On the 2 train, I look across the aisle and there is a young woman, maybe 25 years old, reading The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35.  Ten?  Only ten?  And some author who knows nothing about the woman holding the book would somehow know who those 10 women were?

Of course my curiosity drove me to look it up on Amazon.  Here are the ten:

New Graduate


Dollarless Diva

Crisis Chick

Worker Bee

Ms. Independence

Party Girl

Wirl (half woman/half girl)

Body-Conscious Babe

True You

Hmm … Ok, I was “New Graduate,”  and I’ve even been “Party Girl” for a few brief moments, sure.  Plenty of days I am stillthe “Dollarless Diva” and my current stupidly-heavy work load qualifies me as the “Worker Bee.”  But the rest?  And I was supposed to magically become my true self by the time I reached 35?  Seriously?

So I was only four women before I was 35?  Hardly.  I may not see myself much on Alison James’ list, but I can easily fill out the list with some titles of my own:

  • Rose-Colored Glasses Girl
  • Quits Her Job to Go on Vacation Woman
  • Starving Artiste (sometimes doubling as Literati Lady)
  • Which Way Is Up Woman
  • Wasting a Lot of Time Trying to Please Everyone Woman
  • Finally Got a Respectable Job Woman

Notice how “True Self” isn’t on that list.  For me, we’d have to wait for the sequel, The 10 Women You’ll Be After You’re 35, if we want to see “True Self” make the list.  And, sadly, there are others that could be added before we got there:

  • Queen of Unrequited Love
  • Abusive Relationship Woman
  • Yawning Maw of Insecurities Woman

Oh, it could go on.  And on.

I hate books like this.  They piss me off in the same way that Dr. Phil and Iyanla VanZant piss me off: categorized, over-simplified pap passed off as something meaningful and supportively helpful.  Not that anything labeled ‘self help’ is useless, but sometimes what gets lumped into this category does more to make the reader unsure of herself than help her move forward.

Admittedly, I have’t read this book.  Maybe it’s excellent.  I’m guessing it’s supposed to be funny as well as serious, given the names of some of the women I was supposed to be before I was 35.  Still, the cookie-cutter approach irks me.  Don’t women have enough voices around them telling them who and how they should be and by when?  (Maybe this is true for men, too, but I can’t speak from that experience.)   What does it say about me that I was never the Body-Conscious Babe or the Crisis Chick?  Should I be worried that I’ve missed some important developmental stage because I somehow neglected to be the Chameleon?

A job-readiness program I know has “Skirt-Suit Wednesdays” on which all the young women in the program have to wear, yes, a skirt suit.  Participants have to dress in business attire every day, and the Wednesday is a come down from everyday, but I’m still offended.  What are we saying to these young women?  Their skills take a backseat to whether or not a prospective employer likes the way they look in a skirt?  Show those legs, ladies, if you want to get that job!  Which of the ten women is that?  The Clerical Call Girl?  The Work It in the Workplace Woman?  I know that’s not supposed to be the message of Skirt Suit Wednesdays, but surely it’s one of the messages being sent. 

Clearly now I’m trying on “Curmudgeon-y Crone” for size, one of the women I get to be before I’m 50.  Who’s writing that book?



10 thoughts on “Overachiever

  1. molly

    I love this post. I get suckered into reading these books — used to get suckered into it, not so much any more. I’m afraid the Real Me might show up after 60, but I’m not counting on it. I love your additions to the list. I agree about the skirt suit Wednesdays. Warning women that many bosses want to see, and want the clients to see the legs (the merchandise?) is one thing, enabling it is another. Here job offers say “good appearance”, which generally means tasteful cleavage.


  2. I remember, when I was in the throes of getting dumped, I was handed a book by a sister-in-law, How to get a Man in 30 Days. As miserable as I was about the loss, I broke into a laughing fit that lasted way too long for her.

    So let’s just burn those know-it-all books!

    I remember when I was in college I couldn’t wait to see who I would become almost on a daily basis. So much for that list.

    The issue is not, for us, but for the people that take these books seriously.

    Great slice Stacie,
    Makes me think,


  3. Great post! (I’ll help burn those books with y’all!) Just today, I was explaining to my Women in Literature class why I HATE the title of a new popular book called “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” Arrrrrgh!
    (BTW — Thank you so much for all of your comments on my blog. How kind of you to take the time to read and respond. I was definitely moved by your efforts.)


  4. Thanks for a great post–and great comment, T-Dawg—that book and his appearances on Oprah are getting on my last NERVE! Why would ANY woman with ANY sense think Steve Harvey could teach her how to have a successful relationship?!? These books feed women’s insecurities, and aren’t at all trying to “heal” women b/c then the huge market for such books would disappear…


  5. Today I was trying to listen to NPR, but I was having trouble because it kept buffering. Having a jones for N. Y. I decided to tap into a live fed from WBLS. Not realizing the time, I sure got an ear full. Well, almost; ten minutes was all that I could take of Wendy Williams giving advice on “choosing a church over your family,” or “when to know if your husband is cheating”.
    It was just like Steve Harvey on Oprah; not the one you should go to for advice on these matters.

    And the thing about self help is that if you could help yourself you wouldn’t need the book!

    Don’t mind me if I bitch girl (She came after age 35)


  6. Ha! Tisha, “Don’t mind me if I bitch, girl” came after 35 for me, too … and she seems to be getting a workout more and more these days!

    Tonight in the bookstore, a boy (maybe 12, maybe 13 years old) was looking for the Steve Harvey book, dragging his mom around the store so he could get her to buy it. For him? For her? Too bizarre.


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