The women of talk
My eighteen-year-old self would have slapped the uterus off me.
She would never have believed this, how I have ended up in middle age as a stay-at-homer, a person who eeks out a small living clacking on this modern typewriter.
“Look,” she would have said, pointing to the black and white picture of the 1950s young woman posing in front of a fake portrait of Niagara Falls, the woman still in her twenties, a person with hope written eternal in her eyes. “You saw how she turned out; you swore you would never be like her. What the hell happened?”
I could say that I did it for love, which I did, for love of man, for love of family. If I search very carefully within myself, however, I will know that this is not entirely the truth.
I did it because I was afraid of failure, of not being able to live up to my own eighteen-year-old dreams.
I took the easy way out.
“So how did that work for you,” I hear the eighteen-year-old scoff. “You’re just like your mother. The man is gone, the children are raised, and now what? You are middle-aged and broke. What do you have to show for your life?”
“Three wonderful kids,” I whisper. “That’s not nothing.”
And it’s not. It’s great, but Goddamn it, it’s not enough.
I barely escaped my child rearing years; my demons have left their scars. I have mistreated this body mightily, the once smooth lines are bulging, the energy is gone; the heart is a little worse for wear; and we don’t even talk about the liver. But it will be the scars on the soul of this middle-aged woman that the autopsy won’t find when my time comes, the scars of disappointment, failure and sorrow.
In the midst of a seemingly rich life, full of love of family and friends, I sit here wanting more.
I am like millions of women on this Earth, millions, perhaps billions who are the home front warriors, the part-timers, the could-have-beens who sit out lonely winter days like this one in front of the television screen, rewarding ourselves with a cup of coffee and maybe a sweet, in the company of the women of talk. They keep us company these days, they make us laugh, they cajole us, they show us fashions we will never wear, speak to celebrities we will never meet and demonstrate how to cook food on a budget for the family that has long left the nest.
We love the women of talk — ratings show we can’t get enough of them — because they are us, or at least they are the women we want to be. Yet we are separated by a television screen, hundreds of miles and millions of dollars. In our reflective moments, each of us thinks, “that could have been me”.
Which is, of course, beyond laughable.
It would have been me, if I’d been someone else — someone with determination, drive, different looks and the kind of magic that turns heads.
They are special; we are not.
We are just us.
But in a strange way, they make us better, the women of talk. They make us want to embrace possibility again, to be thinner, to be more resourceful, to be healthier. In phrasing invented by advertising executives, the modern-day men and women of Mad, we must Live our Best Life, Live Life in Balance, Discover the Ah-Hah Moment.
And so we can’t help ourselves but thank them for bringing a little joy into our small lives every morning or afternoon, for giving us something to talk about at the end of the day when the work-time warriors return home for their hot supper, glass of wine and night of tube.
The question that remains is not why do we love them, the question is: what would we have done without them?