Who Is A “Grown A$$ Woman,” Anyway?

This past Monday night, women and quite a few men brought their most honest queries to WNYC  hoping to glean some wisdom on “How to be a Grown A$$ Women.”  Lindy West, of Jezebel, fielded the questions (and threw in some of her own), and the panel included the expertise of bloggers Twanna A. Hines, Jolie Kerr and Logan Sachon talking about relationships, cleanliness and money, respectively.

Prior to the event I was trying to pinpoint when I felt like a grown-up.  Was it when I got my first post-college job working for a U.S. Senator?  Was it when I moved into a new apartment, actually washed my dishes and cleaned my toilet? I think it was when I built my own bookshelf.  I certainly felt empowered as I stared at the squat, three-shelved product of my sweat and blood.

What I do know is that since going back to school, I stopped feeling like a badass independent working woman.  It slipped away when I turned in my Senate I.D., and when I moved into student housing.  It has been a slow decline ever since student loans instead of paychecks populated my bank account.  I joke that I’m “not a real person” anymore.

At first it was liberating.  Free time!  No 8:30 am to 5:30 pm!  No business casual!  I went to class!  Learned things! Had long weekends!  But on Monday, the end of my first year in grad school, it was demoralizing.  In “finals mode,” I’d managed to make a mess of my shared studio, and not have time to grocery shop.

My Monday meals included a few handfuls of Cheerios, a fancy chocolate croissant (that came with complementary judgment of my haggard appearance by the woman at a backery), half an oven pizza, and oh yeah, another slice of pizza from a class party.  Because who knew how I was going to get dinner, and this pizza was free! When you’re a grad student you relish free. You stock up on free. You go to Duncan Donuts at night when they’re handing out extras of the stale donuts … but that’s a different story.

Post-second pizza meal, I felt like I really needed to know “How to be a Grown A$$ Woman.” I stared around at the bright room full of well-dressed young professionals and WNYC staff mostly in their 20s and 30s.  I felt almost at home.  (Or at least I did when I slipped off my Toms and threw on some heels.)

The talk opened up with West discussing when she first realized she was a grown up.  To my wonder and relief it was when she could buy a pizza without giving a fuck.  After two meals of the cheesy baked dough, I was liberated to know that there was no shame in pizza. Along with inventive tips on how to remove pit stains (bodily fluids are protein filled, so stains need enzymatic removers like OxyClean), and a lesson on how to treat your bras (get fitted and wash them every three to six days), the event gave me a great sense of relief.  After slogging through the previous two weeks of finals, I needed a good dose of laughter.  The room erupted at the witty banter and self-effacing stories, and nodded appreciatively when their burning question was asked.  The mood was jovial and free of judgement.

There’s humor in all of our foibles, our “laundry mountains” and eating habits. We’re not alone in wondering how to negotiate a salary, or how to have a professional relationship with a boss (don’t get wasted!). And there is no shame in not having it all figured out. As long as we’re trying to make the right decisions and being brave enough to pose tough questions, we’ll become Grown A$$ Women, too.

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[Woman photo courtesy Shutterstock]