Over the course of considering that absurdly trollsome and judgmental “woman child’ article a Girls writer posted on Jezebel recently (you can google it if you want, I’m not driving more traffic to it), my thoughts kept returning to my own primary female role model: my mom. A 63-years-young retired assistant attorney general for the state of CT and current legal volunteer with the ACLU, she embodies a combination of characteristics that would make that writer’s head explode. She is simultaneously tough and girly, serious and fun. She wears bright colors and loves to laugh. She has friends. She’s divorced, and does not intend to re-marry. She’s been known to dress up like Mother Earth to promote awareness of the environment, and she writes people raps on their birthdays. And when she’s not kicking ass in court, she is engaging in random acts of public belly dancing with her super-fun group of ripped ladies. I guess you could call her a manic pixie dream girl, if manic pixie dream girls were well-rounded individuals capable of taking care of themselves and others.
In an effort to figure out what “being a grown-up” really means, I chatted with my mom about feminism, clothes, the sixties, and politics. As always, she had some wise things to say.
Jamie Peck: Hey mom! Are you there?
Mom: Yup, just googling Nike Minaj to see what that’s all about. I mean Nicki.
Jamie Peck: hahaha
Jamie Peck: Where to start?
Mom: Up to you…I have no clue how to approach that article. Supposedly, she wrote a whole book about that shit.
Jamie Peck: We can do it. Let’s start with the most easily dispatched, like: is it okay to judge a woman’s competence/feminstness/grownupnness by whether she’s wearing a frilly skirt or a sensible blazer?
Mom: I hate the fashion police, they piss me off.
Jamie Peck: I think it’s one thing to say “I don’t like your outfit” and another to make character judgments based on someone’s outfit.
Mom: On a serious note, when dressing oneself for public appearances, messages will be taken from what we wear much more than for men. But for men. too, I think–they just operate in a narrower range of options, mostly. These woman-people are making their own choices. It really depends on context, you know…
Jamie Peck: or rather, the type of character judgments she’s making like, I try to dress appropriately for the various things I go to…
Mom: Like if I have a court appearance I’m going to want to take myself seriously and wear something powerful.
Jamie Peck: But fuck anyone who thinks I’m childish for wearing vintage dresses and rompers in my free time!
Mom: I cherish playfulness and so do you.
Jamie Peck: LOL, we basically said the same thing just now. This brings up another point: how do you manage to wrap your head around something as complex as THE LAW while also cherishing playfulness? Aren’t the two mutually exclusive??
Mom: Nononononono! Not at all. I always find fun. It adds an important layer to the drama. Court has a lot of drama. But enough about me.
Jamie Peck: No, go on! What are some things you do that are fun?
Mom: You mean now? At work? Well at work, trials are basically about telling a story in a way that is strong and convincing and appeals to the emotions as well as the brain–a lot like a play.
Jamie Peck: That’s interesting, I’d never thought of it that way. So creative thinking helps you do your job?
Mom: Totally, creative thinking rules.
Jamie Peck: What about outside of work?
Mom: Fun? So many things–OK, one really fun thing is clothes, which relates back to the article a bit. I love putting together looks on myself, as well as more extreme costumes for dancing and parties. Hair, makeup–all fun. Also shopping for all of the above, but bargain shopping, like resale stores (not for make-up, haha).
Jamie Peck: Are these styles girly styles or sensible pantsuits?
Mom: Honestly, there’s a place for everything. But the pantsuit better be sexy.
Jamie Peck: Good answer. So here’s a question for someone who came of age in the 60s…Do you think my generation is especially afraid to grow up?
Mom: Pausing and thinking—I think growing up is something we do because we have to do it, except the part where you take on responsibility for the society we live in—if people like you don’t stay involved, we all lose. My generation milked adolescence for as long as we could, and then we got haircuts and jobs for the sake of surviving or figured out how to be entrepreneurial hippies. You all have just milked it longer. But we are still very much more playful than our ‘rents.
Jamie Peck: I don’t know if we are old enough to know how long we will have milked it yet. I feel like a lot of people I know are grownups in some sense (have jobs, take care of themselves) but not in some stereotypical ways (marriage, babies?)
Mom: Marriage and babies figure prominently in the article, not sure why.
Jamie Peck: Like, I take care of myself fairly well and am even in a stable relationship, but I’m not in any hurry to get married.
Mom: It’s funny how gay people are so eager to embrace marriage and straight people not so much. This is getting awfully personal, shouldn’t we be funny or something?
Jamie Peck: That’s okay! And the idea that freezing one’s eggs encourages you to put off having children (rather than enables people who would normally NOT BE ABLE TO have children to have them) strikes me as rather absurd, no?
Mom: To each their own.
Jamie Peck: And remember that she is trying to come at this from some kind of feminist perspective. Which seems really odd considering feminists fought to NOT have womanhood be defined by heterosexual marriage/children.
Mom: I have heard myself saying on more than one occasion that we have a constitutional right to act stupid. The feminism didn’t really come through for me. I kept thinking about Mean Girls for some reason while reading.
Jamie Peck: Because she was attacking other women for making the wrong choices!