I don’t know about you, but from the time I’ve been able to toddle around, I’ve been encouraged to be “independent.” Basically the instructions have not changed: stand on your own two feet, require little or no support, rely on nobody and get out there! And so I have. I’ve supported myself (and my family); bought my own house; cooked my own food; paid for my son’s college tuition; lived alone; traveled mainly alone; taken care of the dog singlehandedly; stood on my own two feet and nobody else’s. I’ve been part of a family, too—but somehow I am always out there on a string—“independent.” But at this point in life, Independence Day has made me wonder about the idea of independence for women. Does “being independent” mean being sentenced to doing it all basically solo—forever?
Mom and Dad were there to catch the toddler, or when they took off the training wheels. What if you’re going it alone now? Who’s there to catch us half a century later? Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in high heels, but he was still there. What did she do alone? He danced alone plenty– to greatness. Let’s face it, a woman dancing alone looks a bit off kilter, with the possible exceptions of a prima ballerina and Tinker Bell. The great, late Nora Ephron once said that the thing women got out of the women’s movement was the Dutch Treat. Right, Nora—is it such a Treat to always go Dutch? To go it alone? To be unfailingly “independent?” My mother knew women who had never earned a cent at a job outside the home, never paid a bill themselves, never saw the inside of a checkbook. Nobody wants that. But sometimes I wonder—have women drill-sargented themselves into a bit too much independence?
The thing is, independence is as addictive as heroin. You can’t really go back. Or can you? And do you want to?