Last night I participated in a focus group. I was paid $150 to sit in a room with other women and have a conversation. The exercises were very similar to so many I've done in education classes, (especially those that focused on educational philosophy) I can talk, I may have an opinion or two, and hey, times are tough. So the experience was overall a pleasant one for me. (Although it turns out the research was for a perfume company, which is fairly hilarious since I lost my sense of smell in a playground accident when I was nine. But that's another story for another day.)
The focus group was made up entirely of women ages 35-50. Since I'm not *quite* 35, I was the youngest woman in the room, but I felt like I belonged and I quickly became a leader/ spokesperson. (gasp. I know.) But there was something one of the women said that I found absolutely heartbreaking, and I'm still thinking about it today. First, a brief overview of the evening's activities.
We started by choosing a picture of a woman. Then we gave her an identity-a name, a career, a background, etc. Our character was gorgeous, at the top of her career game, and about to make a major career change. We then answered questions from her point of view. A fun exercise, challenging at times, and a good way to get to know other New York women.
But the whole time, this one woman in my group looked miserable. She harumphed at every idea, she sat with her arms crossed, and she had an overall air about her that suggested that she thought the rest of us were absolutely ridiculous.
At the end of the evening, we were asked how much we felt like we put ourselves into the characters. Obviously, we put a lot of ourselves in. Wasn't that the idea? The moderator asked if anyone felt like they were entirely, 100% unlike the character. And, up went the hand of Miss Grouchy Face.
When asked to elaborate, Miss GF told us that the character was completely unrealistic. She was gorgeous, confident, successful, fearless, and without flaw. We had created a Super Woman, and she just didn't think there were people like that in this world. Or at any rate, she didn't know any.
I vehemently disagreed. So of course, I sat quietly with my hands folded and vowed to write a blog about it. Oh, wait. No. I raised my hand.
"I think she's completely realistic. I know lots of women who are gorgeous-as gorgeous as the woman in that picture- and intelligent, and successful, and brave. And just because she's successful doesn't mean she's flawless. And of course she has fears. She just succeeds in spite of them."
Most of the women in the room nodded their heads with me, but I still thought about Miss GF all the way home.
My female friends and family are gorgeous. They are as attractive as the woman in that picture. And they are intelligent- they have street smarts and book smarts and Mommy smarts and every kinda smarts. And they are accomplished. I know Broadway stars and TV producers and executives and employees of the month and Mommies who make nutritious meals. And they are not flawless. And they have fears. And they are really amazing people.
I am so sad for that woman today that she doesn't see the women in her life through this lens, and I'm even sadder that she doesn't see herself that way.
So. Hey, Women In My Life. In case you didn't know it, you are Super Heroes. And if anyone tells you any differently send 'em to me. I'll go all focus group on 'em.