Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcome to the Club, Caitlyn

Since the July cover of Vanity Fair magazine debuted online yesterday, featuring Bruce Jenner's new female persona and the headline, "Call me Caitlyn," it seems like Bruce, er, Caitlyn is all anyone can talk about. Every TV show is giving the story major coverage, Facebook and Twitter are all abuzz, and it seems that everyone from politicians to celebrities to people I went to high school with feel the need to weigh in with their opinion.

I don't blog about politics or religion, and I'm not going to start today. I will say that, personally, I think Bruce's decision to become Caitlyn is downright crazy...but not for the reasons you'd all expect. While everyone else is rushing to question the ethics, the social ramifications, and the morality of the issue, I'm just not sure Caitlyn really knew what she was getting into when she joined the girls' club.

For example, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around why anyone would want to trade a lifestyle that involves simply throwing on a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt for virtually any occasion for the steady regimen of plucking, squeezing, straightening, curling, shaving, primping, and pouring hot wax on extremely sensitive body parts that is involved with being a woman. What sane person wants to live a life of stiletto heels, Spanx in July (you try getting sweaty and pulling on a pair--it takes a degree in astrophysics to make it work), or strapless dresses (take two steps, tug at top, repeat)? My husband's biggest wardrobe conundrum usually comes down to the question of flip flops or loafers, while I get to navigate the waters of invitations with dress codes like "country club chic" and "festive casual."

This club we women belong to may not charge monetary dues, but in order to fit in and find yourself somewhat accepted, there will be spackling, painting, starvation, and intimidation. Women endure mild to moderate torture on a daily basis, all for the sake of looking good. As my cousin Lana was fond of saying, "Beauty is pain." Amen to that.  It should have started to raise warning bells for Cate when so much of the conversation on this transition immediately turned superficial. Rather than contemplate the difficulty for Caitlyn and family to adjust to this profound life change, half of the commentators wanted to discuss hair, makeup, wardrobe, and the fact that the pictures were carefully posed not to show "man hands." You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but that will never stop the general public from giving a woman a once-over and feeling free to appraise her appearance.

However, the pain of trying to be found presentable is just a scratch of the surface of what life is like for the "weaker sex." Did Caitlyn realize she was enrolling in a club where the members will probably be paid less than a male counterpart, their weight constantly scrutinized, and any show of emotion has the potential to be dismissed as hormones? Do you think Caitlyn is aware that, while Bruce enjoyed the easy camaraderie and back-slapping good will that comes with male friendship, she has now entered a world where women get giddy over another female's failures? We don't back slap, we back stab. We crawl over each other in those throbbingly painful high heels and judge each other down to the minutia: she's a workaholic, but that one's lazy, she spends too much time on her appearance--what a narcissist, but is that better than being labeled a slob?

Here's how it works, Caitlyn: you're gonna need to dress up, show up, clean up, and suck it up. Work, shop, cook, clean, starch, iron, play nurse, and do it all while wearing a polite smile and trendy clothing. In other words, all that stuff about bringing home the bacon and then frying it up in the pan? Yep, we're still expected to do it. Only now we'll be shamed if it isn't organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, sustainably farmed bacon. A woman's work is never done, and it's rarely comfortable and very rarely properly appreciated. So yes, Bruce-now-Caitlyn Jenner: I think what you've done is completely, off-the-charts crazy. But welcome to the club.

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