Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Are You Team Holly or Team Paula?

Two icons divide women: are you more a kind matron or the warrior princess?

Here's what I don't get: are we not giving our male leaders enough to do?

I mean, why is it that the guy running the war in Afganistan has time to write 36-page emails to a woman who looks like Big Ang from Mob Wives and Petraeus is making nookie with a woman who looks like every personal trainer in an abs-machine video, but when I ask my retired husband if he can please pick up some cat food, he tells me he's "too busy" with stuff that absolutely needs to get done today?

And why is it that Petraeus, who, let's face it, is more Barney Fife than Daniel Craig, is still lauded as noble and tragic by the public when the only reaction to his poor long-suffering wife is, "Did she have to let herself go like that?"

Let herself go? She didn't let herself go; she went where her life as a military spouse took her.

And that did not lead directly to the Red Door salon at an Elizabeth Arden Spa, or even to a Planet Fitness franchise, but led Holly Petraeus instead to the bases and homes of other miltary families who wanted and needed her help.

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On the Holly-Paula spectrum, a lot more women over thirty list towards the Holly side; the average size for the American woman is 14, after all (otherwise known as a size 8 in Armani and a size 22W at Dot's Dress Barn: the more you spend, the smaller the size).

But now Paula, homecoming queen, fitness addict, square-shouldered and sinewed-armed warrior princess gives Ph.D. candidate young mothers a whole new way to torture themselves: they can compare themselves to her. As if a whole lot of us were in that category anyhow.

Once it was enough to get out of bed, take a shower, go to work, maybe park further away than you needed to in order to build a few extra steps into your day as a "workout" and not yell at the kids too much when you came home. Now we'll be wondering why we're not doing that and bringing down the CIA single-handed through our seductive yet patriotic and innocent ways.

I'm Team Holly. She is sixty and that's what sixty looks like; she's had a real life and that's what real life looks like; she's kept her dignity, and that's what dignity looks like.

We should all look so good.

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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