Millennial Women Rising

I’m worried about becoming a bitter old woman.

Champaigne Redhead

Just a little, for the headache, you know!

Things started out alright. Those of us born in the 1980s were given bunk beds, Kool-Aide, an education in the foundations of computing, and the assumption that we’d eventually end up better than we started.

I doubt we would have welcomed the new millennium with such enthusiasm if we had any idea just how disappointing it would be.

Graduating in 2002, I promptly moved out and into the dorms of a big state college. A year and a half later I found myself back in Mom’s family room, having left school to focus on a doomed relationship. It’s always a boy, isn’t it?

Even in 2004, foreshadowing was everywhere. I blamed my inability to find a decent-paying job on my urban location and general lack of skills. More Millennials were living at home longer because we were a bunch of spoiled kids, raised on cable TV and participation trophies.

Eventually I moved on again, to another school, and managed to get a degree.

Wuthering Hts

Gosh, it sure is quiet out here!

The little industry of mid-sized studios that bloomed around digital editing shriveled almost overnight in 2008. My degree from a prestigious private tech school landed me part-time work in live theater that paid $8 an hour.

I suppose I could have stitched it together into something if I had talked myself into an abortion. But it’s probably for the better, a big sappy conscience just gets you eaten alive in show business.

Back at Mom’s in 2010, I began to suspect it wasn’t just me. Lots of twenty-somethings were back in their old rooms, even though most of them didn’t have kids yet. The Great Recession Tonya Hardinged us just as we had gotten our skates on.

We met mostly in chat rooms, playgrounds were still populated with Xers and their precious, late-life bairns. The remaining malls became the preserve of those whose wealth predated the crash.

It’s been twelve years, and I still don’t feel comfortable assigning all my struggles to The System. It’s undeniably screwed up but, then, so am I.

My son’s father is a great friend with no interest in being a parent. An old boyfriend and I found each other again and rode that rail till it ran out.

We went to live with his family after my mother gave my 18-month-old cough suppressant, and then pneumonia.

Tired Bohemian

I really should pick up… but why?

Four more years existing in the liminal spaces of someone else’s home, someone else’s life. I worked at a convenience store. I became a Certified Nurse Aide.

I bumped into lots of other 80s kids, I think about them sometimes. Some were like me – Earnest, confused, and stubborn. Others were more like our parents, demandingly confident in their blissful short-sightedness.

My ex used his nose for gadgetry to sniff out a group of tech entrepreneurs, and we rented a house. For 18 glorious months, I decided where most things went. I organized my kitchen and picked out a Corelle pattern (at the thrift store, of course.)

I grew lettuce and served fresh salad to my friends. After putting my son to bed, I built a routine of doing the dishes, wiping up and sweeping the main living area before settling down for the evening.

But, like something out of a bad novel, the month after we moved in the man turned on me. Suddenly everything about me was up for critique, despite living together for almost five years.

He hated the face cream I’d been using for a decade.

My smoking habit rendered me too disgusting for human contact.

I was embarrassingly eccentric or frighteningly whacky… Never fun or enthusiastic.

Outings became me and my kindergartener. He didn’t say much, but he sure was good at disrupting attempts at friendly conversation.

I had pretty much resigned myself to this when I met someone who seemed to get me. There were the hours-long phone conversations, the interstate roadtrips for visits. We had known each other in high school, and nostalgia added a surreal glaze of warm homecoming as I dismantled my home and left everyone else we knew behind.

Space Feathers

Whatever this new weirdness is, I don’t even care anymore!

This looks a little less crazy if you keep in mind that my life has been a long lineup of cast and location changes. When I was 6, my mother traded my dad in for Stepdad 1. A couple years later he was replaced by Stepdad 2.

A few more moves and leading men, and we got to another state when I was 13. Those 500 miles might as well have been 5 million.

But this time I was choosing the change, the cast, and the location. The wrinkle that he and his two daughters lived with his mother smoothed when she greeted me with hugs and kisses. It didn’t seem strange to me, and I could use a good mom, you know?

I blamed my own trauma when she set off my alarm bells… Until the day she stubbornly misunderstood what I said and almost pushed me down with the door of a moving car.

A momentary loss of temper? Maybe, but I couldn’t say that when she came back an hour later and told the kids to go watch TV, so they might not hear her scream in my face.

And then afterward go back to acting like we’re friends. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Then there was the night I found myself sobbing to my husband while he sat gazing at me vacantly. He is also plainly the victim of hereditary abuse, abuse that somehow left him able to muster incredible empathy for anyone but me.

He was raised to pick up hitchhikers and see the best in addicts, but my delusional, sexual predator father having custody of my 15-year-old sister? I should have gotten over that already. Never mind that she’s with him right now.


No, really, I’m fine!

I started this blog because I reached out one lonely night and found no one reaching back. Along the way I’ve learned better where to look, and new communities have been created. But there are still dark moments full of loose ends.

Most of us have moved on from the chat rooms. Too much time online makes you weird, anyway. Now we dip into Pinterest or our favorite lifestyle blog for recipes, tips and stories, then bounce right back out again when someone else needs the bathroom.

Hubby’s idea of a good evening together is four hours of TV while we each read our phones. The best conversations I have are still online, despite Reddit turning on me too and axing all the female-centered spaces.

Feminism – Women’s Liberation – has bubbled up over and over as the unifying thread of my existence. This moment when we stand on the precipice of legal annihilation demands we reexamine what we were taught. There’s certainly enough evidence in other places that our birthright culture is a flawed specimen.

But I am not a lesbian, and I don’t hate men. Using these qualifications as a purity test is absurd and self-defeating. Lesbians are strong and wonderful, but there just aren’t enough of them to carry everything!

Straight women have more skin in the game. We are down in the trenches of humanity, washing the underwear and tracking the schedules. Regardless how we feel about this, we know handing these relentless tasks off to anyone else risks balls dropping everywhere.

Some of us may be more talented or enthusiastic about this role than others, but we have been forced to face that our paycheck didn’t fix any of this.

And I don’t know that many of us are keen on doubling down on pushing into the Boys Club. Without the apparent macho thrill all that’s left, behind the secrecy and silly handshakes, is networking. We can do that without them.

Grocery Bag

It’s cool, I got this!

Us wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters, alienated from the Movement by extremists, are adrift in a landscape we feel disconnected from. Our parents still run the show and complain about it endlessly. Household work is rendered even more invisible by the necessity of a second income, and our male counterparts happily assume this makes us even.

We have our hands full as the pandemic rages in the US. Our kids are hunkered down in headphones, the digital natives turned digital captives. The one IRL interaction they had, most schools had to move online so we don’t all die.

I was tired of the 90s. I ached for the adventure of adulthood, the agency to dictate change like my mother had. As a child I was afraid of her, then around age 30, it struck me out of the blue that I had left her behind.

Millennials know struggle in a way those who climbed the ladder before it burned away will never know. We have a totally different outlook, and we’re still trying to figure out what we’re seeing.

The Women’s Movement never ended. It never even reached its judicial goals, forget true equality. Freedom of choice was taken as proof that the fight was over, even if consequences often took familiar forms. We accepted the picture our parents’ society showed us, even just as something to reject.

I’m not sure any generation was ever so swindled.

Big Teddy Bear

I still have a lot of the crap my parents bought me, though!

Millennial women didn’t expect to choose between paying for daycare or rent. We didn’t expect a “liberal” government to bail out corporations and do nothing for us. We grew up in a suburbia balanced on credit, but the mirage looms large. The harder we grasp for it, the more it fades.

Let’s reconsider what success looks like. The freedom to hand our kids – And most of us do have them – over to some daycare and get a shitty job or two… Is this what we want? Was this the goal? Is this the liberation of women?

How can we know when we don’t even know what women are anymore?

With the biological baseline under question in legal systems all over the world, we need to remember why it is important. We are another side of humanity, the female side, and we have been embarrassed to admit it for too long.

Our potential to have babies has been turned against us, but we don’t have to live that way anymore! Individual women everywhere are taking control of their fertility and we are more educated than ever.

Now we can fully wield our reproductive power. We can have children on our own terms. Those who make this choice have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future.

We just have to own it.

Mama, dig deep. It’s never too late to do it right. Find that rage inside you for the lies and greed that screwed us over, and use it to get your ass off the couch and back into the fray one more time.

I’m with you.


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