The words bubble in my stomach like bile. I can feel them making their way up my throat and into my tightly shut mouth. The impulse to speak is so strong that I have to bite my tongue to keep the words from spewing.
I want to yell in their faces, pound my fists on the oak desk. I want to wail and scream and shout from the top of my lungs: FUCK. YOU.
But I don’t. I bite my tongue. I chew my cheek. I pack up my things politely, taking up even less space than I did before. I get on with the familiar act of making myself smaller.
I smile as I leave the office, thank them for their time. I act the part, stick to the script, play the game.
On the way out, I swallow the Fuck Yous, choke down the bile, the venom, the urge to actually say and be something more than just a pretty face, just another girl who does what she’s told.
I think of how many times I’ve swallowed my words for the sake of impressing older men.
Fuck You, Fuck You, Fuck You. I think it all the way back to my desk.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that it’s bad for a young feminist to complain about the current state of the world for American women.
We can vote. We can work. We can stay home. We can wear whatever we want. There are (some) women CEOs, (some) women business owners, (some) women astronauts. We finally live in a country where women can do and say and be whatever we want.
We are overflowing with privilege, bursting with possibility. I know this, and I appreciate it with every fiber of my being. So I feel like an ingrate when I say that while we might have more options, we still don’t have the necessary support to freely pursue those options. It might come off as entitled, but it’s true: we don’t have what we need to really live the life we desire.
A woman can work and raise a family, but she still has to deal with the emotional guilt and tremendous financial burden of putting her kids in daycare. A woman can climb the corporate ladder, but people constantly ask her when she’s going to have children. A woman can stay at home, but people often pity her for not having a career.
It’s like everyone agreed that women can do and be and say whatever we want, so long as nothing else has to change. We can keep picking up new roles and responsibilities, but we aren’t allowed to put the old ones down.
We are a stack of teetering blocks. We are growing taller, but not wider. We have new height, but no support. We are one gust of wind away from crumbling.
I am about to be a mother. There is life inside me, and I am terrified, absolutely terrified, that I won’t get it right. That I won’t get this right.
Odds are, I won’t. And I can’t help but feel like I’m being set up to fail.
My options are to continue working, spend nearly half of my salary on daycare and be away from my child for the majority of the day, five days a week, twelve months a year.
Or be a stay at home mom. Give up my career. Rely solely on my husband to support me. Put away my professional dreams in pursuit of my family. Significantly reduce our income.
Those are my choices. And while they might work for some women, neither feels particularly appealing to me. Both options feel like loss. Both options feel slightly shameful. Both options require grieving.
I’ve been searching frantically for a third choice. There has to be another way, another path to walk. Where are the tools I’ve been promised? Where are the flexible hours, the work from home options, the daycare on site? Hell, where is the paid maternity leave?
These are things we hear about on TV or read about online, but struggle to find in our day to day lives. And unless these options exist for the everyday woman, how is this any better than the way it used to be? How have we improved if our hands are still tied? No matter what I choose, the result is the same: guilt and shame at not being enough. A life that feels two sizes too small.
There’s a beautiful quote by writer Nayyirah Waheed: “All the women in me are tired.” This is how I feel right now.
We live in a nation that freely chose a sexual predator to be President instead of a qualified, logical candidate who happened to be a woman.
With each passing day, more and more women are speaking up about sexual assault. It’s clear that this is a reality that women are forced to live with, not just the occasional anomaly.
We do not have paid maternity leave. We do not have affordable daycare. We have virtually no mandated support for working mothers.
The media continues to portray beauty as our most important and defining characteristic. Every woman I know is on a diet.
We stack block after block on our teetering towers. We feed our children, go to work, find time for a run, and take care of our parents. We cook organic meals, create handcrafted Valentines, and still find a way to make it to Happy Hour with our girlfriends.
We are exhausted. We are shredded. We are worn to the bone. We drink so much wine they remarket it as Mommy Juice.
We dust off our hands. We grin and bear it. We make it work. Because that’s what we’ve done and will continue to do. That’s what it means to be a woman.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what we should do or put down or make different. All I know is that I’m angry. And tired. And sick of playing by a set of rules that no longer work.
And in this moment? Nothing sounds better than Fuck You.