a good ten or twenty years. And I don’t hold out that Adventure Guy and I have a perfect relationship. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been the nicest person to live with lately, what with the stress levels at work right now. And he can be difficult to live with when he gets into a funk as well. But, we’re married. This is what I signed on for. According to Tien, that makes me a bit odd.
And it makes me think, not for the first time, that I might have fit in a bit better in some ways in a previous generation. As Tien describes those women
At 25, they were ladies with lady clothes and lady hairdos–bona fide adults, the astronauts’ wives. By 40, they were relics.
Okay, so I totally disagree with the “relic by 40” thing. But I was a lady by 25. I’d married at 22, bought a house by 23, become a mother at 25. And, I probably dressed more “maturely” then than I do now. After all, I was a teacher whose students were 17 years old; clothes were one way I set a standard for myself and for them. If all that doesn’t make one a bona fide adult, I don’t know what does.
My mother says I was born old. I’m thinking that Tien might agree. But if that means I’m destined for a little less restlessness in my marriage and in my life, I’m okay with that. Just don’t call me a relic.