Becoming Miranda Hobbes by Stephanie Wescott
I did my year 9 work experience at a law firm in the city. My best friend did hers nearby at the Herald Sun. We would meet after work to eat shitty food in food courts because we were 15 and didn’t know where else to go. At the end of the week I got paid $50 cash and I spent it all immediately on a new handbag from Dangerfield. It marked the end of a week where I thought I’d had a taste of my future adult life. Especially because I had my first experience of workplace sexual harassment, when a male lawyer told me he ‘would definitely buy a magazine if your face was on the cover’. What a fucked-up thing to say to the work experience kid.
My friend and I grew up quickly. We went to our first ‘over-age’ nightclub when we were 15. We would order cocktails, the names of which we had picked up on tv, and dress up in her older sister’s clothes. We invented lives for ourselves (I was a lawyer, she was a journalist) and lied about where we lived. Surely the cracks would’ve shown, though; we had very little idea whether what we were saying made sense in the real adult world. We fantasised about the cosmopolitan lives we were going to have when we were in our 30s. We would live near the city, have impressive professional careers, own lots of shoes… look, it was loosely based on the lives lead by characters in Sex and the City. Back then, it was perhaps the only example we had of women leading interesting adult lives—women who had careers, had great friends, lived in beautiful apartments. It was aspirational.
As a teenager, when I imagined myself at 30, it was probably an amalgamation of various women I knew in real life, and characters I liked on tv. I was probably imagining a blend of Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones (BUT NOT MIRANDA HOBBES—imagine!), a glamorous cousin and a couple of aunties. In my head, I created a list of things I had to achieve by 30:
· Career (lawyer)
· Marriage (at 25 or 26)
· Kids (1 or 2, but the first had to be born when I was 28)
These were non-negotiables, and I spent a lot of time worrying about how unhappy I would be if I didn’t achieve these things by the time I was thirty. I imagined myself gliding around an inner-city office in high heels, wearing corporate attire and carrying a designer handbag. At 15, during that week of work experience, I felt excited at this prospect. My friend and I made action plans that we felt would guarantee our destinies.
I turned thirty on March 11. I welcomed the birthday with relief, excitement and some new kind of energy. ‘I am thrilled to be thirty’, I wrote in a group chat of friends. I meant it. Earnestly. I have never felt so palpably smitten with particular age. I have encountered the odd ‘do you feel old yet?’ digs, but this age feels special and momentous. Perhaps it is about having permission to be the grown-up I have fantasised about since I was a teenager, perhaps I feel that being thirty grants me some professional legitimacy, as if I’m not to be dismissed now as someone in their twenties. I think that is all part of it, but mostly, I am fucking relieved to have been through my twenties and not to have achieved any of the things I planned.
A suite of epiphanies and critical re-imaginings occurred in my early twenties. My introduction to feminism allowed me to unlearn many of the ways I imagined a successful life as a woman to be. I critically examined my fixation on marriage as a mark of success, my framing of children as an achievement, and happily decided that I wanted these things only because I had seen the people around me do them. My developing brain had been saturated as I grew up by social messaging equating a woman’s age to her worth, selling 30 as an approaching monster, and pitting wifehood and motherhood as the ultimate statuses. Once I understood that there were other possibilities for me, the pressure to meet those markers fell away, and I looked towards my future afresh.
I worked a range of office jobs to support myself while I was studying and quickly learned that I despised working in corporate environments. They stifled me, made me anxious, and I hated enacting the corporate identity. I decided to become a teacher, and then gave it up after 5 years to do my PhD full-time.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on where I’m at as March 11 approached. I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I love my work, my partner and I have been in a relationship for 11 years (unmarried) and it completely suits us, I’ve just finished renovating a house and I have a dog who makes waking up each morning a joyful experience. And, I don’t own a pair of heels, nor the corporate attire I imagined myself wearing, I don’t own an apartment near the city, I’m not married, no children, and I’m not a lawyer. In fact, the things I fantasised became anti-goals—things I actively avoided achieving.
I’m everything I hoped I wouldn’t become, in a weird way. I’m more Miranda than Carrie or Samantha, and thank fuck. But I’m an example of how feminist teachings allow young women to see the possibilities for their lives in new ways. We can celebrate ageing, forgoing the self-consciousness, politeness and placating ways of our youthful selves, and stride forward, resolute.