Am I a Modern Woman?

29 Jan

Things are starting to feel normal at last. I am sinking back into myself and, a bit like a snake, I’ve shed some old skin. The transition to old-Germany / new-Berlin actually went a lot smoother than I had expected and I have only had one evening so far where I was exposed to the small-minded, persistent German Male that I remember so un-fondly. If the cocktail I was drinking at the time hadn’t been so delicious, I would have tossed it right in his stupid face. I have also recently met with a few friends whom I used to be very close with – 7 to 12 years ago – and within 2 minutes, we were back to our old game and there was this rush of overwhelming inner happiness in realising how much fun we were having and how nice it was to ‘be back’. Interestingly, nobody told me that I had changed, but everybody told me that I had ‘grown’. Isn’t that lovely? (Assuming I was a nice person to start with…and that they didn’t mean that I had become fat).

All this catching up is making me look at myself from a bit of a distance. And for the first time in my life, I am thinking of myself as a Woman. With a capital W. The concept of ‘woman’ has been hovering over me for a while but never really applied to me until now. What I mean with that is that I have quiet a strong sense of myself on a number of levels and would defend my values with a lot of passion if anybody wanted to argue with me against them. Funny enough, most of my values are very liberal so I would never consciously try and force them onto anybody who didn’t share them anyway. I would simply toss a cocktail in their face.

So, Woman. I have a number of amazing ladies in my life who have all contributed of my Sense of Being A Modern Woman. They have all taught me a lot and especially in recent times, I have spent a lot of time talking and listening to them. And thinking about it, I really think that the notion of Modern Woman is quite startling and really very different to, say, 15 years ago. Family planning being one. Hardly anybody is having children in their twenties anymore, not in my world anyway and I genuinely wonder what would happen if the bio clock didn’t exist in its current format. It messes with our gorgeous little heads, that’s for sure. I have also been listening to ‘The Brigade of new Feminists’, the women in the public space who are currently setting the tone for conversations regarding how women should dress, how women should think, how to turn our lives into anecdotes and share them and how we should understand our place in the universe. (These are pretty much all UK women, by the way). Of course, like any proper woman, I have recently read Caitlin Moran’s book, I am grateful that Christina Hendricks has brought Big Boobs back, I watch Sali Hughes make-up tutorials and I follow a number of similar ‘icons’ on twitter, read their blogs or listen to their podcasts. Women are all over social media (or as it’s all very self-centric, it should really be spelled MEdia). They’re fun and witty and smart and cool and intelligent, even within 140 characters, and it’s so easy to get drawn into their stream of banter. But take yourself away from that stream for a moment and you realise the force they have created. I am pretty sure that if it hadn’t been for them, I would not have started writing a blog – because expressing ones feelings is what a woman does these days – so it’s not all bad. But there are elements to all this that have started to jar with me a little bit. The first being a trivial one. As mentioned before I have spent an absolute fortune on beauty products last year. Because, all of a sudden, I couldn’t simply buy that stuff in a drug store anymore, but I somehow felt I had to go to a certain Apothecary or at least buy my products from my beauty salon (which I never had before) to be able to call myself a Modern Woman. Because any women with a bit of cashish and self-worth does that. But these products and the regimes that go with them are so expensive, often extremely painful and sometimes utterly pointless. And now that I am back to basics with that stuff, I don’t miss it at all. Yes, I do like a little Chanel product, these things make nice presents, as treats. But I can’t help but think that this whole beauty regime really has become the new My Car, My House, My Family. It’s now the My Eyebrow Person, My Waxer, My Hairdresser, My Spray Tanner, My Manicurist. Bollocks to that. Men don’t do that shit! Not the men I want to have in my life anyway. And no man has ever complimented me on the shape of my eyebrows.

Maybe I’ve not come across them yet, but I don’t think there is the similar kind of Public Lady Brigade in Germany. And I quite like that…

There are of course other aspects. Careers being one. I have earned my own money for a while now and currently have a job that sees me flying across the world (hurrah!). The world I work in (which I appreciate is NOT the world everybody works in) values strong, intelligent women without making a fuss about it. There aren’t that many ladies in senior positions around, so every now and then I feel a bit like a sparkly unicorn when I enter a room. Generally I feel that women actually have a massive advantage there because if we are good at what we do, we really get noticed. Men listen to what we have to say and not just that, they actively seek our advice and take our criticism. I can’t say that the opposite is necessarily true. Maybe it’s because that as soon as we swing the emotional / social / empathetic stick around, men flap their hands and say ‘She’s a woman, she HAS to know’, either because they genuinely believe that or because they have to admit defeat, because it would be sexist not to take a woman seriously when she asks ‘But how does that make the team FEEL?’. Am I being sexist in saying that I don’t mind being a unicorn? I actually feel more empowered working more with men than women. Maybe because other women can see through me with their wicked female eyes and realise that I secretly listen to pop music in my head during most meetings! Also, there is nothing more disappointing than encountering a Woman in Power who got it all wrong and who acts like the Bitch from Hell. I have met her. She is ugly. I guess the reason there aren’t as many good women in ‘senior management positions’ as men is probably largely due to the whole baby-thing (Hell-Bitches are probably all single and hence don’t have that problem!). Just when you’re at that level, the bio clock comes knocking and takes you on a different path. And even if you want to, managing a career AND a family is fricking hard, from what I’ve heard and seen. I couldn’t do what I do now if I had a family. And that brings me to my next point.

Not only would I not have the energy for my work life as is with a family, I probably wouldn’t have the same energy if I simply were in a relationship right now. Because, when I am in a relationship, I give myself up to some extent. Which means on the job-front I become a lot weaker and easier to break. And you know what: That’s absolutely fine with me. In fact, that’s what I would chose. I don’t consider myself feeble for that in the slightest, but if I had the choice between my main focus being on job or family, I would ALWAYS chose family. Because I am a woman? I don’t know. I mean I would never want 100% family and no job, I think my ideal would be 70% family / 30% job, but I KNOW that if I had the choice right now, I would drop my career in a second. Well, maybe in a year or two (this whole job-related flying around the world thing is new to me and I like it!). When it comes to family, relationships, love – that’s where I am vulnerable. If somebody doesn’t like the presentation I have worked on for the past 2 nights – that’s fine. If I like a boy and he doesn’t like me back, that crushes me. But it’s also what makes me whole. There is a very big heart in my chest and if that doesn’t get used, I am not really happy. I’d like to think that having both a demanding job and a relationship is totally compatible and both would get equal attention from me. That might work for other women, but I know for a fact it’s not true for me. I could have the most supportive partner, who wants me to wow them all in the board room, and maybe I could do that for a bit, but I am a nesting person at heart and I would probably lose the ambition for that quickly. Not because I want to become less visible in the world and give myself up in a disappearing kind of way. But I get more satisfaction out of enabling others and seeing them go from strength to strength than I get from pushing myself ahead. It is actually in that role as enabler / facilitator / nurturer that I am at my best and most at home. I have used this as my Lady Trump Card at work on many occasions and have really made an impression with it. I am probably making big generalisations here but I think men usually have to perform their function at work in a much more one-dimensional way whereas women can wiggle around much more and create a space for themselves where they are comfortable and happy. I personally think that’s great (for women) but I wonder whether that’s not a bit unfair on men? They are people too after all!

Another side to that is adaption. I have always adapted to my environment and to the romantically involved person next to me. With my family that was actually a huge topic when I became single again – the fact that I adapt so much in relationships – but I can’t argue that that’s in my naturel. I like to think of it as being flexible and letting yourself go. The inherent risk is obvious and I have felt the consequences of losing myself a bit too much. But I have also learned and grown from that a lot and I believe that my common sense and my gut feeling usually keep me from people who could take advantage of that in a bad way.

Does that make me Modern? Or Traditional? Or is Traditional the new Modern? And who cares anyway?

In the meantime, until I can lose myself again, I throw myself into work and I happily spend evenings and weekends creating a spreadsheet – with a glass of wine in my hand (which sometimes makes for funny numbers!). And I see friends and I see family and I exercise (Who am I kidding? I don’t really – but probably only because I am not following a person on twitter who tells me to do so) and I go shopping. And I watch as much Twilight as I want. Because one day, I might have to share the TV with another person again and then I probably have to watch football again. So I am making the most of it right now.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am missing a couple of layers / dimensions / angles in all this Modern Woman Talk. It’s all about Me, Me, Me  and it all feels a bit flat sometimes. But I know that I am not alone in valuing the nurturing side of my personality. The one that wants to take care of things and people. Doesn’t necessarily have to be children, but I guess it’s fair to say that when it comes to relationships, the woman usually takes care and runs the show. And we enjoy that. Or, we do it anyway. Women can be such bullies with their home lives that men sometimes don’t get given the space to get a word in edgeways. I have seen it. I have done it. But I think that caring and nurturing is what can make us women so amazing. We take care, organise and keep shit together. Yes, we can be witty and intelligent and strong – My non-existing balls are A LOT stronger than the existing ones of some of the men in my life – but to some extent these qualities can easily be cold and stale if the heart doesn’t really pump anything into them.

Again, maybe it’s not on my radar, but there seem to be an awful lot of ‘How to be a woman’-esque talks and conversations out there right now. Does the same happen for men as well? Do they share their stories? Or have we shut them up once and for all? Who and where are the male Caitlins/ Salis/ Graces and if there are any, what sort of men do they speak on behalf of? I am genuinely intrigued.


4 Responses to “Am I a Modern Woman?”

  1. Laura January 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    ahhh, fabs. you’re so smart xxx

  2. fabienneriener January 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    you’re too kind Laura 🙂 xxx

  3. Grace March 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I identified a lot with this. I sometimes think I seem insincere or flakey, because I do change/adapt to whoever I am with, but it’s normal to have different faces isn’t it? And yes, a lot of this being a grown up Woman-with-a-capital-W thing does seem to be about buying that lifestyle ‘because you’re worth it’, which I’m not entirely comfortable with..


  1. Make me your C-level Executive « Georgia Rakusen - May 29, 2012

    […] sector, and where I work I get to be me, not just a woman in the office. My mate Fabs wrote a great blog post about why being a woman, or a ‘sparkly unicorn’ can be a benefit in a male-dominated work […]

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