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The foggy path of womanhood

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From our health to childbearing to careers, being a woman today is confusing. With so many conflicting messages, the path of womanhood is foggy, even for a feminist like me.

Let’s start with health. Women are scared to death of breast cancer even though more women die from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.

And although women are careful about breast screenings, new guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that women in their 40s not get mammograms and women in their 50s get one every two years. Yet other experts disagree. Meanwhile, recommended frequency of the Pap Smear is another area of contention, for decades, it has been commonly practiced medicine to schedule annual tests to check for cervical cancer. Now, the recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is for women in their 20s to get a Pap every two years instead of annually.

Don’t spend too much time in the sun is another recommendation. But now men, women and children are becoming Vitamin D deficient. So take Vitamin D every day? Is that enough? It seems like Vitamin D deficiencies cause a lot of problems. How do we weigh that against getting skin cancer?

Should our diet be low fat or low carbohydrate? Can eating Cheerios actually cure your high cholesterol? What’s the difference between good and bad cholesterol? What are the long term effects of high cholesterol that includes mostly good cholesterol? And if I eat non-organic food, will I grow another eye? Will my grandchildren?

How much do women need to exercise? The latest recommendations after a study by conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School is for women to exercise 60 minutes per day; prior to that, the guideline was 30 minutes.

First of all, and I don’t even have kids, who has 60 minutes a day to exercise? How do you fit it in? And how do you know if you’re fat anyways? Is it the BMI? Is it the skinny jeans test? (Can my butt fit into them?) And now women are supposed to exercise while they are pregnant to have a healthy baby. Exercise will help so that the baby shouldn’t be too big or too small. And when the baby is born, breastfeed for a year, no matter what, and don’t let your baby get too fat or he/she will be obese and have a high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

In terms of relationships, women are told to wait for Mr. Right (unless you are Lori Gottlieb who wrote the book, "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.”) In reality, after the age of 35, the ability to reproduce becomes much more difficult and carries more risks. Many women pull it off, but how realistic is it to expect that if we don’t have kids before the age 35 that we ever will? Should we freeze our eggs? What should we do? One might argue you don’t need a husband or wife to have kids. But let’s get real here. It’s very hard to be a single mom. Nothing against single moms, I think you’re awesome. But it’s extremely difficult to have a child with no partner in the picture.

Let’s say you are a woman who is married with kids. Should you work or not work? Most likely you have to work, because you can’t afford not to. But what about women who want to raise a family and not work? With one out of two marriages ending in divorce, that sounds like Russian Roulette to economists and sociologist. What does a woman do if she has not kept up her skill set and her husband leaves her or vice versa?

My point is not to question the validity of the studies, but to say that it’s extremely difficult as a woman to determine the answers.

If I’ve made you anxious, come up with a list of questions to address with your doctor, financial advisor, Rabbi, and social worker.

Good luck navigating the waters. I’ll be swimming alongside you.

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