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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret's Daughter... 😂
Hi... Yeah, NONE of this was covered in Our Bodies, Ourselves...
Fellow Empresses, How the hell are you?
Has anybody seen the latest Menopause at Work campaign—hotresignation.com?
I’m sorry, but corporate branders of America… Interplanet Janet Gifs from Schoolhouse Rock are not helping our cause. No self-respecting 54-year-old female CEO or CMO is going to post this on her LinkedIn profile. These are not the kind of protective policies and education that make a workplace menopause-friendly. You certainly don’t do it by turning us into cartoons demographically targeted at 8-year-olds. Do better.
Now… With our wonder series about sexual wellness about to drop any day, this was supposed to be a simple, straightforward post about how my skin has literally jumped into a freakin’ wormhole and time traveled back to age-12 me to the land of Are You There God? It's Me Margaret with ridiculously stubborn hormonal acne... And not just any old acne... We’re talking about the cystic-morphing-to-nodular kind that lingers around your chin and jawline FOREVER, refusing to abate. And just as one monster heals, another one emerges, angry and defiant... roooaaaarr... Here I am, with some wrinkles as a bonus! Ready to make you feel totally bad about yourself! And how those little Starface Micro-Cloud acne stickers are the newest godsend for peri/menopausal women suffering from this because they contain both salicylic acid and niacinamide and best of all... they don't let you touch said inflamed zit—as so many of us are tempted to do 800,000 times a day.
And that also... yes, a return to my teenage regimen of Proactiv has been required (especially the toner) but instead, we have a bigger problem to solve...
Menopausal women currently face an unemployment rate of 13.3% which is crazy-demoralizing and confidence-shattering—especially when you keep hearing how unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969, hovering at just 3.7%.
And what this also made me realize... with my 12-year-old-self feeling ever so present this week... is that girls start to lose their confidence at around age 12 and here we are, after a lifetime of experience, working and suffering, and learning how to gain it all back as grown-ass women, we find ourselves right back where we started... but now as midlife Margarets... feeling invisible, undervalued, storyless, brain foggy, and losing our confidence all over again.
So, what's an Empress to do?
Christina Wallace has some ideas that are especially relevant to our demo... The Harvard Business professor and author of THE PORTFOLIO LIFE: How to Future-Proof Your Career, Avoid Burnout, and Build a Life Bigger than Your Business Card believes that we’re all basically human Venn diagrams—and this is particularly true by the time you get to midlife. You sit at the center of a vast universe of diverse life, work, and personal experiences and orthogonal relationships (things only you can bring to the table). Why not leverage those to escape the awfulness of hustle culture, and the tyranny of Jan from HR, and craft something better? At this point in life, you're not just one thing you're many things. That should fuel your confidence, not diminish it.
According to Wallace, pouring ourselves into a single full-time job is the riskiest move we can make. Our parents’ advice to focus on one career path? It doesn’t work anymore, for reasons ranging from ageism to recessions to the gig economy, climate disasters, and a global pandemic (to name a few). We, as midlife women, need a dramatically different relationship with work, one that allows us to define and value ourselves beyond mere job descriptions.
Her answer? A Portfolio Life. An anti-hustle, pro-rest approach to work-life balance, a Portfolio Life is built on three tenets:
You are more than any one role or opportunity.
Diversification will help you navigate change and mitigate uncertainty.
When (not if) your needs change, you can and should rebalance.
But if you’re like… hey, wait, I already have five jobs. This isn’t about doing more. The whole goal is to get strategic about all the things we already are to help eschew the cult of ambition and craft the flexible, fulfilling, and sustainable life we want. Drawing on research, case studies, and her own experience, Wallace walks the reader step-by-step through the process of designing a strategy for the long haul. Because we deserve rest, relationships, a rewarding career, and a sense of purpose—not someday, but today. After all, we only live once—maybe. Lol.
So, the Venn diagram or pie chart of me at midlife is 1) a big slice of storytelling with women from my thirty-odd years in marketing, but there’s also another big slice of life experience in 2) I’ve got a Mrs. Maisel vibe from dealing with neurodiversity, epilepsy, and chronic health conditions, but then 3) I also went to grad school for film, gaming & cultural studies—and 4) grew up in a houseful of pragmatic-nerdy engineer/gamer/inventors. So, I sit at the center of all that; decades of talking to women, VCs, and doctors and thinking about cultural production,i.e., the big stories and solutions we tell/make for each other in order to live—as Saint Joan Didion would say. That is worth a lot, and I refuse to downgrade it or lowball it just because some white guy in a suit cannot get over the fact that he thinks I am old.
This approach is a powerful framing tool for midlife women to cultivate confidence exactly when we need it most—when we are back in our Margaret moments—our confidence wobbling while sweating profusely and forgetting our words and trying not to pee our pants as our vaginas go all climate change-y on us. We also need to strategically map out not just jobs but lives that include rest, relationships, and meaning—and which reduce the risk of retiring in poverty. Women are 80% more likely to live in poverty after retirement than men. Part of it is due to the lack of wage parity, but the other part is that we live 8 to 10 years longer than men. And often, we are alone. What that means… We need to strategically survey the full value of our personal and professional assets and manage them actively and wisely—just like a portfolio. This way, we can have more liquidity, security, and joy in the latter half of our lives.
OK, that’s the skinny this week on confidence and reimagining our career selves at midlife. I certainly never imagined I’d be writing about vaginas so much, but here I am. Huzzah!
Again, we will have more EMPRESS goodness in our upcoming series on vaginal & sexual well-being. You won’t want to miss it. There are some fabulous advances to discuss. Until then, remember… You are wise AF!
Yours in Grandeur,
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