I know what you’re thinking.
Really? I already can’t sleep at night. My face is breaking out. Every last person on the planet is on my freaking nerves and what is up with this sweating? For all that is holy, I have cramps again. I haven’t had cramps since I was 17 years old. And now you are telling me I have to be more responsible? The only thing I’m responsible for is not choking the life out of the next family member who drips pee down the side of the toilet.
Let me explain.
I’ve been a young woman and I have been a not so young woman. I hesitate to say that I’ve been an old woman, but she’s at least in shouting distance.
I remember when I was a young woman in the workplace. I remember being dismissed by older women as “Too young to understand” or “Impulsive and unrealistic” or “Weird”.
To be fair, I still get called weird, but whatever.
I also remember, as a young woman, how dismissive I could be of my older sisters and brothers. For instance, I remember how much I looked forward to a Friday night. My friends and I would start at happy hour and work our way to dance clubs until closing time. I remember when I would see an old couple (honestly, they could have been in their mid 30s and I would have called them old) and my friends and I would look at each other and say
“What are they doing here? This is ridiculous. This is our time.”
Some of my friend’s back in the day were mean to everyone. Right to their faces. I was more of a “laugh behind a person's back” kind of girl. Like the guy in the polyester suit who only wanted to buy me a drink. I kept calling him Herb as in Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati. Younger people might not get that reference, but people my age will.
I could have just politely turned him down. I didn't have to keep talking to him just so my friends and I could laugh about it later.
I didn't have to curl my lip at chunky girls in neon clothes with the popped collars. And was it necessary to be downright irritated by people with gray hair in the night clubs? What the fuck? Old people don't get to have fun?
What an asshole I was. But we do grow. Hopefully most of us grow out of that behavior.
I don’t think I’m alone in that I spend a lot more time scrolling through social media now that we’re isolating. I came across a tweet from a young woman that said, “I'm not going to judge...but bigger women...I see what they wear and I don't know why I feel bad about anything I wear.”
If her avi was really her avi, then this woman was probably in her 20s, built like a brick shit house and gorgeous. Why does she have to take a shot at bigger women? Why? She already looks phenomenal, why isn't that enough?
I found myself irritated and frustrated. I felt defensive and wanted to lash out.
But I didn’t.
Because I was her once, or at least a version of her. I responded to her as gently as I could. I pointed out that she has her youth and her youthful looks and to squander any of that time running other people down is wasted time. I told her that I did the same when I was younger and that I regret it now. I suggested that she examine why she wanted to run people down and perhaps consider making some changes because the shame she may feel later is nowhere near worth the petty satisfaction she may feel in a mean girl moment.
The response is pretty much what you would expect. I will boil it down to “Whatever, boomer.”
I smiled at the response and wished her peace and light.
I have decided that I won’t be the older person dismissing the young, even when the young are being assholes. And let’s be honest, most of us have been an asshole at least some of the time.
I have decided that I will spend as much time as I can building up other women. I will attempt to guide my younger sisters in a positive manner. Perhaps it won’t make much of a difference, but do you know what definitely doesn’t work? Digging our heels in and pointing fingers. Or being dismissive or catty.
I'm not saying you have to be all hearts and flowers and fluffy bunnies or anything, but try to remember what Thumper's mother said. "If you can't say something nice, shut your fucking cake hole". Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing.
Now that I am older and, until recently when we locked ourselves in to avoid catching the ‘rona, I worked with quite a few younger women. They were lovely and insightful and a true joy to be around.
I did my best to build them up and support them. I did my best to guide them when they asked for help.
Can you imagine what life could be like if all women built each other up instead tearing each other down? A life where we didn’t compete with each other? Or look for reasons to judge or dismiss?
What if all women embraced each other, accepted each other’s differences and resolved to have each other’s backs? We’d get some shit fixed, that is for sure.
Who better than us? We’ve got the experience and we put the time in. I know affecting change isn’t easy, but if we can live through night sweats and wonky periods, then what can’t we handle?
I mean, if you are like me, then insomnia is already a reliable friend. Might as well use that time to think of ways to leave the world a better place. I can think of no better way than to try to help other women grow.
Michelle Poston Combs writes humorous and serious observations on life, menopause, anxiety, and marriage on her site, Rubber Shoes In Hell.
She lives in Ohio with her husband and youngest son. She stands at the precipice of empty nest syndrome which she finds both terrifying and exhilarating.
Michelle programs computers to pay the bills. She counters this soul sucking endeavor by contributing to Jen Mann’s anthology I Still Just Want To Pee Alone, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Better Homes and Garden, Grand, Vibrant Nation, Erma Bombeck's Writers Workshop, New Jersey Family Magazine, and Listen To Your Mother.