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October 4, 2007

Are You a Fembot?

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

Photo Credit: V. Hache/AFP/Getty Images

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In 2007, fembotism is the next frontier in the great big gender divide. We can narrow the pay gap, outpace men in earning degrees, helm a company, run the House of Representatives, choose to raise a child on our own, and match a man's sexual appetite thrust for thrust. But there's an unspoken disclaimer: We'd better not forsake our nurturing instinct while doing all of the above. Yeah, well, some of us are saying screw you to the fine print.

Nicole, 33, has been with the same guy for five years and has no plans to marry him — though he would love nothing more. "I like the way things are now, but who's to say that I'll feel that way in a year or two? Relationships are cyclical." She says this crisply and rationally, as though she were talking about selling her stakes before a bullish economy lapsed into a bear market.

I know where she's coming from. For as long as I can remember, the most seemingly unnatural things — craving space, delaying commitment — have come quite naturally to me. I've always understood the power of reticence, while my mother, so warm and demonstrative, didn't. I remember once, when she was pissed that my father was out too late with his softball buddies (as he was wont to be), she asked me to read a note she had written him. I was 12 — and precocious. "I don't know," I said, pouting my Wet n Wild lips. "Do you have to tell Dad everything you feel?"

Unlike our mothers, women of my generation make up nearly half the workforce. We spend seven-plus hours a day at the office, that classically male arena where men have honed a lot of their own robotic abilities. And we're learning their tricks: You don't have to — can't, really — think about last night's spat with the boyfriend; just focus on work instead. Disengage, hold your shit together, keep your cards close to your chest, and you'll get ahead. Fembots have mastered these lessons and can apply them just as easily outside the office.

At the same time, men have spent the past quarter-century on the hunt for their sensitive sides. So the guy who once joked about firing a magic mute button on a woman might look up to find that his girlfriend's now holding the remote. "Lose the skirt," a friend says to her husband when he wants to cuddle. "Quit with the eggbeater," another tells her boyfriend when, over dinner, he tries to rehash all that they have to do the coming weekend.

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