This post contains saucy language. Not, like, Arrabbiata or white wine, but more like sailor language. Not sailor sauce, which, when you think about it a little sideways, is utterly revolting [insert comment about sea-foam here].
I’ve been rolling parts of this post around in my gulliver for a while now, and a conversation I had with Schmutzie a few weeks ago has really had me thinking more and more about it. There’s a thing I’ve begun to notice. It became most apparent when my children reached the age where we didn’t need to follow them everywhere to make sure that the stuff they put in their mouths/ears/nose/pants wasn’t radioactive or toxic. But no, it started before then. It started when I was thirteen and I was helping out at the field day for my junior high school, as shot-put retriever. My mum was the teacher supervisor for shot-put. I would run the shot back from the field and head out again as the next athlete lined up. I was the only student permitted to assist instead of compete (plus, my competition was over) because my mum was a teacher. But one of my mum’s staff wandered over to her and asked, according to my mum, “WHO. Is that stunning woman out there?” And my mum turned to him and spat “that stunning woman is my THIRTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER.”
Mum took the liberty of telling me this story later in the evening, after we’d patted our sunburns down with aloe and had a refreshing beverage in the cool expanse of our living room. My cheeks burnt hotter than they had in the sun, and I immediately got a sinking feeling in my belly. Mr. Teacher was a very nice fellow, and had been over at the house frequently. He was good friends with my mum, and according to him, ALL of the female staff “of an age” had a crush on him. But I had certainly never thought of him in that way. He was not Magnum P.I., after all (but, on second thought, he wasn’t too far off). I had just learned that I was fuckable. I had just entered what I have decided to call the ‘fuckocracy’.
The fuckocracy is the system by which power is distributed in, near as I can figure, many first-world western countries. It’s a basic meritocracy, but instead of individuals with merit weilding power, it is rather based on the manner in which sexual availability dictates who holds power or potential success. Which is to say, the merit one wields is directly proportional to sexual maturity/availability/desirability. Stick with me for a moment; it might make more sense in a bit. For now, all you need to know is that there are three main parts of a fuckocracy: fuckable, fertile, and forty-fifty.
I had learned, at thirteen, that because I was desirable, I had a certain power. I realised I could use my new status as fuckable to great advantage. I could manipulate people. People would pay attention to me. I could get my proverbial foot in the proverbial door if I played my cards right. Or I could choose to, by and large, ignore my newfound status and pretend there wasn’t a fuckocracy at all. And in fact, that’s what I did. The idea that people would pay more attention to you because you were pretty or sexually mature or what-have-you turned my stomach. It also scared the ever-loving hell out of me. I had no idea HOW to use my status, even if I had wanted to. I was perfectly content to have people listen to me because my opinions and thoughts were important and valid regardless of how I…
…oh wait. That didn’t happen. I (and my opinions) were often dismissed. They called me a “dumb blonde”. People somehow figured that my intellectual ability was inversely proportional to the size of my bosoms. “Pretty girls,” I was told “never have to worry.” And I wasn’t worried. I was livid. I wanted to be heard. I wanted my opinion to matter not because of my cunt and my tits, but because my opinion is valid. Because I think (and thought) important things. Because *I* matter. So I gave up or ignored or worked against the power that came with being fuckable.
When I was pregnant, people treated me like a princess. A fellow from up the street – a good friend – cussed me out one day for being up on the roof painting the window ledges. He railed on about how I might have fallen. He said I should have asked him to do the painting, and I told him there was no need, and when I chastised him for being a little over-worried, he apologised. People opened doors for me and held things for me and carried things for me. Hell, FabulousSuz came over every couple of days to empty my doofus cats’ litter box. People asked my opinion about things.
I was *important*. My status had changed. I had gone from fuckable to fertile. People listened to me. They respected my opinion. When the kids were babies, when they were toddlers, when it was clear that I had a young family (I still do, but things are changing), I had power. Because I was fertile, I was still also fuckable, but the new status meant that my power had increased. Being both fuckable and fertile meant that people noticed me AND people listened to me. Again, I could choose to disregard my new status. But I didn’t. I liked it. I liked that people on the street would notice me, and that it wasn’t necessarily lewd. I was productive. I was full of creative energy. I carried the cradle of humanity in my womb, and because of that, I deserved a moment at the podium, a byline in the article, a bit of space on the sidewalk.
People didn’t whistle and catcall. They didn’t make suggestions about where on my body they could put parts of their body. They didn’t equate my attractiveness with my ability. At least, not outright. Because my life had PURPOSE. I had a reason for BEING.
Technically, I’m still fertile. But I’m reaching the age where fuckable and fertile aren’t what define me, in “their” eyes. I’m forty-fifty now. It’s an ambiguous age for women. I thought I was going mad when I started noticing this happening. But it happens. It’s a subtle as walking down the street and being expected to move out of peoples’ way. I don’t know how long it’s been since you and I went for a walk downtown, but pay attention next time, because you’ll see that I am not a timid walker. I stride, as Miss Cori once told me, with great purpose. But in the past two years, I have had more people glare at me when I refuse to step around them. And it’s not like I’m a centre-line hog either. I walk in my lane, and I bloody well stay in my lane. But something’s changed.
Here’s what’s changed. I’m invisible. They don’t see me anymore. I don’t have purpose. They don’t understand why I exist. I’m not fuckable anymore, and my fertility is in question. I’m in some kind of weird middle holding-ground where I’m certainly not old enough that you have to listen to me because I’m an elder, and I’m not young enough that what’s between my thighs is of any vested interest. I don’t turn heads. DON’T GET ME WRONG. I’m not *interested* in turning heads. I did that already, and it made me uncomfortable. For the most part, I didn’t enjoy being an object of unsubstantiated lust. Of unbridled, anonymous passion.
I want you to notice me, not for what I look like, but for what I have to say. For my ideas, my thoughts, and my opinions. For my knowledge and my wisdom. Because while I’m by no means an elder, by no means the granny to whom you can turn for advice on everything from loosening rusted bolts to egg substitutions, I know a lot of stuff. I’ve learned a *lot* of stuff. I’ve spent longer learning stuff than a lot of folks have been alive. I’m not afraid to make mistakes because when I’m wrong, I learn. And when I learn, I get better. I am better.
Forty-fifty is a kind of ambiguous nothing-space. Particularly for women, because when men reach this stage of the fuckocracy, they are *just* as fuckable (if not more so, with their fully formed jawlines and their strong shoulders and their corded muscles…I should stop now…before this gets out of hand…), and they are *always* fertile. Men in forty-fifty are at their peak. They don’t ask; they command. They don’t need to get into pissing contests, because they already know they’ve won. On an individual level, of course, things are different, but the next time you enter a room full of suits, check out how many of the men grip your hand with strength and confidence, how many of them know you can see them. Most of those dudes will be in the forty-fifty stages of things.
In my anecdotal experience, men in forty-fifty are antsy. They’re not content. They feel like they’ve missed out on something. Like they have to recapture something. And so they tend to take the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns and wrestle the proverbial shit out of it. Proverbially. Role models for men in forty-fifty are all over the place.
Where do you see images of women in their forties and fifties? In adverts for anti-wrinkle cream and cosmetics (because women in forty-fifty need to still look fertile and fuckable). Roles in plays and movies and television are for women in their twenties and thirties or sixties and above. Forty and fifty are invisible. Incongruous. Incomprehensible.
It’s not that I’m thinking too hard about this, or ‘obsessing’ over something that doesn’t matter. I’m not making this up. And I feel I need to reiterate, I don’t want to be in my 20s. I don’t want to look like I’m in my 30s. I don’t want to recapture my youth or wear clothes that an 18-year-old would wear (which I hated, when I was 18, just for the record. Those duds seemed to be either ‘whore/tart’ or ‘baby doll’, and I found that disturbing, even at 18). I’m not saying I want to be fuckable or fertile. I’m saying I want to stop being invisible. That I want to be heard. That I want to be taken seriously. That waggling your eyebrows and saying “must be the change of life” or “she must be on her rag” is not acceptable behaviour when what I’m doing is disagreeing with you.
And now, because you’ve been with me this long, here is a picture of me rubbing up against Lego Darth Vader.