There once was a gal who wanted to “blow-up” her life. She packed a bag and headed to a distant land to experience all it had to offer and in the process, she found herself…(and she also found a prince).
This is the new single American female fairy tale. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Eat Pray Love, Wild… (The second two movies being more true to the memoirs on which they’re based than the first.) These are all stories of women whose life is not what they want it to be. They pull up their roots, take a major leap that no one else understands and go on a journey towards wholeness. Across Europe, along the Pacific Crest Trail, into a war zone. I love the scene in WTF where Tina Fey (Kim Baker…based on the memoir by reporter Kim Barker) explains her reasons for leaving her unfulfilling American life for a correspondent opportunity in Afghanistan. Her friend shoots back, “that’s the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”
As an American white lady, I admit that I have a lot of days where blowing up my life looks pretty darn attractive. If I got the gumption up right now, I’d head off for a year in Australia. I actually looked into year long live-work programs there just for the heck of it. Turns out, you can’t do that kind of thing after the age of 35…which is abundantly lame if you ask me. But I understand the desire to mix life up completely. I love the adventure of it. The romantic notion of reinventing myself. As a woman, you sort of get handed the tale that the adventure of your life is to make a family with someone, so I think there are a lot of women now that are asking what life looks like when the “supposed to” does not occur.
I’m living in a time where singleness is becoming a norm for American women, a NY Magazine article last week stated that as of 2009, less than 50% of women in our country are married. Whether single by choice or by circumstance, that’s a big shift. As a single woman myself, I live with the reality that there’s nothing really tying me anywhere. Don’t get me wrong…it would be extremely difficult to pick up and walk away from 14 years worth of investing in friendships and community in Los Angeles…it would be sad…but I wouldn’t be hurting anyone if I did it.
One thing I find really interesting within these female journey stories that have risen up in pop culture in the past ten years is that we still like/want the element of romance. The princes have changed but they still remain. We’ve traded being rescued by charming knights in armor upon trusty white steeds for dudes that can appreciate, support and not be threatened by a woman who does her own thing and speaks her own mind. I think you’ve all figured out by now that I’m not going to lie to you around here…I will admit that in my imaginative life blowing up scenario, there is not only a wealth of new experience and adventure but there’s also a hope for a man hanging around said foreign land waiting for an awesome lady to walk on by.
That wouldn’t be my main reason for heading out on the journey, but it wouldn’t be a bad perk. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that…though I would also like to see us tell stories without the prince. I’m not advocating everyone be a life blower upper and I definitely don’t advocate blowing up your life in order to find romance. (Hire a matchmaker for that.) But I’m attracted to being the protagonist in a tale of adventurous quests and allies and baddies that lead the heroine to a new understanding of herself and the world.
(This post is a part of a series called 40 Before 40. 40 random thoughts on the 40 days before I turn 40 years old. If you have a post suggestion, send it on. Creativity is collaborative and I’ll take any writing prompts you want to send my way.)