Gina: Take off your pants.
Gene: Excuse me?
Gina: Take off your pants. I’m taking off mine, too.
Gene: This would be a lot more exciting if we were at least in the same city.
Gina: What does yours say on the back?
Gene: It says “Levi Strauss and Co., Original Riveted. Waist 34, length 32.”
Gina: Mine are also jeans. They say “Adriano Goldschmied.” Period.
Gene: Your point?
Gina: No women’s jeans would ever — EVER — have a size on the back for everyone to see. If the waist-to-length ratio is a little high, we’d worry that people will think we’re fat. If it’s a little low, we’d worry about being judged scrawny. If it suggests the exactly mathematically perfect zero-point-8 waist-to-hip ratio that supposedly defines hotness, we’ll worry that people will think we’re bragging. This is all because women are burdened by a self-enforced but culturally imposed sense of shame.
Gene: You have completely changed the subject.
Gina: I have not. Bear with me. When men go shopping, they look for clothes that fit them. When women go shopping, we look to fit into clothes. It sounds the same, but it isn’t. Men are entering a place that is tailored for them; women aren’t. The clothes industry is notoriously indifferent to how we really look and what we really want. But when we can’t fit, we blame ourselves. Worse, we shop with prescriptive guilt. “I need to be a size 8 by Marcia’s daughter’s bat mitzvah.” Have any men ever thought, “I need to be a 42 short for the holidays”? The point is, as long as we keep trying to fit ourselves into what’s out there, constantly trying to figure out what is wrong with us, we’re doomed to live in an existential angst — or, as you put it, an adolescent identity crisis. Same with the workplace and our roles as professionals, lovers and mothers. What we need to do is grab the existing fabric of society, rip out the seams and sew it back together in a way that fits us.
Gene: Nicely done!
Gina: Thank you. We need to begin with mandatory quality child care in all places of business. Mandatory flexible hours, offered to everyone, men and women. A system of workplace job assessment and promotion that values quality of work, not the number of hours put in.
Gene: That’s it? That’s your prescription?
Gina: We get those two things done, the identity crisis is over.
Gene: Can I put my pants back on?
Gina: No. You look silly. I like that in a man.
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