I want to be a woman who doesn’t care. One of those women who doesn’t notice. A woman who doesn’t pay attention to girly stuff. To the stuff that women are supposed to care about.
I saw Marissa Mayer, one of the original Google employees (so now she’s insanely rich), talk about her life. She described herself as oblivious. As a girl, she wasn’t thinking about boys. She wasn’t thinking about clothes. She told a charming story about her time at Stanford, when she was the only girl in a sea of computer science guys. She loved computer science, and, by her own account, she barely noticed that she wasn’t one of the guys. Because, maybe, she thought she was. Someone made a comment about the “one blond girl in the computer science lectures,” and she thought, “Who is that?” and then, laughing, realized it was her.
Ha! Adorable! We all laughed along with her. She has that famous laugh.
A few nights ago, I saw Jill Abramson, the executive editor of the New York Times, interview her employee Jodi Kantor, author of the recent bestseller “The Obamas.” Abramson has this amazing voice. She sounds a little like a robot.
She sounds like some mad genius inventor from another planet devoted his life to constructing her in his secret workshop, and when she was finished he sat back, smiled a grim little smile, realized that he’d forgotten to make her care about any of the things that women are supposed to care about and so would possibly be recognized as non-human, sighed and said, “Well, it’s too late now. My work is done.” And then died. And then the brilliant robot woman was sent to earth, where she would either be immediately rejected as a fraud, or rise to greater power than any human was capable of. And she did that one. The second one.
She kept cutting Kantor off. It was almost like she’d just get bored towards the end of one of Kantor’s responses and want to move things along.
“So, anyway,” she’d say, suddenly, in the middle of Kantor’s sentence, “That leads us to a very interesting point…”
She seemed completely un-self-aware (there HAS to be a better way to put that. That is way too many hyphens in a row). She made jokes no one laughed at, chuckling to herself, she spoke slowly, in her drawn-out, mechanical voice. She said, “The Oval Office can be very intimidating, the first time you’re in it. You must have been very nervous.”
“The moderator was terrible!” said one woman to another, walking out of the lecture.
But I kind of loved her. I loved this powerful, oblivious woman, who wasn’t anything that she was supposed to be. Wasn’t polite, wasn’t prettily dressed, wasn’t self-aware, wasn’t aware of others. Who just plowed ahead. Who had plowed her way to the top of the New York Times.
There are so many women like this. Sometimes they are the women who say, “Why are we still talking about beauty and fashion and gender? Let’s talk about real stuff. Let’s talk about the rest of it.”
They are the women who can walk into a computer science classroom and feel at home, because they are thinking about the programming, not about the people. They are not thinking about what other people are thinking about them. Not enough for it to interrupt, anyway.
I am not a woman like this. I care a lot what other people think. I want people to like me. Once I signed up for a linguistics class, and it was full of guys who hadn’t showered in a while and were probably brilliant. I felt totally out of place and I only went to one class. I care about so many girly things. The other day, I went with a friend to get my nails done. (I never used to do this, by the way, but in NYC, in open-toed season, it feels practically mandatory, and I have begun to surrender.) I agonized over the right color. And then the right color to complement the first right color, because toes and fingers should be different, and creatively so, but not clashing. And I picked two shades of brown, and felt immediately boring, but resigned, and kept looking at them skeptically afterwards, wondering if I’d made a mistake.
“It will last for a month!” I thought. “The wrong shade of brown, for a month!”
But there have been other, more serious, hints that suggest I will never be a fearless, fabulously oblivious powerhouse. Getting a nose job, for example.
And when I sat down, naked, on the bed the other day, and my fat squished against my other fat, and it was sort of amazing to me that I had enough fat for it to be both distinct and simultaneously squished together, and I made Bear come over and examine it.
“Look!” I cried. “You have to look at this. Do you see this? Are you seeing this right now? Those are two rolls, wait, is it only two? There might be more. And they are squishing together, right there, see that? If I lean over, it’s worse. I can’t lean over anymore. I am no longer capable of leaning over. Is this when I’m supposed to start dieting? Is this the point? Who knew that my fat would prevent me from living a regular, normal life in which I could lean over like other people.”
And Bear laughed and said, “You’re telling me,” because he thinks he needs to lose weight. And then he said, “You look amazing.” And then he said, “But go on a diet if you want to.” Not in a way that implied that he wanted me to, but in a way that implied that he didn’t care either way, but he’d rather I didn’t complain about it.
“I’m not going to,” I said, with an air of finality. Call in the heralds! Sound the trumpets! It has been decreed! A new era is upon us! I am not going to diet even though there are rolls of fat when I lean over, naked, sitting on the bed!
I am pretty sure this never happened to Marissa Mayer.
It has almost definitely never happened to Jill Abramson.
And even if, somehow, it has happened to them, they would never, ever mention it. Because they are focusing on other, more important things.
And I really wish that I was a woman like that. Focusing on the bigger issues. Running Google. Or the New York Times. Running the world. Or at least picking out the design of today’s Google logo. Except that I would probably agonize over the color for a long time, and then settle on brown.
I guess I wish that “women’s issues” weren’t so separate from other issues. (I’m getting corny. I can’t help it. Stay with me for a second here and I’ll finish up.) I wish that everything was more integrated. That being boy-crazy didn’t have to mean not being completely and totally sane about science. That women didn’t have to be oblivious to miss the fact that they were out of place. Maybe they just wouldn’t be out of place. Or that women didn’t have to prove themselves in male-dominated arenas by not being interested in the things that women are supposed to be interested in. Maybe I just wish that things weren’t so divided up.
Because sometimes it occurs to me that all of the embodied stuff—worrying about weight and nails and hair and faces—that’s important, too. We are these bodies, every day. They are what we experience everything in the world through. They are how the world experiences us.
That’s not a small thing.
But still, if I could be a little more oblivious…If I could be a little bit more of a robot from outer space… I think I would go for it. Because it looks like a lot of fun. And also, I just want to talk in that voice. Just for a day. To feel the power.
* * *
Do you ever wish you could be a little ruder? Run the New York Times?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in my black lace bra.
P.S. Jill Abramson wrote a book about her dog. Which doesn’t prove that she is like us. It proves that she’s trying to prove that she’s like us. And doesn’t at all negate the point of this post.
A reader cake pic! Check out her HuffPost video about deciding not to diet. It’s amazing.