I got a call from a women's magazine the other day. They wanted to know
how women could be more efficient.
"How do you save
time?" they asked me. I've been interviewed by lots of ladies magazines
and I have learned to pose this gentle question before offering my own opinions: "What are your other sources saying?" Hesitant to reveal too much, the interviewer replied "There was the physicist who thought it was a good
idea to make lunches in advance for her children to take to school."
I imagined a subatomic refrigerator filled with seven years' worth of Fluffernutter sandwiches.
Since my husband and I forage for food every night, gathering berries and looking for non-poisonous meats, I figured we were unlikely to use this advice.
"Fascinating. What else did they say?" I purred.
"The CFO of a large company suggested that no one should allow a piece of paper to pass over
her desk twice."
This sounded like some kind of weird ritual, one my Sicilian grandmother might have used to ward off evil spirits. "No, no. Get that piece of paper away. It was already over the desk. Look what you did! Now you'll bring bad luck on this house." The CFO probably meant that it's better to
deal with issues as soon as they arise. But that once-over-the-
desk policy is just as likely to happen in my house as the Frozen Fluffernutter Regime.
I thought about how I actually spend most of my time during the day. I
realized that, like a lot of other middle-aged women, I spend most of my
day in apologizing, justifying, explaining, and asking for forgiveness.
This from a card-carrying feminist, a woman whose adult life has been spent
taking risks and rising to challenges. I mean, nobody's ever accused me of
being kittenish or sensitive to others; I'm more Calamity Jane than Jane
Austen (although I bet that if Jane Austen had been armed, there would have been bloodshed at the J.A. corral).
What do I apologize for? Everything. I apologize for how my hair looks,
especially if I am late with a dye job ("color consultation"). Exposing my roots seems to constitute an affront to civilized society.
I apologize for the fact that the democratic party did not spend enough money in Boston, thereby disappointing local merchants.
I apologize for not taking better care of (choose any combination): my husband, my father, my brother, my nieces and nephew, my students, my cats, or my lint filter. As if I am the Lint Queen.
I feel guilty for not wearing certain clothes even though I really liked them when I first bought them. This feels to me like betrayal. I mean, I once really loved that
blouse, but now other fancier blouses have replaced it in my affections. I
nevertheless feel possessive enough not to want to give it away. In other
words, I feel about my shirts the way sultans used to feel about their
harems. Yet it's not as if a suit from Ann Taylor really
expects me to be monogamous.
And, naturally, I feel terribly guilty writing about guilt yet again.
Women could save eons of time by cutting out the caveats that we offer at the
beginning of every sentence. "I'm sorry, it's only me. I just wanted to
check on...." "I really hate to bother you. I know how busy you are...."
I'd say the average woman could save 3 or 4 months a year by skipping those
And if we ever started sleeping through the night instead of waking up
with a clutch of the heart, worrying about what we forgot to do or what we
might forget to do or what someone else might think we might forget to do,
then we would be able to make even better use of our time during waking
hours. Men's magazines, in contrast, seem to be all about how men could
stop being so marvelously efficient and learn to spend even more time tying
fishing lures, rebuilding old cars, and finding out the true
value of their baseball card collection. Few articles are needed to encourage
men to keep their lives simple.
Basically, women could save a lot of time in our lives if we stop
double-thinking everything we say and everything we do. At least I believe
that that's the case. But I'm really not sure. And I shouldn't have
bothered you with this in the first place. Sorry.