I am delighted to report, you can have it all.
Did you know? Have you heard? Despite rumors to the contrary, despite what Anne-Marie Slaughter's recent hot-button Atlantic magazine cover story wishes to tell you (and especially you women in particular), I'm here to say, it's all a delicious and devious illusion.
It's also a terrific, nicely incendiary article, by the way, as written by a wildly overachieving superwoman, one who feels the feminist movement has sort of let her down. And why? Because, no matter how hard she tries -- and believe me, Slaughter tries very, very hard -- she has found it nearly impossible be a successful supermom and a top Princeton professor, a high-ranking Hillary Clinton staffer and an author of high-minded academic books, all while lamenting about the entirety of it all in a cover story for a major national magazine and all without stressing out her teenage sons, forgetting her husband's name or sacrificing her very soul to the altar of acclaim, influence and some ill-defined notion of female empowerment.
But I repeat: despite all of this, you really can have it all. Well, mostly. It depends. But not in the way you, or perhaps Anne-Marie Slaughter, thinks. Isn't that fabulous?
Shall we attempt to define our terms? This is, after all, the crux of the discussion. This is the very marrow of life itself, the entire universe revolving around just what the hell you mean by "all." Do you think you know?
Are you a good American? Educated and grass-fed and reasonably free? Then you've been hard-wired to believe that "all" denotes some idealized configuration of babies, career, income, marriage, acclaim, health and love and a second house by the beach, all in relatively non-stressful "work/life balance" and with only two full-time nannies, three personal trainers and maybe a mistress on the side -- just to, you know, round things out.
Of course, it's a total lie. You cannot really work like a maniac and build a lauded career without sacrificing some level of health and family (and sanity). You cannot focus deep attention on the messy madness of family without missing a few hundred essential business meetings to take the kids to the volleyball tournament. You cannot give attention to three full-blown life directions at once and not expect to your very flesh to peel away from your skull in a Munch-ian scream of existential angst.
Seems obvious, right? But we like to make it complicated. We like to deny the obvious, mess with the simplest truths. We just can't help ourselves.
If you're a modern, empowered female, the conundrum seems particularly pronounced, and unfair. Amazing career options are more available than ever, but the maternal instinct is often so instinctive and innate that to deny it or subsume it to the vagaries of job title and power will, as Slaughter grimly points out, certainly cause grief, if not IVF, panic and a desperate Match.com account at 45.
On the other hand -- and despite what many women seem to believe -- many successful, high-achieving men are quite deeply miserable, spiritually bereft, lost. Their health suffers. Their hair falls out. They die younger. They have as much genuine connection to their own soul as Mitt Romney has to black people and sunlight and love.
What's more, despite their achievements and impressive income levels, history forgets the vast majority of them as soon as their head hits the gravestone. So much for the glory of schmoozing, power deals and Zoloft by the fistful.
By the way, did you hear that Oracle uber-ego Larry Ellison just bought an island? A Hawaiian one, no less? True. Larry just bought Lanai, along with the roughly 3,100 people who live there. Is that not a thing to be able to say to yourself? "Dude, you just bought a goddamn Hawaiian island. Look at you! You are amazing! What's next, buying the time-space continuum? Snorting powdered baby dolphin from your diamond-encrusted pinky nail? You really are some sort of god. Why is your heart clenching like that? Why does no one really seem to care what you think?"
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently learned how to properly spank a nun, requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult and begged you oh my God please do not eat this. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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