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October 4, 2007

Are You a Fembot?

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Photo Credit: J. Egg/AFP/Getty Images

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Lori, 32, just ended a dalliance with a warm and open guy. "I told him there was no connection, and he said, 'When I tried to make one, you blocked me. You never gave us a chance.'"

A few months before the non-relationship began, Lori had separated from her husband, a lead weight of a guy whom she had worked relentlessly to please. She decided it was time to focus on pleasing herself. "When you go through a separation, you learn that you have to take care of yourself. There's a hardening, for better or for worse. Actually, it's just for the better, I think." That myopic view influenced her dating life. "I knew I wasn't letting him in, and it was a shame because he was wonderful. But he knew the score. He could have walked at any time."

The fembot's effects are hardly limited to how she relates to men. As our lives become increasingly transitory (by age 30, most of us have had seven jobs), friends and colleagues grow more disposable. When women do get together, secrets aren't easily revealed, tears aren't immediately shed, and menstrual cycles aren't necessarily synchronized. "Sometimes I want to get to know a girl at my office who seems cool," says Ana, 30. "But I think, Why bother? It's work to become someone's friend, and I don't know if I'm going to be here in six months."

In essence, we've mortgaged off our time and energy. "I've got worries," says Kathleen, 29. "It starts with a mentally challenged brother and ailing parents. I'm navigating the backstabbing nightmare of the modern workplace, where everyone, including me, is determined to hold onto their jobs with white-knuckle ferocity. I only have so much emotion to go around, and I certainly don't have time to chat with the girls about how bloated I feel."

When time isn't an issue, it may come down to control. In a binge-prone world, fembots are emotional anorexics. Maintaining a safe distance from your feelings can be liberating (and anytime we co-opt a traditionally male attribute, we give ourselves a little pat on the back), but anyone who made it through Psych 101 knows that too much compartmentalizing will have its consequences. Feelings ignored can come back to haunt you. Worse still is another side effect of fembotism: numbness.

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