One of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle, has a great exchange about women over 40 and terrorists:
“It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband over the age of 40!”
“That statistic is not true!”
“That’s right it’s not true, but it feels true.”
Lines like that have punch not just because of the great delivery of the actors, but because it’s based in fact. While my later-in-life marriage wasn’t because I choose a career over a relationship, I can attest to the pool of eligible men to whom I was compatible shrinking as I grew older.
Same thing with children. Women my age either aborted them away, managed to use the right contraceptives, or actually abstained until marriage—then faced the rude awakening that conceiving a child later-in-life is not easy, and your genetic makeup might have been better suited to having children earlier. I can relate to this one as well, as Lynn and I struggle to conceive.
This brings me around to John McCain’s vice-presidential pick: Sarah Palin. I like many things about her—among the top five would be her freshness and representation of a new kind of politics to which Senator Barack Obama can only pretend (and does so poorly).
I won’t rehash her entire curriculum vitae—you can do Google searches to find that out. Suffice to say I feel she is immensely smart, articulate, inspiring and fully qualified, with a record of not only public service, but reform, under her belt. Running a city and a state is a microcosm of running a nation, so she has more than earned her bona fides.
But what stands out most in my mind is that she is a true feminist icon, not the ones that have been paraded before me since I was fifteen, but someone who embodies much of what I believe socially and politically, without having had to sacrifice a solid marriage, children or her femininity to achieve it.
I didn’t think such women existed. Conservative women were either wives who had given up career and aspirations for kids and hubby because that’s what you’re supposed to do, or they eschewed the husband and went for the career; only to find themselves in their mid-forties with limited choices in relationship and a biological clock that may have stopped ticking.
Don’t get me wrong—if either of those choices were what you wanted as a woman, then more power to you—I just knew it didn’t represent how I saw my life; unfortunately, those were the only examples before me and probably other women, and they seemed out of step with the realities around us.
But Sarah Palin has managed to pull it all into one package. She married and birthed five children, raising them with her husband while she also pursued her career ambitions—the current one leading her to the Alaska governor’s office, and now possibly the White House. This says to me that with the right person and shared goals and values, you can do it too—you don’t have to sacrifice a good marriage for a good career, or a good career for good children. Many women of my generation who lean center-right or conservative in their viewpoints have struggled with that—and it finally feels good to see it embodied in a person that is not Stepford, weird, angry or preachy.
She’s also everywoman. People claim to be this, but she lives it. She’s appears to be as comfortable making a stump speech or discussing domestic policy as she is caring for her baby or hunting caribou—and none of these need contradict the others. With our increasingly polarized politics, she appears to embody dichotomies that make her hard to pigeonhole—or malign—depending on your intent. Being that type of person myself, I can admire that.
After a weekend of listening to the current non-scandals the media continues to fan around her, she still packs a wallop, and still has my confidence—McCain made a smart pick. Her presence on the ticket has inspired me to support the Republican presidential candidate to the degree of actually contributing money. Trust me, this has never happened in my 20+ years of following politics and voting—but this is how strongly I feel that she will bring much to the ticket and draw others who were ambivalent or on the fence to it. She represents a fresh and future-forward perspective on what women at their best—whether you’re conservative, Republican or center-right, can be.