I’ll Be There In Five Minutes

My phone rings, for the 12th time in as many minutes. “I’m almost there,” I breathe heavily into the receiver, no time even for a “hello.” My voice is unnaturally high-pitched. “So sorry I’m late, bus problems! I’ll literally be there in five minutes, okay? Order me a drink; I’ll have a gin and tonic. I’ll be there in time to pay for it. See you in a sec!”

I hang up, shove my phone in my handbag and look around for my shoes. I’m in my flat, 30 minutes on the tube from the bar where my friends are waiting. I barely even notice I’ve just lied.

My little white lies are out of control. I’m lying to my friends, my employers, my family; I’m telling them all that I have enough time. My watch is sitting neglected on my bedside table, not because I don’t like to look at it, but because I don’t need to. I already know I’m late.

Two weeks later, I’m in a book shop, swirling champagne and schmoozing with the editors I’m so hoping will look at my manuscript, will take notice of me, will give me my big break. I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and I blanch. Outside the shop, I force a laugh. “Megan?” I giggle into the phone. “What are you talking about? Of course I’m still here. I’m just at the bar.” I barely listen to the crackled response from the other end. “Megan, I can see you! Hold on, he’s come to take my order, I’m hanging up.”

I can’t possibly tell her that I double-booked her party and left 20 minutes in to go to this book launch. That would mean admitting I’m not managing my time. Scratch that — that would mean realizing I’m not managing my time.

As a Modern Feminist Woman, I must have it all. I must be a career-woman… and not just a career-woman, but a great career-woman, to prove to the men that I have a right to be there. I must be a good wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter; I must be one of the boys; I must make time for girls’ night. I must dress well and look nice, because haven’t you heard? Feminists do shave their legs now! I must eat healthily and go running, but not make an effort (because women mustn’t make other women look bad), so I better be at the gym by 5:30 so that nobody can see I’m there. Oh, and I must meditate; I must find time to do nothing in between all the other things I have to do.

If I can’t do this, I’m failing at being a powerful woman. If I don’t make time for this, I’m failing at feminism.

This is the pressure that is making women depressed, or angry, or exhausted. It is making some women walk away from feminism altogether. It is making other women doubt their self-worth when they can’t manage it all — and it is making me a compulsive liar who is telling herself she can. I work eight days a week, and I am telling myself I have time to eat and sleep.

Tonight, I walk home from work, because walking is the new Pilates and it’s only an extra hour so I can totally make it home in time to eat dinner with my husband. As I stumble through the door, my stomach growling, my phone rings. (That phone! I want to smash it on the ground.)

As I shrug off my coat, the words bounce around my ears.

“It’s just a quick one, Emma. I know you’re busy, but could you get it to me by tonight?” my boss is saying.

I glance towards the kitchen.

“I can do that,” I lie. “I have time for that.”

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