Blueprint for a Woman’s Life

When I drive, I have arguments with people in my head. I think of someone who does not realize how smart I am about what I am smart about, and I go on tirades to show them how misguided they are.

And I realized one day, while I had a particularly long car ride, that I am actually feeling like I know what women should be doing with their adult life.

Most people would be too humble to say this. But I’m the woman who, after ten years in the workforce, built a career on telling people how to manage their career. So, it makes sense that after getting to age 45 I am ready to tell all women how to live their adult life.

To be clear, I have made lots of mistakes. But I like to think I would not have made those mistakes if I had had a blueprint for adult life like the one I’m giving you, right here. The blueprint starts at age 18 and goes to 45.

1. Do less homework.
Women do better in school than men, but school is not a harbinger of doing well in life. Other stuff is. Other stuff that men do all the time. For example, involvement in sports is a foreshadow of a great career. And video games are, too, because they are both collaborative and competitive–two essential skills. So do stuff guys do, and get grades that are as bad as theirs–after all, you should not be the hardest worker, ever.

2. Get plastic surgery.
This is the must-have career tool for the workforce of the new millennium. You will earn more money and you will have more opportunities for mentoring. Also, you will have a wider choice of men, which, of course, is another way to earn more money.

3. Go to business school right out of the gate.
Everyone has always wanted to go to business school right after college, but good MBA programs didn’t allow it. Now there is an unwritten rule that women can get in earlier because it’s so clear that women who want to have kids don’t really benefit from going to an MBA program later. If you get your MBA early, you accomplish a few key things. Not only do you set yourself up for skipping entry-level jobs, but you also make re-entry after kids an easier process because you have higher level experience before you leave.

On top of that, you are more likely to marry well. Men like women who are smart but not making more than they are. (I do not have a link for this. I have instinct.) Business school is a way to show you are smart, but you don’t make any money in business school. Side benefit: You will be surrounded by men equally as smart as you are but a little older, which is a good hunting ground. (Note: I still think business school is stupid if you are using it to actually become qualified to do something.)

4. Start early looking for a husband seriously.
If you want to have kids, you should aim to be done by the time you are 35, when your eggs start going bad fast. This means you need to get started when you are 30, which means you need to get the guy you want to have kids with by the time you’re 28. People who marry too early are very likely to get divorced. But by age 25, you are safe from those statistical trends. So why not marry early? In any case, start looking very seriously for a husband by the time you are 24. Here is a blog post that summarizes this argument and links to the research to back it up.

5. Milk maternity leave for all it’s worth.
Maternity leave is a complicated political issue, but whatever: For now, it’s your right, so just take what’s yours. Use all your maternity leave, and then make it very difficult to fire you when you return. Start a year before you want to get pregnant, by getting a job at a company that legally must give you maternity leave. I’m not saying you HAVE to take maternity leave, but if you don’t have any, you can’t decide to take it. Position yourself at that company in a job you can do with your eyes closed, in case you want to go back after maternity leave and work. Because if you are taking care of a newborn baby and working full-time, you’ll be doing everything with your eyes closed.

There is an incredible amount of research to show that there should be a single, primary caregiver for the first year. I know that’s not good for feminism. But none of this post is. So look, unless your husband is taking a year off, you’re better off spending most of your time on your kid and not your job. The way to do that is to take all the maternity leave you can and then keep pushing for people to let you keep your job even if you’re not really doing it. Make them fire you. It’ll take their legal department a long time to give permission for that, and you can be collecting a paycheck the whole time. The extra cash can fund the rest of your transition.

6. Guard your marriage obsessively.
Educated women divorce at less than a quarter of the rate of everyone else. Divorce is not socially acceptable for most women reading this blog. We have decades of great data (read Judith Wallerstein) to show that divorce permanently ruins the kids. Yes, it’s true, divorce makes life better for the parents. But kids don’t care. They don’t notice. Kids notice if two parents are paying attention to them, and that is one of the first things to go in a divorce. If you love your kids, you stay married to their parent.

This means that the wife needs to just bite the bullet and maintain the marriage. Stay-at-home spouses keep marriages together more effectively . I know: this is not popular, and not fair, but you do not need to make a crusade out of your family by showing that you can get a divorce and not fuck up your kids. So just bite the bullet and make sure you are keeping your husband happy so your kids can grow up with two parents.

7. Practice austerity.
Austerity is not fun. But you can call it something trendy, like minimalism or slow food.Your ability to manage your life will be nil if you are ruled by financial problems. So that means no big house, no expensive car, no huge vacations. You need control over your life more than you need that stuff. You have more career flexibility, more time flexibility, and more personal flexibility if you can keep your expenses way below what you earn. In this scenario, you do not have to fight with your husband about money. (You can fight about sex and in-laws, which are the other two of the three most popular fight topics.) Also, you can stay home with kids if you want to. And if you don’t want to, you can just be you and admit it. Don’t say you are not with your kids all day because you need the money. That would be a lie.

8. Do a startup with a guy.
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. The problem is that VC funded startups require 100+ hour weeks, every week. You should only do one of these types of companies with a guy.

Smart women in their 20s are looking for husbands and cannot be 100% focused on some pie-in-the-sky startup. Women in their 30s are having kids and trying to figure out how to work less. Men are more easily focused solely on work. That’s why there is a salary gap between men and women: Because women focus on work and family, and men focus only on work. Don’t judge. Just get a male business partner. The problem is that men don’t like doing startups with women—it’s bad for them. But still, you can try.

9. If you can’t get men to do a startup with you, do a lifestyle business.
A lifestyle business is one where the revenue is yours to keep. This is good since you will need to earn money, but it’s a little more risky for you personally than a startup because you’re not in it with deep-pocketed investors. Still, a lifestyle business is attractive enough to a woman with kids and a hankering for something interesting in the business world. Also, given the choice between no work, full-time work, or part-time work, Pew Research reports that 80% of women with children would choose part-time work. And we all know that the part-time work opportunities in corporate America suck. So a lifestyle business is the best path to that goal.

10. Homeschool. Your kids will be screwed if you don’t.
The world will not look kindly on people who put their kids into public school. We all know that learning is best when it’s customized to the child and we all know that public schools are not able to do that effectively. And the truly game-changing private schools cost $40,000 a year.

It’s clear is that homeschooled kids will rule the world when Generation Z enters the workplace. So figure out a way to alleviate mommy guilt by homeschooling your kids to get them on that path. You don’t have to do the teaching yourself. You can pay someone. But you need to get your kids out of a system that everyone knows does not work. (Note: I just realized this. This month. And last week, I decided: I’m taking my kids out of school.)

11. Spend money on household help and Botox to keep more doors open longer.
Look, it’s really hard to be a parent and still have an interesting life. Not for men. We have seen enough of feminism to be certain that men are not derailed personally by kids. (In fact, Catalyst reports that having kids increases a man’s earning power. Probably because he is then more likely to have a wife at home inadvertently performing the role of pseudo personal secretary. ) So the more money to spend to get people to help you with your kids, the more time and energy you’ll have to help yourself.

Also, as women age they become more invisible. I know, this is not nice to say. And we are told it’s only true in Hollywood. But since when has something that catches on in Hollywood not been relevant to the rest of us? Even pre-nups went mainstream. So the longer you can look younger than 45 the longer runway time you will have to figure out how to raise kids, hold a marriage together and still keep things vibrant and interesting intellectually. It’s no small feat, but Botox and Restylane will be your best teammates in this part of the adventure.

12. Break the mold in your 40s.
Women get more unhappy as they age. So you can say you don’t like the advice I’m giving. But look, in order to change the trajectory of women’s happiness, we are going to have to drastically change the advice we give to women about how to run their lives. Most of the news about women in their 40s is pretty bad, to be honest. But the good news is that you can change that, by living differently in your 20s and 30s than women did before you. And, if you are in your 40s and reading this, take solace in the fact that by the time women are in their 40s they are great in bed, so if you do nothing else, figure out how to have a lot of sex to leverage your hard-earned talent

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  1. Lisa L
    Lisa L says:


    I think this is the best post you have ever done. I agree hands down with your version of the new feminism. But I guess as a life-long homeschooler, I had an advantage over the current crop of 20 somethings chasing after careers. I got backyard chickens last week. I’ve had a vegetable garden all summer. I’ve found a boyfriend on track to be my husband who loves the work that he does and wants me to stay home with our hypothetical future children.

    I’ve been reading your blog for over 3 years now and it’s always been an inspiration to stay on track with what makes sense. I have some tacit advice for you though – maybe to fix some of your problems at home and with your emotions you should try a new way of eating. Wheat and dairy are known to be common triggers for autistic behavior, and you’ve mentioned previously how you spend days eating nothing but bagels. Try cutting out grains, dairy and sugar from your diet for a month and see how you feel. I used to be a depressive and moody person, but making that change in my life helped a lot. It’s called “Paleo” – I’m sure you’ve heard of it, as an expert trend-spotter. Give it a try. Heather Armstrong is doing it.

  2. DebD
    DebD says:

    Oh if more women would just flat out speak the truth the way you do, women all over would be better off. No political correctness, just the bottom line truth. Thanks for doing this. I always enjoy reading your blog.

  3. Monica O'Brien
    Monica O'Brien says:

    I agree with a lot of these bullets, but wanted to comment on #3 (the one about going to business school young) because I did it. I went to a top 10 at 23 years old and graduated at 25.

    The degree did help me get a couple cool marketing jobs at the director level that I should not have gotten at ages 25 or 26. But more importantly, if you want to marry rich, you should really go to business school as young as you possibly can.

    I recently got divorced from a doctor. Everyone thinks that’s nuts, because being a doctor is a really secure and profitable career path. But the truth is, every guy I can date (friends, former coworkers, former classmates, etc.) makes at least six figures because my entire network revolves around my grad school + the high-end jobs I’ve gotten. And of course since I’m in marketing I make a good salary but not a salary that’s higher than most of the men I would date, who are often in corporate finance, investment banking, or software engineering. As sad as this is, most men prefer women who don’t outdo them in career earnings, but who can support themselves (or, they want a supermodel trophy wife). Financially, that’s about the range I fall in with the guys I can date.

    I’m not saying that marrying rich should be a goal unto itself. I’m just saying if you are smart enough to get into these schools and you are interested in business, you should apply right after undergrad. It’s much easier to get in at that time because business schools are the only uber-competitive graduate schools that still have huge gender disparity, compared to law and medical schools. And you will meet guys who are older than you by 3-5 years and close enough in smartness that you will actually want to marry them (most women want men who are as smart or slightly smarter than them, which is really hard to find if you are a smart woman yourself).

    • Nat
      Nat says:

      Thanks for that lucid argument to attend business school. I’m 28 – so have missed the earliest opportunity to go to business school. However; looking around at my colleagues, I note that I am 10 to 15 years younger than most in my position. I suppose, I’m asking/wondering, if 28 is too old to go for my MBA. And – if it is worth it, since I have already achieved one of the goals of an MBA, i.e. advancing in your career to a point not typically associated with someone my age.

      And thank you for articulating the difficulty of meeting a smart man if you are a smart woman!


      • Lisa
        Lisa says:

        Not too old- also earned an MHA at 28, met and married from grad school, Divorced and remarried now, but stayed home 5 years with 2 babies, and worked PT for another 8 years- just now back in the work force FT and making 6 figures off the bat- also telecommuting too, LOL

  4. Earth Girl
    Earth Girl says:

    Good post, Penelope. My only comment is that you will have more insight about women aging once you are 60. I’ve had executive positions at Fortune 500 companies and my children are almost raised, but I have never been more “easy in my mind” than now. When I stopped working 10 years ago, I determined to stay interesting to my husband. I spend my days on my small cut flower business, garden coaching and occasional marketing consultation, but I also have time to read, volunteer and play with the grandchildren. I am invisible to many young people, but that is their loss. The smart/curious ones seek me out. I am not an anomaly. Life really does get better as you age, probably since you figure out what is important to you and focus on that.

  5. Becky Blanton
    Becky Blanton says:

    This is a great blueprint for you and for any alpha Barbies that feel as strongly about family, kids and marriage as you do, but it’s not the end all be all blueprint for all women. I love being single, independent and childless. I wish I’d had a different blueprint because I made mistakes too, but to funnel myself into a marriage and give up my own independence and personal freedom for a man and a family would put me on the fast track to a psych ward. Love your writing and your passion but this is not the blueprint I wish I’d followed. Leave the door open for others!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Becky. You could say the same thing about being gay, right? Because advice to most women does not apply to all women.

      But by far, the majority of women are straight and want kids. So it seems absurd to talk about how this advice does not apply to all women. Of course no piece of advice applies to every single person.

      That said, there is a huge, huge amount of research to show that women who are married are much happier than women who are not. This has nothing to do with feminism or independence. It has to do with love and companionship and commitment, and people who have that are happier. I don’t make this up. I’m just reporting the research.

      Also, I am a huge advocate of not having children because they do not make people any happier. I think children is an irrational behavior that most people want to engage in. Here’s the analysis about why you should not have kids if you can make that choice:


      • Irving Podolsky
        Irving Podolsky says:

        Following this thread, woman do not necessarily give up any more personal freedom than a men do when getting married. Of course I’m assuming there is no lying and cheating going on, and that husband and wife are both friends and bringing in separate incomes. My wife and I have this arrangement, and we chose to remain childless. The result? We couldn’t be happier. We have are separate careers and our time as ONE. We’re never bored because we are constantly changing outside the relationship as well as inside it. The dynamic is fluid and free and BALANCED, which allows change and discovery to happen into our future together. Yes, we’re lucky, “T” and I. We found each other and it was a great match.


      • karelys davis
        karelys davis says:

        IT IS IRRATIONAL! ugh! it’s absurd and it makes me so mad that I am happy to be pregnant. I just don’t get it. And no one can give me a straight answer as to why we need to have kids. NO ONE.
        But we still want them anyway.

        Even if it means that your awesome Mexico vacation possibilities are cut in half!

      • RG
        RG says:

        Very confused about all the “this will make you happy” research. What I’ve read is that marriage makes men happier, not women. Or is that about increasing longevity? In any case, I’ve also read that marriage does absolutely nothing for anyone’s happiness. Almost nothing does. Happiness is hard wired into us, and we either are or aren’t. Pursuing things makes us happy more than achieving those goals does. I get a dopamine rush from finding a good deal, moreso than actually owning and using it.

        • Kelly Price
          Kelly Price says:

          i’m so above ‘controversial crap on the internet to get traffic’. You’re never two clicks away from an article like this! I live my life completely against this blueprint.

          Hate men prooudly, hate my boyfriend that i went abroad. I couldn’t get away from him and that aged me, effected my social circle and livelihood. I was constantly being his personal coach when I wanted to strangle him! Is this the way to be happy? then to go on and have kids with him? Sure he has a great career… after i’ve used him for it though, I’m smart enough to know all women should have plan b’s and be starting their own thing at some point in life. If you can’t and you still need a man at 40 then you fail.

          I never want to have kids because as far as i have seen – it’s the men that split from, cheat on, and want to divorce the wife even if she does have loads of plastic surgery, she went and got an MBA and six kids early for him!
          I know personally three men who cheated on their wife (my brother) while she was pregnant. So i’m against children and women expecting men to be there for them during the pregnancy, if they made that decision. Kids can overwhelm men.

          In other words – women, all the men I know will drop you like a brick if you live your life for them . When you live life for yourself, on your own terms, that’s when they’ll chase you..Make yourself out of their league, not desperate! Be appearance and ego focussed, doesn’t have to mean you fork out a huge chunk of your salary for business school. If you want to be around rich older men that much – cleaning at the four seasons is much more cost effective than business school!

          Also pursuing happiness is an art. Making men happy is about idealizing the other sex.

          As for plastic surgery – look after your skin from a young age, exercise and avoid stress. Make anti- aging a perogative from a young age.

          If i had a blueprint for women it would be – be strong in all aspects of life. Dominant women have youthful energy and a calm, assertive energy. Try to lead the boardroom, use men, and do things on your own terms. To be the woman that never had to use anybody but herself to be at the top of the ladder and shit loaded – those are the women I truly envy.

          Looks are on a sure timescale. Live better than that.

          I’ve seen too many sloppy jokes for men to make me want to idealize them.

          My blueprint for women would be a) don’t have kids, b) stop worrying about men, be strong , appearance, and career focussed by yourself.
          c) don’t listen to other women (or men) telling you what you should do as a woman. They’re probably trying to make the career market clearer for them by dropping you out of it. ;)

          • Momo
            Momo says:

            Thank you for your comment! I was reading this post and it just distressed me. Who are these women living their lives for??? It’s not about happiness it’s about appearing as if you are happy. Paying way tooo much attention to how their social circles will perceive them and too little attention on their actual selves!!! Are you women raising your daughters to be slaves to men as well? And as for divorce you are doing you child more harm pretending to be happy, as daddy goes and constantly cheats on mom! Kids can see through the bullshit! What they should see is an empowered woman who won’t stand to be disrespected! Life is NOT meant to be perfect but approach your struggles with honesty and dignity and people will respect the real you. People see through the fake “perfection!”

          • Grace Okoro
            Grace Okoro says:

            Women shouldn’t live their lives for men, or anyone else for that matter- their children included. I love my children, and thank God for them- they’re truly the best blessings in my life. That may not be true for every woman, but that just confirms the notion that we all owe it to ourselves to lead our own lives, for ourselves, the best we can.

            If a woman decides not to have children, it should be because that is what is best for her, not in relation to a man. Hopefully you’ll marry a good man who wouldn’t cheat on you- but there are many other reasons why marriages fail, besides infidelity. And women cheat too! Many researches have shown that the modern woman- because she works out of the home and in close proximity with more men, is more likely to have an affair than women many decades ago.

            It’s true, we should try to learn and grow, increase our value to others in terms of what we can contribute. Women should take good care of themselves, not simply to get or keep a man, but because it is the best thing for them. If you’re in good health, you benefit first, not just your spouse. And pay more attention to your health, than on how much wrinkles you have on your face/neck.

            Never get plastic surgery to please a man! Never! It’s a slippery slope to a never-ending need to change yourself to suit others. So you start with botox, then a nose job, then your breast, etc. Where does this end? What if you split with the guy for whom you got the nose job, and the next guy wants a larger/smaller breast? You’ll do that too? Before long, there’ll be none of you left, except the bitter part, that will go on blaming men for messing up her life, when you were a willing and pathetic participant to your own problems.

            Life is a play about our own (emphasis on own, ours, not other’s) life, which we get to write the script, produce, direct and star in. Make sure you give it your best shot, especially if you want an OSCAR!

      • Helen Gallagher
        Helen Gallagher says:

        “But by far, the majority of women are straight and want kids”

        In my experience, the majority of women are unique with unique ambitions which do not extend to prostituting themselves to a wealthy man.

    • Melissa Yuan-Innes
      Melissa Yuan-Innes says:

      1. Homework increases discipline. If you want to be successful, you’ll need knowledge, intelligence. But sports are useful too. One doesn’t have to preclude the other.
      2. What? Just wear sunscreen and stay out of the sun. Exercise. Eat well. A lot of plastic surgery falls into the “uncanny valley” where you look not quite human. I assume the technology will improve, but it’s not there yet.
      3. I don’t want to go to business school.

      Oh, I see. This is not a blueprint for a woman’s life. It’s a blueprint for your life. That’s fine. Enjoy it. I’ll write my own blueprint, thanks.

      Good on you, Becky.

  6. Gege
    Gege says:

    Dear Brazen,

    I think this is a great post – I read most of them when I have time. Although, as you expected, I don’t agree with all your bullets: So I thought I would add my two cents: like you, I have done it all, worked forever, had kids young etc. 1) I have no completed advanced degree – I decided that making money was more important – and this advantage over those with advanced degrees has paid me back three fold. 2) No plastic surgery so far: Although I would love to have a boob Reduction, I am covered in freckles, don’t do heavy sun and have taken care of my skin – so the message here girls – take care of your skin and you won’t need that PS….it’s also about the genes. 4) Homeschool: I don’t homeschool, but I am a youth leader and teach. I have taught my children tons of things but am glad to see them benefit from their relationships with other adults – These relationships make them more independent. Don’t discount the importance of exposing kids to relationships with other people. it matters. and finally 4) the 40s. Well, this one worries me because I truly hope that I can keep it all together in my late 40s. I hate to think my life is over. Fortunately, I don’t think the generation coming down the pike has got the goods…..they are spoiled, indulged and have never really had the tough stuff until now. The word NO comes to mind……so I am hoping that my work ethic and my personal brand of perseverance continues to be my calling card to get me through yet another decade. Thanks brazen.

  7. Joe
    Joe says:

    I think you should re-title this post “A list of controversial ideas that will increase my blog traffic.”

    Hope it works!


    • Mark
      Mark says:

      And your comment should be “I’m just commenting with a link to my site to try to improve search rankings”!

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        Smart women in their 20s are looking for husbands and cannot be 100% focused on some pie-in-the-sky startup. Women in their 30s are having kids and trying to figure out how to work less. Men are more easily focused solely on work. That’s why there is a salary gap between men and women: Because women focus on work and family, and men focus only on work. D

        This is disgusting. Please stop spouting this nonsense. There are actually some impressionable minds left on the internet. This level of idiocy belongs in the dark ages.

        • Aine
          Aine says:

          You have expressed your opinion on the article as did the writer! No one has the right to take away an others opinion, even if they find it insane, crazy etc, it is an opinion.
          I am 27, have 3 degrees and a fortune 500 job, as do most of my friends, out of the 10 closed female friends on 1 wants to stick the career path she is on, 2 are undecided and the remaining one myself included want very much to be stay at home mothers!
          So thank you for your opinion. I hope you like mine

        • Shal
          Shal says:

          Thank you for your comment. I was so disgusted with this article and was even more disgusted that so many comments were praising it.

    • Unfazed
      Unfazed says:


      Great minds…

      Apparently it has never occurred to Trunk that many of the changes we find beneficial were brought about by people who were willing to seek something beyond simple accommodation to whatever crummy situation they found themselves born into. They were sometimes unhappy. Frustrated. Nor were they martyrs. They did what they needed to.

      I understand many women today just want to be free riders — do nothing, but claim all benefits if the efforts of other women work out. It’s your life, but if things break the wrong way, don’t come whining about how misunderstood/screwed over you are as a woman. No one will care.

  8. Josh
    Josh says:

    Wow… more take-aways from this post than 99% of what I’ve read this year and I’m not even a woman in her 20’s… or 40’s… or at all!

    Thanks for always giving it straight, Penelope. I’m sending this to my wife who has accidentally (against her better judgement, perhaps) accomplished a few of these already.

    • Anjali
      Anjali says:

      I totally agree with Josh’s comment… this article is ridiculous.. botox? plastic surgery? business school? tons of sex? all to feel ‘happier’, good about yourself, and please society… it just makes me cringe when I see articles like this being put out there as ‘good advice’.

      • ariana jalfen
        ariana jalfen says:

        Plain and simple this post is fabulous. Let’s cut the cheer-cheer crap. It’s all true and no nonsense. My husband and I were talking about this the other day – life timelines and I wish I’d been as smart about it as is outlined here.
        I have three daughters. I’m 36 and I run two successful businesses (thankfully with a fabulous team). Enough with the rah-rah you’re fabulous as you are. Pretty gets ahead, smart stays ahead, get an MBA – whether for the money, the husband, or the perceived “education”. My point of difference? Make it a point to marry the right husband for you from the onset rather than staying with a poorly choosen husband to begin with.

      • ariana jalfen
        ariana jalfen says:

        Plain and simple this post is fabulous. Let’s cut the cheer-cheer crap. It’s all true and no nonsense. My husband and I were talking about this the other day – life timelines and I wish I’d been as smart about it as is outlined here.
        I have three daughters. I’m 36 and I run two successful businesses (thankfully with a fabulous team). Enough with the rah-rah you’re fabulous as you are. Pretty gets ahead, smart stays ahead, get an MBA – whether for the money, the husband, or the perceived “education”. My point of difference? Make it a point to marry the right husband for you from the onset rather than staying with a poorly chosen husband to begin with.

  9. Hrrrm
    Hrrrm says:

    Are you serious with this post? Or is this just a big joke-social experiment to see how many women are going to buy this. Just a comment that almost every piece of advice in this post treats women and gives women advice only in relation to men…it’s kind of…weird and condescending. I just can’t imagine men giving each other advice on how to run their lives and it being basically about how to define yourself in relation to wommen as a gender, your wife, your female business partner…etc. Women get more unhappy as they age? Please. Personally I became seriously depressed by the increasing social pressure (society + friends + family + partner + partner’s family) to a) get married b) have babies c) compromise everything I wanted to do in life in order to keep a man happy and have babies and make grandchildren to make other people happy. Getting older and realizing that women are under incredible pressure to please a WHOLE LOT of other people (including strangers, like “society”, their parents, their siblings, their husband) would definitely make you less happy as you age…when you suddenly wake up at 45 and realize that you’ve been making all your choices in relation to keeping other people happy. Men don’t experience this pressure, as far as I can tell. The moment I realized that I could do everything I need in my own life myself and make myself happy by deciding to, I was free. And no one needs a husband, a male business partner, or botox, to achieve happiness…that’s ludicrous. I also have Asperger’s and find your advice incredibly anxiety-provoking…juggling all of this fake social interaction …and for what? This is certainly a blueprint for living your life in relation to men. Here’s my blueprint advice for a fulfilled life: Other people will always give you advice based on what they think is best for themselves. Don’t listen to most people. Carry a picture of yourself as a kid and promise to fulfill THAT person’s ambitions/goals/dreams. Listen to your intuition. hater’s are gonna just keep trucking and choose your happiness because no one else can give it to you.

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      I totally agree. I do think this is no-nonsense advice for women who want certain things out of life. For me, I would be happy if I met a man I wanted to marry, but it’s not my goal in life. I don’t really care if I have kids or not. And, I may only be 31, but I’m much happier now than I was in my teens or 20’s. I do try to take the feelings of my loved ones into account in some decisions, but you ultimately have to life your life for yourself.

      By the way, Penelope. I know you posted that study about kids and divorce before. I personally knew my parents weren’t happy and it made our household miserable. When my parents finally did get a divorce when I was in my 20’s, my sisters and I only wondered what took so long.

      Hmm, this is another reason I almost don’t want to get married. Especially not to have children. I’d rather be single than stuck in an unhappy marriage.

      And is it really just women that are supposedly more unhappy as they age? Or just people in general? I think a lot of it has to do with your own mindset and how stuck you are on if you reached certain milestones in life, uselessly comparing yourself to other people.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      “when you suddenly wake up at 45 and realize that you’ve been making all your choices in relation to keeping other people happy. Men don’t experience this pressure, as far as I can tell.”

      Tell that to fathers that wake up when they’re 45 to find that their wives have divorced them to follow some “Eat Pray Love” variety nonsense, and they’re stuck in a job that they hate and have worked tirelessly at for years in order to support a family, a job that they can’t quit because they need to pay child support to keep their former wife (not kids, the wife, because if it was just for the kids then custody would go to the spouse most able to take care of them financially and emotionally) at a level of luxury that she’s “accustomed to,” while she fights for full custody of their kids for no reason other than to stick it to the father, and spends her time dating new guys.

      Do you not think that this happens? I assure you that it does. The Men’s Rights Movement might have some ridiculous ideas, but it started for a reason. Men in America were brought up under certain notions of how marriage and family life would work, and the rampage of irrational feminism has pulled the rug out from under it. I believe in feminism as long as it goes towards making men and women equal under the law – and no further. The vast majority of women were happier under traditional gender roles. This has been studied in scholarly papers, one of which found that women were subjectively happier 40 years ago than they are today:

      • Hrrrm
        Hrrrm says:

        “Tell that to fathers that wake up when they’re 45 to find that their wives have divorced them to follow some “Eat Pray Love” variety nonsense, and they’re stuck in a job that they hate and have worked tirelessly at for years in order to support a family, a job that they can’t quit because they need to pay child support to keep their former wife (not kids, the wife, because if it was just for the kids then custody would go to the spouse most able to take care of them financially and emotionally) at a level of luxury that she’s “accustomed to,” while she fights for full custody of their kids for no reason other than to stick it to the father, and spends her time dating new guys.”

        WOW. This post says a lot of your view of your own gender. Why should men buy into this traditional role bull crap anymore than anyone else? Of course men are conditioned socially too – they should question their own assumptions too. Here’s a novel idea: people should do what feels right for them, and stop trying to fulfill some socially constructed road map for life. Men and women both.

        “The vast majority of women were happier under traditional gender roles. This has been studied in scholarly papers, one of which found that women were subjectively happier 40 years ago than they are today”

        Bahaha!!! So this is why we should try to go back in time? How ridiculous. People should stop telling other people how to live their lives…stop putting social pressure on people to tell them an external measure of happiness…and anyway, nothing lasts forever…that’s the only thing you can count matter how happy or sad you the best life you can and make the best decisions you can given the context and your life experience…forget trying to measure up on the happiness meter…it’s futile and CAUSES more unhappiness than it provides…

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Any respectable feminist is going to tell you that feminism is about equal rights for all people.

        “Yes, feminism is a movement that stands for women's rights but it does not end at simply claiming equal rights with men. It is a movement which knows that every human being was created equal and pushes for the expression of that certainty in every sphere of life from professional to public life and also in personal life.”(

        • Paul Neubauer
          Paul Neubauer says:

          There is no such thing as a respectable Feminist.

          It is a Marxist based philosophy with men defined as the gender oppressor. When it runs out of men to slander, it eats its own.

          Its metrics perpetually defined women as victims, invalidate the male perspective and cherry picks ‘equality’.

          If you look at the bleeding edge of Feminist thought, you find gender relegated to being a vanity feature.

          The elephant in the room of course is reproduction and its evolutionary consequences.

          • William Bell
            William Bell says:

            >>It is a Marxist based philosophy with men defined as the gender oppressor.<<

            You've hit a nail on the head there. It's a dogma that can only be sustained by ignorance and/or bigotry, since it's irreconcilable with incontrovertible facts. E.g., the fact that the U.S. Constitutional amendment that extended the voting franchise to women was ratified by all-male legislatures representing all-male constituencies.

      • Helen Gallagher
        Helen Gallagher says:

        “The vast majority of women were happier under traditional gender roles”

        Bollocks. It was more that no-one ever asked their opinion.

      • chris Keller
        chris Keller says:

        blueprint for the woman in her 60s?
        I heard/saw Jane Fonda being interviewed on a public TV channel yesterday by Charlie Rose. She was being asked about her new book, which bears resemblance to Penelope’s points–including plastic surgery. Jane had comments about sexuality when you are an older woman, as well.

        Fonda spoke about her Viet Nam war protests and a troublesome photo from those days. She spoke about being a lifelong learner. She spoke a great deal, actually, about being curious, finding interesting things and being interesting (a lot like Penelope), and always wanting to learn something.

        Another point: how she arrived at a certain spirituality when she turned 58.

    • YUA
      YUA says:

      This post is very interesting if you know a bit of Penelope’s life story.

      When she was in her early ’20s, she jumped on an extreme feminist bandwagon that goes far beyond what most of us think of as feminism. It was a school of feminism that even encouraged women to change their last names to “feminine” names of their own creation so that they wouldn’t have a last name inherited from male society.

      Penelope, in this post, makes the same mistake of many people who jumped on a countercultural bandwagon in their 20s: she looks back at the past and thinks, Maybe if I had jumped on the mainstream bandwagon, my life would have been better.

      But the truth is this: becoming a housewife would not have made her life simpler and better, necessarily. Different, yes, and more socially acceptable, yes, but better? Not necessarily. You really never know.

      What many people do agree on, though, is that jumping on bandwagons usually doesn’t turn out well. That holds just as true for the “resist men at all costs” bandwagon as it does for the “snag a man at all costs” bandwagon.

  10. Katrina Miller-Fallick
    Katrina Miller-Fallick says:

    Sigh. I really liked you Penelope. I did. But telling women that they have to stay with their abusive husbands, until they kill them, or their kids will be ruined in un-helpful and cruel. So Is telling single, hard working mothers that they are failing their children by not home schooling them.

    I was with you on everything, until this post. You should move to Salt Lake City. You’d fit in PERFECTLY here. Nearly EVERYONE does it “your” way.

    • Samantha Sachs
      Samantha Sachs says:

      I believe Penelope’s point is not to fall victim to the idea that if you are not completely happy in your marriage it is better for your kids if you split. Any outlier, extreme circumstance, i.e. physical abuse, would make independent advice necessary. Her intention is to draft a blueprint for general circumstances but assuming she thinks women should stay with men even if their life is threatened is a bit of a stretch.

      • Cat
        Cat says:

        If a mother divorces her abusive husband, how could she home-school, if she has to work outside the home? I guess that’s the point when Brazen Career’s Social Media webminar is promoted. Limited time only!

    • Fred
      Fred says:

      Wow. Way to take a generalization and push it to the extremes. Any reasonable reading of the post says atht maintaining a marriage is best for the kids so a woman has to put up with… being relatively unhappy.

      Pushing forward an example that no rational person would accept only sets up an extremely flimsy strawperson that makes me question your sanity more than Penelope’s…

    • lmp
      lmp says:

      Yeah, it’s really problematic to say that a woman should stay with her husband for the benefit of their children as a “general rule.” It’s common enough for men to get stressed out by being the sole bread-winner, and go and abuse their families. But oh, this is totally a happy situation for their kids, and the kids are better off getting abused than to Not Have A Dad.

      Fathers are apparently the end-all, be-all of everybody’s happiness.

      Okay, sure. Women can’t be happy on their own or something. Okay.

  11. Bill
    Bill says:

    “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.”

    This is why Penelope’s startups have tanked: Her goal is to get an idea funded and siphon off funds while the product continues to fail.

    Anything to add, Penelope?

  12. Seriously?!?
    Seriously?!? says:

    You MUST be kidding!

    This MUST be a joke……….

    If anyone buys into this then they are less educated in the ways of the world than the author of this trash.

  13. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    I sincerely hope this post is tongue-in-cheek. You CANNOT be serious about the plastic surgery, the staying with abusive husbands bullshit…and you seemed to have left lesbians out of these arguments entirely. What about those of us who don’t WANT or NEED a man? Ahem…

    I hope one day you’ll clue into the fact that all the Botox in the world won’t create happiness for 99.9% of women out there.

  14. Victoria Hunt-Richmonde
    Victoria Hunt-Richmonde says:

    Penelope, Your blog entertains me. Do you practice what you preach in regards to fiscal responsibility?

  15. Brad
    Brad says:

    “Go to business school right out of the gate.” Spin it however you want, but that directly contradicts several previous anti-MBA rants.

    This post seems desperate. It throws in all of Penelope’s historically buzz-generating gimmicks. I could run down the list but I’ve already lost interest.

    • Pyrogen
      Pyrogen says:

      This assumes that the woman in question has any interest whatsoever in business school as opposed to some other kind of career. The author also places a lot of emphasis upon marrying well, and this being a reason to go to business school… As if other considerations for a career, do not matter. After all, the title is “Blueprint for a Woman’s Life”, not “Blueprint for a Businesswoman’s Life”.

      Maybe the author has good points, but I was trying too hard not to puke to find them. I agree about home schooling, though.

    • Wtf?
      Wtf? says:

      This post makes me ill.
      Shame on you. People take this crap literally, you know. Very irresponsible.
      I was annoyed by the, “buy a new bed” post but this is ridiculous.
      Bye bye.

  16. Ali
    Ali says:

    Penelope – you are SPOT ON with this blog – sad but what you say is true. I just wish I had been told rule #1, #3 and #4 when I was in my 20’s. I guess now I’ll just start with botox and hope for the best….

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      Ali, you are spot on babe. I keep giggling ’cause I’m wondering, “how will I know when I need the botox?”

  17. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy says:

    Penelope–Excellent post, and so well-timed for me. I just finished reading The Feminist Mistake (Bennets), I think I first read about her on your blog. Bennets makes a few good points but mostly she just made me mad. I’m an X/Y straddler, I want work AND family and I was very unsatisfied with her book on this major point.

    Your post is the perfect antidote. (Although, I’m sure the research backs you up on the cosmetic surgery, but I still hate everything about it.)

  18. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I like you for posts like this. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but they make me think about my like through a different lens, and I value that. More of this, less of the product placement crap, ok?

  19. RMA
    RMA says:

    This advice is laden with contradictions.

    How do you expect to get into business school at a young age if you do not take academics seriously?

    How can you practice austerity while also spending exorbitant amounts of money on plastic surgery?

    This is not a blueprint that will yield happiness or success in a woman’s life. This is a blueprint for finding an insecure life partner who does not value a woman for who she is.

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      I think Penelope is a closeted misogynist–she wants to mess up women’s lives. The advice sounds out good at first, but devolves into silliness (bet botox but be frugal, don’t study but get into business school). Also, is the only goal of a woman to get married and have kids? What happens if the MBA-man-of-her-dreams dumps her (pretty common) for a 25 y.o. waitress or something? This plan is not very logical.

      I actually know of several women who followed similar plans and each one of them is divorced and pretty broke at this point.

  20. Lisa McLeod
    Lisa McLeod says:

    I’m passing this on to my 18-year-old daughter, said the weary woman sick of trying to have it all and be it all, while ignoring that you can’t/

    My feminist mom raised me belting out Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman.”

    I bet she never dreamed I would tell my daughter, do less homework (#1) and look for a husband early (#4).

    All things aren’t equal, we need to just admit it, and get over it.

    • Pyrogen
      Pyrogen says:

      Do what you will, but the article’s condescending, guilt-inducing tone will likely make your daughter feel rebellious.

      • ErikZ
        ErikZ says:

        Teenagers are SUPPOSED to feel rebellious, and actually rebel on occasion.

        If your teenager is 100% compliant, you should find them a therapist.

    • Helen Gallagher
      Helen Gallagher says:

      You totally should, advising your kid to have plastic surgery and prostitute herself is great advice. Hopefully she’ll rebel, study, have a bit of fun and find some actual fulfillment in life.

      • wumi
        wumi says:

        wow,people really taking this seriously!! Even africans have grown past the age of making a woman feel her worth or happiness increases 10fold when she gets married, what if your daughter gets married and on realizing she has very little to offer due to her very short-sighted goals,her husband decides she isnt as intruiging as he thought and starts cheating,how do you think she’s going to feel? worthless,thats how.

        • Aaron
          Aaron says:

          Also, remember, trophies get replaced. Most men won’t support a stay-at-home homeschooling harpy forever. I would not be surprised if Penelope is served with divorce papers at an inopportune time.

  21. karelys davis
    karelys davis says:

    this whole post cracked me up! hard! it’s awesome :)

    Now let’s watch Jezebel have a stroke while we make decisions that will improve our lives and happiness :)

    • Twister
      Twister says:

      Jezebel is a joke. Most of the real, “I’m not shaving my pussy for no man” (or the I shave because I want to) feminists I know roll their eyes at the blither that comes out of jezebel.

      That being said, unless you are actually very ugly or disfigured, plastic surgery is a stupid idea. I can understand botox, a $300 haircut and all of the non-austerity things business women do to give themselves every advantage, but plastic surgery is too much.

      Can you imagine never seeing your actual face ever again because of some job?? Boob jobs for your boyfriend and a nose job for your job is no way to live your life.

    • Pen
      Pen says:

      Good question.

      My guess would be that since you’ve structured your life around “biological” men’s rules (Look great, don’t earn too much, keep him happy, etc.) that you have a couple of choices.

      1) Continue to get plastic surgery to try to stave off any signs of aging so that you can stay married/secure (I hope they have it for bodies/diseases/health problems too).

      2) Initiate a divorce and hope for a good settlement (since you have basically been trying to keep things happy for both of you [he apparently has no need to do this in reverse]).

      3) Accept a divorce because your husband is now keeping himself happy with a 25-year-old (well, you picked a guy who partially married for looks and youth, right?). Hope for good settlement since you have not earned “your own” money.

      4) When you do show signs of aging that can no longer be staved off, then I guess… die? Sounds like there would be no reason to keep on living (oh, maybe… grandchildren?)

      I know some people who are together or married because they genuinely like each other, and they *both* want the other to be happy. They each accept that the other will age – they would probably see that 25-year-olds look beautiful and young, but they wouldn’t want to be with them because they value shared experiences and memories. But it sounds like that’s impossible?

      I read this and I can see some truth in it. OTOH, there will always be some people like this. It’s only if/when I think of EVERYONE being like this that I really just want to be a fish or something.

  22. Kimberly Rotter
    Kimberly Rotter says:

    Brilliant. I agree wholeheartedly. I also agree with the first commenter that this could very well be your best post ever.

    The only problem is that I would not have taken these suggestions seriously at age 18 or 20.

    Age 42

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      Sorry honey, you’re too old. At 42, Mr. rich-MBA-guy would be divorcing you for a 25 year old model. He would likely weasel out of giving you a good settlement since he’s smart enough to be successful in business.

  23. Eduardo
    Eduardo says:

    What would your blueprint for Man’s life be? I imagine having seen what you have seen, you must have some advice for men starting their career as well. Go to an elite business school, find a wife, and go be a farmer? Some times I think that might not be such a bad idea. Or at least the farmer part.

    • Todd
      Todd says:

      Yeah, Penelope, I’d be interested in hearing about what advice you have for young, male, professionals.

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      Women like Penelope don’t think about men or from men’s perspective. They are often closeted man-haters who see men’s only role as earning money. No doubt she will get dumped for a younger model sometime soon.

  24. Alex Dogliotti
    Alex Dogliotti says:

    Hi Penelope. I wonder something. You said you wouldn’t have made the mistakes you did if you had had a blueprint like the one you’re giving. Good. On the other hand, if you hadn’t done those mistakes, would we still have a Penelope Trunk to believe in?
    I think whatever mistakes we do, they’re part of us. Your blueprint will show how to avoid certain mistakes, but we would make others anyway. Mistakes will always happen.
    The important thing is to remember that mistakes don’t drive our life. It’s what you do with them that does.

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      re mistakes: Jane Fonda, in an interview about a new book she’s written, talked a lot about the mistakes she’s made, including her parenting mistakes, and what she has learned from them.

    • Heidi
      Heidi says:

      Thank you, Alex. I couldn’t thoroughly articulate my thoughts until I read yours. I think we all probably have a blueprint for how to have lived a better life somehow. But life is an organic situation, not a mathematical one. And regret is a form of fear.

  25. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    None of my English essays in high school were on time, except my final course work, which I handed in three months early and got full marks on. And I was captain of girl’s cross country back then, and now do triathlons. I don’t want kids so I skipped over all that stuff, and I have a stock portfolio and get $15 hair cuts. And even though I am reading Naomi Wolf right now, I do have a friend who works at a plastic surgeon’s office and gives discounts to her friends, so I am keeping that one in the bank. I want to get my MBA (for bragging rights, not for anything else, the same reason I got an MA) and I also want to start a company (if I ever have a brilliant must-do idea, my dad might help me fund it, but I will also keep an eye out for other potential partners. Maybe that’s another reason I should go to business school?).

    So your blueprint makes me think I am doing things right. Which makes me happy. But if things don’t work out and my personal life tanks I am still going to East Africa to work at an elephant orphanage.

  26. A.
    A. says:

    Penelope writes constantly about being unhappy with her life and marriage. This like taking advice on health from someone who failed out of medical school. I don’t mean that to be snarky and I see that it sounds like that way, but really. This is just absurd, considering the very alarming things Penelope often shares about the state of her life and mental well-being.

  27. Yuse Lajiminmuhip
    Yuse Lajiminmuhip says:

    You know why I like this post? I like it because knowing the blueprint some women follow will help me know how to spot the kind of women I want to avoid. I prefer to marry a woman who has a bit more self respect and isn’t so insecure about her appearance. Besides, I find natural women more attractive.

    P.S. Small typo with private school costs. Should be $40,050.

  28. Becky
    Becky says:

    Haha, Penelope, you kill me. There is no way I would have had the guts to follow your blueprint. It would have felt like a betrayal of the values I was raised with.

    But if I had, I think my family would be prouder of me today than they are.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Tell me about it. I was raised hearing that I could do anything and should be a CEO, millionaire, first female president etc.

      It is SO obvious that my mother in particular would be proudest if I were unambitious, “pretty” in a Miss America/model way and married to a surgeon (and wore the diamonds and furs that he bought me while driving the Caddy that he bought me). It’s like for parents in the 60s-90s range the 1950s never ended – a woman is successful when she has a doctor and a mink!

      Makes me want to puke. Doesn’t influence my behavior except to alienate me from my family.

    • Helen Gallagher
      Helen Gallagher says:

      “But if I had, I think my family would be prouder of me today than they are.”

      That’s not necessarily a good thing :)

      Plus, don’t assume.

  29. Jan
    Jan says:

    Re You ladies know that Maternity Leave, UNPAID in USA, right? Some mothers do not take it because they can’t afford it.
    For the comments to this post, is easy to infer that the readers of this blog is almost 100% mommybloggers and mom-preneurs. Oy Vey!

    • ama
      ama says:

      Totally agree! I’m sure there is some company out there that offers paid maternity leave, but I’ve worked for 2 large nonprofits, 2 Fortune 500 companies and a law firm and not one of them offered paid maternity leave. The best thing you get is a guarantee that they won’t fire you while you’re taking maternity leave.

      Also, how on earth are women supposed to both work and homeschool? Does homeschooling take up way less time than I imagine it does?

      • Jan
        Jan says:

        @ ama – I guess most of the commenters are stay at home moms that majored in communications in college.
        This blog has changed. PT used to be like a cool aunt. Now she writes like a middle age woman who tries to pass her bitterness for wisdom. So sad.

  30. walt
    walt says:

    getting plastic surgery will give you a wider choice of men because you’ll be attractive to the larger group of less-discerning and more superficially-minded men who aren’t repelled by women who engage in such creepy and superficial practices rather than the smaller group of discerning, thinking men who value natural and inner beauty, authenticity, and integrity. the choice is yours. for my part, I wish a whole hell of a lot more of you made that choice wisely.

    • Chris M.
      Chris M. says:


      I’m a woman who thinks exactly like you. And I’ve been married for almost 20 years to a man who thinks similarly. I actually hope all women get plastic surgery — it will be a good insurance against him leaving me for one of them :-).

      P., I’m glad I didn’t have to follow any of your advice to become a happy 45 year old woman who loves her job and her married life and enjoys a fulfilling career.

  31. Fred
    Fred says:

    Welcome to homeschooling. Our family (parents and kids) dig it… I’m looking forward to you posting about how home-schooling is like running a start-up. Because it absolutely is (I have the requisite experience to make such a judgment). Just like for the start-up, you need a network. How successful you will be hinges greatly on that network. Best of luck. Welcome to the club.

  32. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Reading this actually gave me chills – I just made the homeschool decision on Sunday and now there’s no turning back now. Thanks so much for so brilliantly validating some major life decisions I’ve recently made – spot on!

  33. Greg Ferrell
    Greg Ferrell says:

    “Get plastic surgery” This is hands down the worst advice i have ever seen. Plastic surgery does not make you look classy or intelligent, it makes you look desperate. Age gracefully and get the better job because you deserve it, not because you have puffier lips or larger breasts.

    You are facilitating this towards the future of young women. Thats just terrible. We will never have equality between the sexes, races, and cultures if we keep this mentality of ‘Well, its a white mans world and you can get around in it by being a white man, or a sexy woman’.

    This is not even to mention that it teaches women to feel that they are not good enough unless they look a certain way. Pitiful.

  34. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    why should your life be the blueprint for all women? You always talk about how the Gen Y is different from Xers and boomers and GenZ is going to be even more different, yet when it comes to women you simply put them in this one big category. As a boomer your views are a reflection of your times, why should it be the blueprint for everybody else.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      To be clear, I have definitely not lived my life according to this blueprint. No one gave me advice like this which is why I feel so compelled to give the advice now, for women coming after me.

      Also, I’m not a boomer. Splitting hairs, I know, butI love love love that I’m generation x.


      • Aaron
        Aaron says:

        If you have not lived your life this way, what evidence do you have that others should live their life this way? Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite and a liar?

  35. Carl
    Carl says:

    With two step daughters, one in her mid 20’s and one in her early 30’s, i conclude that finding a man, what other young women are doing with or without men, beauty products and ideas and what to eat, takes up a lot of mental energy. A realistic perspective on the business world would be some time well spent but I don’t see it happening.

  36. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope, I just want to be someone to say that I think without you, I would not have been aware of all these things.

    I think it’s hard to know what we want; it’s hard for a successful 24-year-old to imagine that maybe in her 30s she will want kids and a husband, and to plan for these things. I am glad we have you, as someone who understands us, to let us know how to navigate what’s ahead.

    It’s hard because women in their mid-20s are hot and hard-working, and smart and savvy, and we can be with anyone we want. We are so powerful that the idea of giving up all that control is disconcerting. And so we say that we don’t want those things–marriage and kids–because of course we don’t want to relinquish our autonomy and disposable income.

    I opened my heart to the idea of something more meaningful. I met my wonderful partner and have been with him for almost 2 years, a guy that I have positioned (to the repulsion of lesser romantics) as my soul mate. And now I am thinking about marriage and babies, and most importantly, I am very happy.

    I think without these conversations, I would have completely missed my future husband.

    So thank you.

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      Just remember that everything that begins also has an ending. He may be your soul mate now (congratulations!) but you need to plan for a successful divorce as well. People grow and change, and some of the saddest people are those who have invested their identity only in the needs of others.

  37. Amy Dean
    Amy Dean says:


    Thank God I don’t have girls who I have to protect from bad advice such as this…botox, business school, marrying for money, etc. I think you need to do more yoga.

    PS: Break, not beak. Cliche and typo in one. Bonus.

  38. Judy J
    Judy J says:

    My daughter forwarded this blog to me because she thought it was great. My response to my daughter’s reaction is, “Where did I go wrong as a mother?” Penelope is telling women to strive for personal mediocrity, give as little as possible, take and grab as much as you can, and use whatever manipulation is necessary to achieve these goals. And become one of the Stepford Wives with the Botox and plastic surgery! After reading all of the responses (which were much more interesting than the blog), I realize that Penelope’s success (not her real name, I’m sure) is based on her ability to rile her readers, thereby promoting herself and her financial success. Not bad for a dame who tosses out superficial bull___ and calls it ‘truth’. I am 68 – never had Botox, never had plastic surgery, am not invisible, am still working in a field where I’m highly respected. Left the first husband because I was miserable. Kids were damaged by the marriage, not the divorce. Loved being single for 10 years. Found Mr. Right and married him 22 years ago. Still listen to Helen Reddy belt out “I am Woman”. Did my homework (but not all of it). Tried (and still try) to be the best I can be at whatever I do. And I really like myself. P.S. I notice my daughter (Kimberly, age 42) posed a comment with a different perspective. I like different perspectives. I don’t want to be a Stepford wife. Ever.

    • Kimberly Rotter
      Kimberly Rotter says:

      Good comments, mom. Just a different interpretation. And yes, Peneleope Trunk is not her real name. Somewhere in the archive there’s a blog about how she acquired her name.

    • Mel
      Mel says:


      You have no idea what it’s like for a 20/30-something woman. We were all breastfed on the kool-aid and now it’s screwed us over.

      More often than not the 20s are a decade of working our asses off and STILL hitting that glass ceiling, wages that don’t keep up with cost of living, meaningless bootycalls, raunchy television, society/media/men telling us we’re ugly unless we look like kate moss or kim kardashian…etc. etc. etc.

      Penelope offers a cold, hard reality check.

      • Daisy
        Daisy says:

        > Judy, You have no idea what it’s like for a 20/30-something woman.

        Are you serious?? Those of us on the “edge” of Gen X (or even into the Boomer years) had to deal with all of that and MORE. Glass ceiling? Try breaking into business when women working as anything other than secretaries/ glorified maids was the norm. Mad Men hits a nerve because that’s the way it WAS, even into the 90’s in many fields. Leaving a child in daycare was tantamount to abuse and forget staying any later than 6:00 p.m.- the typical agency charged $5.00 a MINUTE for latecomers, who were looked at with disdain because *obviously* WORK came first before the welfare of the child.

        Your indignation makes me smile. Indulgently.

        PLUS… we had to walk uphill 5 miles to work BOTH WAYS. AND had to bring our own coffee because Starbucks didn’t exist. Dang it!

    • Helen
      Helen says:

      This post had me really depressed for the future of humanity, but Judy, Daisy and Helen Gallagher have given me the will to live again!

      • Elina
        Elina says:

        ditto that.
        thanks Judy!!!
        i needed ur encouragement.
        super depressed after reading this. I’ve been desperately man-hunting since I was 16. now 28 , working like a dog at a job i hate. i have no idea where to go next.
        but its only downhill from here!? time to slit my wrists, if this is as good as it gets.

  39. Rob
    Rob says:

    This article read like something from The Onion. You need some serious help. I think you’ve done enough “self reflection” and it’s time to seek out professional mental health services. I’d have been happy to see you attribute your success to hard work, dedication, and intelligence but you decided to make plastic surgery and botox large contributors. You’re shallow, vain, and above all else somewhat of an idiot. I hope no young women have taken your advice seriously and I hope that your kids don’t turn out like you.

    • margot
      margot says:

      I hate posting comments on posts like this because this post is manipulative. It’s controversial enough to increase traffic. Penelope, seriously. You need to see a coach or a therapist and get more clear about your own personal issues before broadcasting such heinous advice. You’re freaking people out and people don’t make great choices for their lives based on fear.

  40. Su T Fitterman
    Su T Fitterman says:

    Well. I am a way-over-40-something with really, really good genes (you should see my mother). And I’ve kind of lived by these tenets except without all the planning or botox. Had my kids by the time I was 35; glad of it. Left the advertising world when I knew I wanted kids to start my own business so that I could make my own decisions on how to raise them without being dependent on the kindness of advertising men (i.e., for the most part, assholes). Had (and have) a self-employed husband who could split kid-care with me. Started homeschooling in late elementary school when I realized how archaic the education system had become. Accepted long ago that it’s impossible to compartmentalize everything; my work and life and completely intertwined. Decided that if I wanted to grow food, that I had to work from home for emergency weeding purposes; and electric bike comes in handy for getting to client meetings. Am not getting more unhappy as I age; am growing into myself. Helps to have faith in husband and children and friends. Biggest tumult is the change around me: parents dying, friends getting cancer, friends getting divorced. This is life. xs

  41. bob
    bob says:

    way to push feminism back in to the pit its been struggling to step out of. my success is not measured by the same stick that measure’s a man’s success. homeschooling is not the *only* way to raise a happy, brilliant, etc etc child. “biting the bullet” and staying in a miserable marriage, or worse, an abusive one is worse for the children, by far then getting out and doing it solo. this article may be for the alpha barbie girls, but the rest of us know better.

  42. jean
    jean says:

    I agree with much of what you say, but I wish you could write about this blueprint in a way that makes it sound more appealing. You make the life of a woman sound so bleak.

  43. Abi
    Abi says:

    WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I WAS 16????? (I’m 32 now, so I know it wouldn’t be possible) BUT this is what I needed to hear then and not the crap I did hear which turned out to be totally wrong and so far removed from reality that it made me nutty. For a while…then I was lost…now I’m found…kind of – have MA to do, just need part time job and place to live. Finally doing my own thing.

    One day I’m going to run a radical school of my own and you can come and do the career counselling

    Rock on


    • Jeannette
      Jeannette says:

      Abi – love your idea of founding a school. Don’t forget to include Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin as history teachers. And make sure to promote it during The Real Wives of New Jersey, or something. Awesome.

  44. Kate
    Kate says:

    What I got from this is that women are smart, savvy and kick ass. I don’t think this puts any woman into a box. The woman described here would pull a shotgun on her abusive husband and throw back a martini with her friends while watching their kids in the back yard.

    Admittedly, the days of a funded startup (unless you have a seriously proven track record or an MVP with traction) are gone.

    Other than that, I think this post was great. Personally, I live with another woman. Does it change the dynamics of this post for me, not at all.

    P.S.. why are all the men complaining here?

    • Cat
      Cat says:

      Dude, Kate – A stay at home mom who stay in a marriage “for the children” is not going to put a bullet on her only source of income. Where is the ass-kicking?

    • Marcie
      Marcie says:

      Kate, you hit the nail on the head.

      Wow, I feel really sorry for you too. All of your advice is how to “work the system” and is a huge step backwards for all women.

      How do you live with yourself?

  45. LibGirl04
    LibGirl04 says:

    “Blueprint for a Woman’s Life”, otherwise entitled “How to be a Douche”, or “The 1950’s Housewife”.

    Seems to me like someone is having a midlife crisis. How can you seriously, seriously be advocating that women be leeches?

    • d-day
      d-day says:

      Yeah right, because all those 50’s housewives really needed advice on who to partner with for their startup companies and when they would go for their MBAs.

      But you know, real thoughtful comment you’ve got going on otherwise.

  46. Telemon
    Telemon says:

    The comments were as much fun as the blog.

    Bottom line, most of this advice is crazy. There were some bites in there that I thought were okay, but milking the system for maternity checks? Have some dignity at least. There must be another way. And you think home schooling is the answer? The school system may not be perfect but I’ve always found it is what you do with your kid outside of school is what makes the difference.
    I do enjoy reading your blog…..but seriously….. I wonder what you will think of some of this advice ten years from now.

  47. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    I disagree with # 2. It shouldn’t be “Get plastic surgery.” It should say, “Be beautiful.” And you just have to be born beautiful. You can get surgery and still not be beautiful so that’s a waste.

    Also, instead of telling women who wan to work part-time so they can be with their children more to start companies, why not tell them to be nurses? I don’t see how any start-up or company could be part-time if you’re truly running it yet you can work 3 12-hour days as a nurse and make a good living, especially if your spouse is also working. If you become an advanced practice nurse, you can still work part-time and make even more money than an RN.

    For all the people angry about this post, it is sort of disgusting and sort of true and sort of bullshit all at once. The reason I can take it somewhat seriously is that I know PT hasn’t followed at least half of this list!

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