Advice for Women in their 40s

I don't quite know what to say about Penelope Trunk's advice for women in their 20s, 30s, and  40s. In fact, I am not entirely sure if she's serious or she's just trolling for hits. Her career advice is to not have a career? 

 

33 thoughts on “Advice for Women in their 40s

  1. The sole reason I enjoy reading PT is because she is so ridiculously detached from reality and yet she really seems to believe what she says. And other people believe her too!
    Look, she just decided LAST WEEK to homeschool her kids and now her advice is that every woman should homeschool. She’s completely devoid of self-reflection. At first I was skeptical of her Asperger’s diagnosis but I now really do believe she is autistic. That, or she is an amazing con artist (this is quite possible).

  2. I don’t normally read her blog (PT’s) but…I’m 50 and I’ve been saying some of the same things for the last 10 years. If I had it to do over I’d homeschool, I’d have delayed my early marriage (which ended in divorce), I’d have finished college and done grad school even if it meant debt. I can’t respond to her other suggestions but those seem on the money to me.

  3. It sounds like she IS suggesting early marriage.
    “But by age 25, you are safe from those statistical trends. So why not marry early?”
    It’s a wonder to me how women are supposed to be stay at home, homeschooling parents (for the kids, of course) AND go get an MBA AND do a start-up business AND get plastic surgery (with money that you get from your husband because you are a SAHM or with your oodles of $$ from your super-successful start-up?).
    It’s silly to pick apart anything she writes, I know, I just can’t help myself. Can you imagine being homeschooled by PT? I cry at the thought of having to spend just a few hours with her.

  4. “It’s a wonder to me how women are supposed to be stay at home, homeschooling parents (for the kids, of course) AND go get an MBA AND do a start-up business AND get plastic surgery (with money that you get from your husband because you are a SAHM or with your oodles of $$ from your super-successful start-up?).”
    That’s a really good question.
    “Can you imagine being homeschooled by PT?”
    Unfortunately, yes.

  5. This is sad. This is truly sad. Next she’ll be suggesting that the best way for women to be happy is to enjoy the relaxation of not wearing shoes, spending more time enjoying meal preparation, and indulging more frequently in the feel good hormones present during pregnancy.
    This is rehashed misogyny. This is women as chattel, because let’s face it: women aren’t going to want to do anything but be married and make babies, right?
    Note that this woman doesn’t suggest college education, she suggests BUSINESS SCHOOL… and marrying early. Because, I guess we’re all supposed to know that a HUSBAND is the best way for a woman to be secure.
    I can’t believe in this day and age this woman is actually writing this stuff. Worse yet, I can’t believe that so many women seem to be taking this seriously.

  6. One of the things I find most disturbing about that website is all the PT groupies who think that every post she writes (no matter how C-R-A-Z-Y) is the most amazing and insightful thing ever. PT definitely has her flashes of brilliance (I liked what she had to say about farming and time management), but she’s a menace–like Temple Grandin’s venture-capital raising evil twin. Anybody who hands her a stack of money deserves exactly what they get.

  7. She suggests that 40 year old women should have a lot of sex. This will be popular with 40 year old men…
    I think she is looking for eyeballs, and that’s okay. Actual useful career advice for women? My own advice for my niece and daughter will include looking at institutional characteristics in seeking jobs – places which tend to promote from within, and which have childbirth leave policies you can count on, are a good bet. Spending $100000 on an MBA when you are really looking for an MRS seems like a really indirect way to do it, and costly. What to say? “It’s ideologically unsound, but it is also stupid! A two-fer!”
    Her discussion of the downward spiral of opportunity for 40-and-older is worth reading, it’s not as specific to women as she suggests but good for every careerist to bear in mind.

  8. She’s definitely gone off the deep end lately. One day she’s worried her farmer is having an affair…the next she’s homeschooling…I actually feel really bad for everyone around her. Its gone from contrary to trainwreck.

  9. “but she’s a menace–like Temple Grandin’s venture-capital raising evil twin. ”
    I read this a few times wondering if Temple Grandin actually had an evil venture-capital raising twin. Whew, you just meant that such a person might be like PT.
    I think the question of what advice we’re giving our daughters is an interesting one, we third (or whatever wave we are) feminists. In a discussion with my college roommate, we both said that when we went to school, we just had no idea that there would need to be any balancing of work and family. We just assumed we’d do it, like our fathers did, not considering the fact that our fathers had our mothers to raise us.
    I think my advice is going to be to emphasize risk taking and resiliency and flexibility, both in what you do, what makes you happy, and what you need. In our case, one big part of that is to try to teach them that some of the luxuries we enjoy aren’t necessities, so that they can choose lives without choosing incomes.

  10. “Spending $100000 on an MBA when you are really looking for an MRS seems like a really indirect way to do it, and costly.”
    No kidding.
    “Her discussion of the downward spiral of opportunity for 40-and-older is worth reading, it’s not as specific to women as she suggests but good for every careerist to bear in mind.”
    It always kills me to see discussions of how older women become invisible. Speak for yourself, toots–that observation is most true for women who have been ravishing beauties and taking full advantage of it since they were 13. For more average-looking women, there’s not such a painful drop-off.
    “Whew, you just meant that such a person might be like PT.”
    Sorry for the confusion. For completeness, I should also have mentioned “helicopter mom” somewhere in that description, but that only makes it more unreadable.

  11. “.. most true for women who have been ravishing beauties and taking full advantage of it since they were 13. For more average-looking women, there’s not such a painful drop-off…”
    My wife’s line was, ‘men are like streetcars, wait ten minutes, there’ll be another one along’ – there are two things, one is for general attention from the world and being hired, the other is men desiring women. The general attention and being hired thing is huge for babes but can continue well into middle age. The desire from men thing drops like a stone somewhere betwee 35 and 40. If men are like streetcars, 40 is like midnight and they stop coming.

  12. Nope, they don’t stop coming at 40; it’s just that ones that are there aren’t necessarily ones you want to, um, ride. (But even that’s not always true.) Amy P. is absolutely right that those of us who have never been ravishing beauties don’t feel the same drop off. There’s this assumption that we were constantly fending off male attention from our teenage years through our 20s, which is maybe true for 10-20 percent of women.
    This is also the irritating thing about Penelope’s advice, though I agree that young women should be open to early marriage, that doesn’t mean that they will actually find a good partner who see them as a good partner.
    I rue the day Laura added PT to her blogroll; it’s like a bad soap opera blog that I can’t stop watching.

  13. “…that doesn’t mean that they will actually find a good partner who see them as a good partner.”
    A prudent man will steer clear of a woman with a $100k MBA loan, particularly if it is unaccompanied by a six-figure income.
    “There’s this assumption that we were constantly fending off male attention from our teenage years through our 20s, which is maybe true for 10-20 percent of women.”
    In one of Florence King’s essays (I think on the joys of menopause), she talks about what a relief it is to leave off being an object of male desire and to have a chance to be a tomboy again. You also get to save a lot on winter heating bills, apparently.

  14. “it’s like a bad soap opera blog that I can’t stop watching”
    I think this may actually be her elevator pitch. Or it would be her savvy agent’s, if she had one.
    (Parenthetically, Florence King ftw.)

  15. “I think this may actually be her elevator pitch.”
    Not unlikely. Alternately, “Like Pioneer Woman, but with mental illness, self-destructive behavior and dysfunctional relationships! And career tips!”
    She’s got an enviable selection of national advertisers now.

  16. Here’s another nugget from that piece:
    “Having your own company will give you tons of control over your life. It’s nice to have a funded company because then the investors are taking the financial risk and you are drawing a nice salary even when you are not really earning any revenue.”
    I don’t know anything about the venture capital world or start-ups, but as the product of a super-entrepreneurial and commercially successful family I think that quote is so wrong in so many ways that I barely know where to start.

  17. I quit reading PT after the ‘advice to Wisconsin protestors’ post. Being wrong is one thing, but the advice there struck me as mean, ignorant and wrong: ‘mean’ in the senses both of abject capitulation to our capitalist masters, and a kind of small-minded viciousness or lack of compassion.
    I think the problem is PT writes about the world as it is, but gets read as prescriptive. That is, the description of/advice for how women’s careers work is quite accurate (for all but the lucky or the strong); yet in order to change that world we need women and men to act very differently. In this way PT is profoundly reactionary.
    I always liked Temple Grandin’s “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be”. PT seems to me to say, “the world is cruel, this is how it is, and here’s how you should adapt to it” which savages my tender liberal sensibilities to the point I couldn’t bear it anymore. That of course is a personal problem, though.

  18. Doug, I sure don’t want you giving advice to my daughter or niece! At least, as I read you, you are saying, Trunk is making a good description of the world as it is, but people ought to comport themselves differently to make the world different.
    Now, I’m 60, just went to a HS reunion, and I saw some folks who tried to comport themselves for the world as it oughta be. The people who dealt with the world as it is had done better.
    I don’t think Trunk actually has it all right on the world as it is, there is some different advice I would give to a young woman starting out. But to object to a description you think is accurate but which ‘savages my tender liberal sensibilities’ seems like a recipe for failure for people for whom you care.

  19. “I don’t think Trunk actually has it all right on the world as it is…”
    Right. As scantee pointed out up above, PT’s advice is pretty unreal, or at least doesn’t form a coherent program: “It’s a wonder to me how women are supposed to be stay at home, homeschooling parents (for the kids, of course) AND go get an MBA AND do a start-up business AND get plastic surgery…”
    I’ve already mentioned my issues with the idea that “investors” are going to let you draw “a nice salary” indefinitely while your start-up burns through their money.

  20. “Did a plastic surgeon sponsor that post?”
    Nice! But seriously, if so I think she would have mentioned it, included pictures of the work she’d had done, and given the name of the surgeon.

  21. My neighbor just paid somebody to cut down the bush that lives on property line. I did tell him I’d help, but apparently my way was too much work.

  22. Julie G.,
    Come on, have a peek. You can stop anytime you like. This is characteristic:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/06/06/you-can-reframe-anything/
    This is disturbing:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/01/03/how-to-bounce-back-2/
    At some point, the line between “blog” and “cry for help” gets fuzzy. Also, one of the characteristic features of PT’s blog (almost the formula for her posts) is the juxtaposition of chirpy self-help platitudes and disturbing personal content.
    Somebody here once said that the blog’s content was largely made up. I hope so.

  23. I once posted here that I think she makes up a lot of what she posts, especially the personal drama. I mean, Asberger’s people may not have much in the way of filters, but a half intelligent person figures them out. This post that Laura refers to is, I think, not so much fiction, as an attempt to get people talking about her. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

  24. Thanks, Amy P., for a sample of the train wreck. I do hope much is exaggerated. No one deserves a life that interesting.

  25. “No one deserves a life that interesting.”
    I can’t find the exact quote right now, but there was a conversation between a famous explorer and an admirer that went something like this. Here’s my paraphrase:
    Admirer: What an amazing adventure!
    Famous explorer (bristling): An adventure is what happens when you screw up.
    That’s how I feel about that kind of “interesting.”

  26. Well we know what this life looks like: go to a good college and get an MBA on Daddy’s (or Mummy’s) dime. Inherited money is best, that way you’ll have some later. Travel in well off circles, and marry within those circles. Have a job that’s not really a job, which you can only do because of those contacts (oh, and be very smart so that you can occasionally make your partners think you’re worth it. But they’re probably just keeping you for your contacts.) Then have household help, give your husband lots of sex, have a dermatologist as your best friends while you homeschool your kids and pretend to work. Be a Stepford wife, but a happy one. It’s a nice life if you can get it, but I think it relies on advantages that not everyone has.
    There are women who homeschool and have a job. The ones I know best are bloggers (http://soulemama.typepad.com/, http://simplemom.net/). I don’t know any IRL — it’s wicked hard. You have to be a high energy person, and not everyone is.

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