Being a woman in your twenties.

Today is International Women’s Day. A day where we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Did you know that? Nah me either. I think it’s because I’m living beyond my means. These days a third of us young professionals are. And I salute us… the lost generation.

It’s a Tuesday morning in the office and I’m sitting with my mouth open on its hinges still trying to recover from the weekend. I don’t seem to  bounce back like I used to because back in my day… wait who am I kidding I’m 22. I look around at my fellow employees and can’t help but ignore the sour taste of envy in my mouth. With their children, their fiancés, building their new homes, complaining about the tenants they have in their rental properties. Basking in the glory of success. I sink slowly into my chair.

I’m having a millennial breakdown. We’ve little hope of a high paid job, saddled with debt, will probably never own a home, we can’t get a boyfriend because they are all on Tinder… I’ve even worked out which one of my girl friends I’m getting hitched to and adopting two children with. She seems like she would do a great job at being my life partner based on my previous track record.

This is the life for us born shy of 1980: a hopeless offering of limp employment, academic debt, sex so casual that choosing partners is as easy as swiping right with your index finger, and, of course, little hope of ever having a “place of one’s own”.

Let me throw some numbers at you to prove that I’m not being a Drama Queen. The gender pay gap in New Zealand for women is 11.8% based on median hour earnings. I guess I can counter-argue this. I would be mega rich by now if I had no social life, if the word ‘takeaway’ wasn’t in my vocabulary, if I thought the bus was my only convenient form of transport, if I didn’t care what clothes I wore, how I looked when I woke up in the morning or the quality of my cellphone to take the right selfie. The brands, oh the brands! I do care because it’s really hard not to.

It’s no wonder then that at least some of this generation see things a little bleakly. I’ve got Lena Dunham to cry with me and capture the sad-eyed, antsy demographic through her character in Girls. Girls, if you haven’t seen it is our generation’s version of Sex and the City, just with bad footwear. It is infused with a language to a world of dead-end sex, dead-end jobs and expensively educated kids working day shifts at their local cafe. Dunham has created quite a name for herself as the town crier for a frightened generation. For the young men and women who believe their feelings are only valid unless posted on social media, struggle to make sense of a world that doesn’t really have any room for them.

And I know what you’re all thinking: “Please! This generation will never know the threat of military service. These young women will never know what it feels like to be confined to the four walls of their kitchen as the legal ‘subject’ of their husband or denied free access to contraception. What real punishment meant for them in schools. For them, a university education is a given, not a privilege. They can travel! Delay motherhood! Build a social network empire through the voodoo magic of their phones!”

And without a doubt this age group enjoys the spoils of modern life that their parents and grandparents could only ever dream of: free entertainment in their back pockets; air travel that costs less than a meal out; and cheaper food which means we will never know the taste of the mystery casserole in a can.

These are the things our predecessors worked hard for. Paying for movies and music, shopping in  charity shops, and riding the waves of the devastating effects of a recession: houses lost and savings obliterated. What a depressed bunch we are.

But doesn’t every generation think they have it worse than before? The classic first world problems and all that! My father would probably agree. But then if his mother was alive she would shake her head and explain that neither of us would ever know how it feels to have lost loved ones to the war, or know with certainty that your life would never stray beyond the perimeters of motherhood and the small patch of a home town.

So I did some digging into the gossip mag archives to find the headlines that made the decades:

1960: “When a Working Girl sees a Psychiatrist”

1970: “What’s New and True about Woman Doctors”

1980: “25 Ways to Ignite a Love Affair”

1990: “How to Look like a Fashion Model” with a close second being “Does he bore you? How to stay interested”

2000: “You! You! You! Secret Ways to stop stressing about Hideous Days”

2016: “New Year New Booty”

So in short, we have all had it hard. Even though I’m biased I still can’t help but think us poor, rictus-grin selfie of a generation still have it worse. We’ve been duped the most out of all of our counterparts. Nothing stings worse than the feeling of being over-promised so much yet realising you’ve become an adult overnight. Our self-esteem was bolstered: being told in school that we could do or be anything if we put our minds to it. A university education was the way to go next and a guarantee of well-paid employment. Grandparents cannot fathom how their adult grandchildren still don’t have a home, husband or any assets that signify “welcome to adult life this way please”.

So what have we done? We’ve hustled and created “personal brands”. Our YouTube channels, our blogs, our social media hierarchies. Some of us have found the job the husband and the baby growing inside of them. I wonder how many ‘likes’ they’ll get on Facebook?! It is a little bit of a disguise, I’ll give us that. We’ve mastered the art of distraction by waving a cheery scarf, or a well filtered Instagram photo from where you’d rather be while stuffing our frightened senses into our pockets.

So forgive us when you hear us talking about our followers or our Snapchat filters. Purchasing the right shade of Mac lipstick or taking 1000 selfies to capture the most ‘natural-not-looking-at-the-camera’ shot. Don’t judge us for our relentless self promotion or our Saturday nights on the town. We do it because we have to. We get tough and we get pushy in the most discrete way possible and we do whatever it takes to get noticed in the 21st century.

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