My best friend got into Duke last night. NBD. It's just an amazing school. And she totally deserves it.
I thought I was going to hear back from Swarthmore today. So, in honor of the day when I thought I was going to hear back, here is my college essay. I'm pretty proud of it.
I value myself beyond my ovaries. My capacity to bear children is only one in a much larger range of capabilities. Yet in my Utah culture, that gets the most attention, because for generations femininity has been defined by the potential for motherhood.
My great-grandmother, who turned eight the year women first voted, embraced pink to symbolize her femininity: pink roses in her garden, pink etching on her china, a bathroom pink right down to the toilet paper. As a fifties housewife married to a local politician, femininity meant having her hair done twice a week, hosting the best parties, wearing pearls and furs and having dinner on the table every night at 6:00.
As a little girl, I loved the Laura Ashley dresses Grandma bought me, and refused to wear pants until the age of six. I distinctly remember a family outing, when I threw a fit, crying and screaming, insisting that I could hike in my dress. I could do anything in a dress that a boy could do in pants.
As a girl growing up in the Mormon Church, femininity has been defined as inextricably linked to motherhood and marriage: a woman can do whatever she pleases with her life, as long as it doesn’t conflict with her responsibilities as wife and mother. Mormon culture is a marriage machine; I have three good friends in college, and two of them were married before they turned twenty. The other, now twenty-four, jokes about being an old maid. Marriage is not seen as an if but a when. During my first college tour, the only question my father asked was, “Where do the married students live?”
I began to seriously question this cult of domesticity when I stumbled upon Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography, This I Remember, in a used bookshop. I was drawn to the old blue cover and the yellowed page. I bought it, and finished it that night. Eleanor intrigued me. She, like Grandma, had been a wife and a mother, had worn pearls and furs, had hosted parties, had been a politician’s wife. Unlike Grandma, Eleanor changed the world, despite a culture that wanted her to stay at home. I realized that I too was entitled to choose my life’s direction. The culture may insist that I become a wife and mother, but I have the right to decide for myself.
This has led me to an interest in feminism. I gathered some writings, wrote a proposal and syllabus and arranged for an independent study in feminist literature. My mother was supportive, but my father was angry. My dad is seventy and to him a feminist is a man-hating, bra-burning, promiscuous woman. Good girls aren’t feminists. My father’s reaction surprised and scared me, but it didn’t stop me. I love my father, but chose to do what I felt was worthwhile, even though it meant ignoring his wishes. I am embracing the truth that I can be a feminist and a good girl.
If her pink toilet paper symbolized my great grandmother’s femininity, then I suppose my journal, full of dreams, hopes, and aspirations that reach beyond a future marriage and family, symbolizes mine. I unapologetically insist that I can do whatever I want with my life.
Occasionally, I still browse the Laura Ashley website where I see images of mothers and daughters in matching dresses. I wore those dresses as a child, but now I will not wear the dress that matches my mother’s.
I will choose my clothes. Probably pants.