I know I'm old now. I'm shocked at what Successful Womanhood looks like: spike heels, short skirts and family-free.
The only woman dressed dowdier than I among more than 800 at a recent Women's Leadership Conference was a retired military officer dressed in a blue polyester pant suit. Other women my age wore slacks if they'd remained lean or short sheaths cinched at the waist and topping the knee. They all wore spike heels.
This is amazing to me. Women my age watched their mothers navigate uneven sidewalks with grates and cracks that, if they caught one of those narrow heel tips could break their mothers' backs.
In rebellion we went barefoot and wore Birkenstock's and platform shoes. My platforms had room to raise goldfish in the heels and toes. They added four, six, maybe eight inches of height and sent us careening as off-balance as our spiked sisters, but at least with our weight still spread across our full foot instead of just the toes.
There is something reminiscent of a Mel Brooks movie watching 800 pairs of spike heels tiptoeing down crowded but thankfully carpeted stairwells.
This was not the visual I was supposed to take away from the conference. The visual and inspirational message presented was of empowerment and the steps required to get there. Powerful and inspirational women spoke. Their overpowering message was this: Outsource.
The most inspirational of them all left me with these two immutable laws of success: Determine and maximize others' perception of you and that even remembering your grandmother's birthday can be outsourced with a standing order at a dependable florist.
Remarkably this is what it boils down to: Look like what your bosses want and outsource the rest.
The brilliance of having your grandmother's thank-you call serve as the reminder to wish her a happy birthday is hard to trump and this super successful woman won appreciative guffaws at the anecdote. But dowdy old me, seeing all of these women back in bondage, felt defeated.
Yes, bondage, there goes that old feminist earth mother nag again, but what in the world are we saying when a woman's leadership conference is filled with short skirts and spike heels? Why is it inspiring to hear success includes slipping family-tending upon other family members?
It is retrograde, the same as my mother's spike heels. This is the success model where those without the wherewithal to outsource typically got a wife.
Back in those old days of Birkenstock's and platform shoes we thought women's success in the future would take the exact opposite direction. We thought it would involve equal standing, even that there would be fashionable sensible shoes by now. And we thought success in the future would mean that those family obligations (so many that turned out to be missed opportunities in retrospect), I guess we thought they'd be outsourced in a way. We thought we'd be sharing them with husbands.