WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Laura Owens, who writes words for empowered living at

The first word submitted by someone with whom I am not personally acquainted.


“All Men are created equal”

—   Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”

—   George Orwell, Animal Farm, England, 1945

“Equal Opportunity Employer”

—   Civil Rights Act, United States of America, 1964

Language, vernacular, defining roles, shaping expectations: Women “succeed”. Men “win”.


Kickin’ it Old School with a “Santiago’s Perfect Margarita” at El Quijote

Professional clichés: Old Boy Network. Men’s Club. Prick.

“Bitch” muttered with murderous breath, or flung with defiant pride  — unlike “cunt”, which requires a dramatic lowering of the voice, the “t” a whisper — heard over and over, “My boss is a bitch.” “The bitch threw me under the bus.”  “Could she possibly be more of a bitch?”

As professional women, body is not the only language to which we are highly attuned.

For us, our tribe, the in-between generation, coming of age after the first flowerings of female choices but before working women morphed into economic necessity, we assumed opportunity, our Equal Opportunity. Unlike our mothers who toiled in traditional jobs — teacher, secretary, bookkeeper, nurse — we embarked on careers.

We worked hard, or smart, or both. We assumed — because our girlfriends were all within the same payscale — we had salary parity with our corporate peers, promotion potential parity, partner track parity. Faulty baseline assumptions produce imperfect theorems.

We rose through the ranks, accepted incremental raises, pushed for bonuses, asked for assistants. We agreed to share — office, staff, credit — we worked longer hours than those who worked for us. We reveled in our very vital-ness to the success of our organizations, as our bosses tapped us to represent the company at a client-hosted weekend boondoggle, the emergency out-of-town meeting, or lead the overnight presentation crunch. These mandates from on high, surely nothing to do with our not having families, no clamoring children to attend to, we who were not yet mothers, with little to nurture other than our professional aspirations.

We leapt to other companies, opportunities for career advancement. Downplayed our reproductive abilities — we dare not think of them as biological advantages —in interviews, as we crossed the threshold from late twenties to early thirties, and early thirties to late, we danced around the unasked biological clock questions, our ticking time bombs, we walking, working, Moltov cocktails.

GRANDYMAN at Amor y Amargo (savory, 3-booze cocktail soused with Creole Bitters)

GRANDYMAN at Amor y Amargo (savory, 3-booze cocktail soused with Creole Bitters)

Our male peers had babies, back at work the following day, shell-shocked or beaming, passing cigars.

We soldiered on through the corporate kerfuffles, mergers, reorgs, acquisitions by overseas conglomerates. We made lateral moves in the wake of the 2001 dotcom bust, the 2008 economic collapse. When we grasped our first rung of the corporate ladder, we assumed an upward climb, steady ascent. None of our childhood books depicted ladders laid horizontal.

We tell our young female staff that everything is possible, and they believe us, because they have spent their young lives medaled and certificated for participation.

We assure them of their assumptions, even as we bemoan their requests, twelve weeks into their first job, to discuss their opportunities for advancement. We are flattered by their view of us as the success to which they aspire.

We assure them, even as we begin to examine our own assumptions, experience breeding observations too uncomfortable to quash.

We, who are the embodiment of The American Dream.

Posts assisted by the good folks at:

El Quijote, chelsea, nyc

Amaro y Amargo, east village, nyc

7 thoughts on “paradox.

  1. This is wonderful, Charlie. You tuned my word to a writing obsession: women wanting, striving, trying for that mystical place of “doing both well,” between raising babies and leading boardrooms, between being caregivers and society’s great minds. How do we split our time into perfect portions for all to feed on. Much of women’s angst stems from our assumptions around the feminine and our OWN secret desire to stay beautifully feminine and/or maternal and yet be unapologetically ambitious. Ambivalence (another favorite word) doesn’t have to feel punitive if we accept the both of both genders. I want parity in all possible places despite our biological imperative to bear children. (I’m reading a New Yorker article on an increasing trend towards “child-free” women). We live in a time when mothers with economic choice are leaving hard-earned degrees and professional advancements in “worrisome” numbers, aka “choice feminism” (worrisome to the Sheryl Sandbergs, Facebook CEO, who is however, compassionate in her manifesto to moms). I’m not worried. Our voices and leadership leverage won’t fade in favor of homefront attentions (and joys). Insistent, activist women, at home or otherwise, always engage their voices for social change. More, new generations of mothers will demand workplaces that view parenting and career as a seesaw for both genders. Fathers and mothers will demand that the Right for earning potential and career advancement not be penalized for bearing children. Once we internalize new paradigms, the ancient assumptions wrapped around The Feminine (who bears the brunt of the work-family balance) will shift. I believe we should give All to our family and All to our paying employer. Here’s the paradox: All for everyone. Kids and Employers win. It’s more than doable once men and women are viewed as caregivers and employers along an imperfect, often messy continuum (decided by each couple individually). Some women will be back at work, shell-shocked (as well, body shocked), beaming and passing cigars (so trendy among women) while the husbands wrestle with the gains and losses of bearing children. This will (of course) feel dystopian to some, a wrecked society with status quo convention killed by “libbers” for the sake of radical “selfishness.” But our observations won’t feel so uncomfortable because the assumptions will land (in time) on both men and women and become, the new status quo.


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