This essay was adapted from Amy Turner's forthcoming book, Cool Girls Die Alone, which is currently at publishers.
I used to hate entitled women -- skags who act like relationships and manicures are a birthright. As a child of the seventies, I grew up knowing one thing: I was entitled to a career, I was not entitled to a relationship.
Psychologist Esther Perel says, "Our sense of self-worth is connected to desire, because in order to want something, you need to feel entitled to it."
I'd spat that word in my head at rich kids growing up, having no idea the salvation that would come in reclaiming it. But before this happens, you can veer into territory that will lead you into a forest of fine leather goods and loneliness: the backwoods occupied by 'the cool girl.' Huddled around a fire, a hobo camp of trampers/girlswhoworkhard, warming their hands over embers of some dude who introduced them as a 'friend' at a family holiday, too ashamed to admit they want to feel as deserving of partnership as the do of making partner. She gets...cool. You don't have to smoke cigs and wear red lipstick like Rizzo to be cool (although it does help), you just stop admitting you want things.
Your poor wants. Maybe you poured whiskey on 'em, maybe you built a rolodex of punch lines, maybe you piled paychecks in a drawer hoping you could buy your way out. But tell me, why are women making six figures a year going into Anthrolpologie to buy a ruffled apron? Because there is something deep inside us that yearns to make home, and it is not shameful.
It took me 38 years to rid the word homemaker of shame. Sheryl Sandberg asked, "what would you do if you weren't afraid?" And my first impulse was to say, Sheryl, I would make a casserole.
I am not suggesting we time travel back to pot roast and no earning power. I am suggesting that we stop lying about the place in us that yearns to nurture and be nurtured.
Shame is the grandmother of cool. And once she wags her finger at you, instilling feelings of guilt, regret or sadness because you know you've done something wrong, she is a toughie to shake. Women get it in the kisser. We get it in special ways. We get it in our bodies, in our sexuality, in our earning power... our mating or lack there of.
I was shamed for not being married (a woman recently asked me, 'why are you still Amy Turner?'). The same day I was shamed for not being further along financially ('you haven't bought a house yet?') Nothing is safe.
But until we stand up to Grammy Shame and own that our wanting is not wrong, we are going to be afraid (see juice cleanses, high heeled sneakers, angel chain emails). Because in the wanting is that soft pink squishy part that is... vulnerable. And you may be self sufficient, you may be a top earner, you may have buttocks the size and shape of a grapefruit, but you will not have peace.
And somewhere after you buy the Chanel bag and before you jump off a cliff because you haven't Pinterest-ed a taffeta gingham flower girl, you will realize that peace, self-acceptance, and authenticity trump everything.
You have had spin class, an assistant, and a boyfriend who takes you to nice places (but not Kleinfeld's). You have worked hard, stayed busy, anything to avoid the hooks of shame because maybe... just a little bit... maybe... you used this busy-ness to stop you from creating a space in yourself where you felt nurtured. Because if felt nurtured, you'd stop trying? Or if you felt nurtured, you'd share that with someone, and you couldn't control how it would be received (you totally know how having no needs is received-the jerks you pick LOVE IT).
Cool girls like to be in control. Control kills intimacy. Hooray, cool and alone forever!
But, what if you make 'space' and wake up a soft loser? What if you wake up an unemployed girl in a pale yellow dress taking vacations with her parents on trains? What if... you accept that you can't make a home for a family because you've refused to make a home for yourself. That home is a state of mind, not a spongecake. That you can buy the apron. But it won't matter until you build a place in yourself that is soft.
Lean into that.
I don't see women who are afraid of work; I see women only knowing their value through work. There is a place that honors you for your femininity, but you have to build it. Nobody told me that. So I am telling you, friend.
Spackle your worth in something besides your work in the cracks. Lay down wall-to-wall compassion, hang some kindness and put the idea that you are deficient in some way on dimmers.
And I could be wrong, but I think that's how you get to the next home. The one you share with someone. The one where you put on that apron, should you desire. Work is great, but there were no suffragettes for the human heart, and cool girls... cool girls die alone.
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