Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Gratefulness and Recognition

I hope you'll indulge me for something of a rumination.

Very recently my sister paid me a visit, bringing me a surprise gift. (It's this way-cool ring right here. She knows my taste, peeps!)

I joked "what's this for? Is it because I'm AWESOME!?". And truly, I joked. I had no idea. I was scanning my memory banks, wondering what the last thing I may have done for her was that would provoke a lovely little gift.

It was, in fact, nothing. I'd done nothing for her, but she had chosen to give me a gift in recognition of my "...knitting, getting submissions accepted, and your success on your blog!"1. I'm not one for sappiness in general, so I have to admit that's not the reason I'm sharing this story with you.

My motivation is mainly to get all feminist-y here.
That is: my sister's gesture was kind, and particularly so, because women have certain prescribed milestones in life that are traditionally celebrated. These milestones are, unsurprisingly, tied to traditional goals and role for women, such as marriage and having children.

While I do not endorse Sex and the City as a feminist wonderland, there's been a couple of storylines that reflect on these ideas. They've questioned, in their own way, why women who do not fall into traditional roles are not deemed worthy of celebration. If you don't have kids, and you don't get married, your life doesn't get celebrated. In essence, you haven't done anything worth recognizing. There's no culturally accepted "woman-gets-a-great-job" party. There's no "way-to-go-on-purchasing-a-home-on-your-own" shower.

But what my sister has done for me is, in a very small way, demonstrate that there are things I've done that are worth recognizing.

Again, I'm not trying to be sappy, and I'm certainly not trying to toot my own horn, but I am trying to highlight that you, and/or women you care about, may be feeling similarly overlooked. When we enter our mid-to-late-20s, these sorts of issues begin to arise. You may see it happening yourself, with friends around you. Traditional milestones left unmet. Some friends being seemingly constantly celebrated, while others are not.

I'm hoping that this post might inspire you to look to these women you care for, and let them know that even if they are living their life in a non-traditional way, they nonetheless have a life with milestones worth celebrating.
1 So I quote from the pretty card she wrote to me along with the gift.


Anonymous said...

I think it's so wonderful that your sister did that for you :) It's true, sometimes I feel like supporting myself doing something that contributes to the world is perceived as way less valuable than convincing someone to marry me and then having a bunch of kids. I know a lot of my female friends (mostly very career-oriented) feel the same way. It's important to celebrate when you do something awesome though, even if you have to throw the party yourself!

Unknown said...

When my grandmother was still alive, she used to respond to stories about my job or whatever else I was doing with, "But do you have any *special* news?" It was pretty clear that, in her mind, marriage and babies were all the news fit to print. I don't believe she asked the same questions of my male cousins.

I do want to point out, though, that there aren't typically parties to celebrate men's new jobs or personal successes, either (there's the bar mitzvah and the bar run when you hit the legal drinking age, but there's no cultural tradition of throwing a fete for career milestones). While women certainly get hit harder with the questions about why they haven't yet gotten married or had babies and our other successes are often more marginalized, I suspect there are also a lot of men out there feeling like their accomplishments go unrecognized. So no reason not to focus on celebrating the amazing things our friends of both genders have achieved--everyone could use a little more recognition for what they do.

I think that part of what makes it so unpleasant when milestones aren't celebrated is the excess with which we celebrate the traditional. The number of parties one is expected to attend for any given marriage is staggering: engagement party, bachelor/bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, wedding, day-after brunch...it's a bit much, and it gives too much weight to the event. Marriage is a big deal, but if you're not half of the happy couple, it's not nearly as all-consumingly important to you. Perhaps a little moderation in the expected celebrations, plus a little more recognition of other accomplishments, would go a long way to making it easier to see all the amazing things we all do.

mel said...

That's just lovely - how sweet of your sister! And thank you for this post. I really needed to hear this today (I'm a 30 something single lady and today was a little much in the marriage & babies department). Your post was just the thing to come home and read :) Cheers to you and all the fabulous you create!

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic point and I fully believe in it as well. I'm going to put more of an effort into celebrating my own life and the lives of all the fantastic ladies around me!

Anonymous said...

You cannot imagine how I understand you. It's like women can only celebrate the traditional milestones. I'm 34 and I've been seen for years how my friends got married and had children, and I cannot simply put myself in the same situation. I love having a professional life and I don't feel the need yet for those traditional milestones. I got asked in the past about why I was following a different path. I'm happy that it's happening less nowadays. They probably got used to the idea of me choosing another way.

Bonnie said...

Great post! You're right, and I appreciate you making me think about this more and look for opportunities to celebrate my friends.