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Rapture, Blister, Burn: The Voice for Our Generation

17/01/2014 13:11 GMT | Updated 18/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Gina Gionfriddo is the voice our generation need to hear. If Lena Dunham and her nudity speak for us; Gina Gionfriddo has now stepped up to speak to us. And more fool us if we do not listen.

There is a rule of thumb in the twentysomething dating world that I have been sitting on for a while. Ashamed to think it, terrified to admit it, the thought alone has seen my wine bill soar through the roof as my female friends and I huddle over glass after glass pondering "WHY??"

The most successful women in my life are the most single. They have been the worst treated by men. Stunning, astounding, powerful women have been cheated on, and lied to, undervalued, ignored, and shamed for their success. There has been direct correlation after direct correlation with career success and mean men. The success went up, the treatment went down.

Enter stage left Gina, a playwright whose brainchild Rapture, Blister, Burn previewed this week at the Hampstead Theatre, and, under the umbrella of the 'can women have it all' debate, simultaneously discussed housewifery, porn, casual sex, families, feminism, marriage, careers, submission, and everything in between.

Under the suspicion I was going in for an evening of the more-culturally-acceptable version of 'I Don't Know How She Does It', I wasn't expecting revelation. I was expecting teetering fence-sitting, skirting of modern feminist discomfort with housewifery, and certainly a smattering of 'sure you can, but only if you are, under your apron over your work suit, actually just Sarah Jessica Parker'.

I was absolutely not expecting a sharp, witty, intensely academic shredding of the run-of-the-mill women's magazine quandaries about how far we will go towards nervous breakdown in the effort to be everything on offer, because we've come this far so it would be criminal not to accept all the options we're liberated enough to enjoy.

I wasn't expecting to be told, bravely, brutally, but brilliantly, that I might not find Mr Right one day. That I might not be able to have it all.

I wasn't expecting to be told that me, my achievements, my successes, and my career, are enough. And they can and will make me happy, regardless of how I fare in the typical homemaking efforts. Because not a shred of the society we live in today has done so before.

Much in the way my generation are staring into those last dregs of wine every Friday night and trying to force our foggy yet wired brains to just grasp the idea that we are unlikely to enjoy the same wealth (let alone a greater wealth) than that of our parents, many of the women of our generation are struggling to seriously engage with the idea that we might not meet Mr Right.

Middle-class British women are a generation that is still being fed the idea that fuelled the love stories of our parents' generation: that you will meet the love of your life, in your early twenties, at university. Final year students skulk round mangy sofas at house parties, eyeing up the candidates, drinking Sambuca from the bottle to numb the sneering voice in their head saying 'REALLY? One of THESE guys?'

And yet, simultaneously, we are a generation of women who are, as an overwhelming majority, starting careers. We are not planning to settle down until much older than ever before, not least of all because, financially, we can't. Housewifery is no longer a debate in feminism, rather a debate in economics.

The later we meet our Mr Not-That-Right-But-He'll-Dos, the further we are down the road of empowered, independent, confident self-development. Gone are the days where you grow with your partner, and form yourselves together, in a similar mould. In come the days where you meet someone, fully fledged and formed and opinionated, and, god forbid, have to try to marry that with the fully fledged and independent person that they are too.

Gionfriddo has done what no-one has done before her; told us that not having it all, but having ourselves, might be ok.

It is not a rule of thumb that all young men treat successful young women badly. It is a handful of experiences among a wealth of great relationships, amazing men, and supportive partners. But there are many, many men of our generation who cannot yet deal with the idea that they may have to follow a female lead. And we are our own worst enemies, because we have not yet realised that we can choose to lead, and to leave.

Sold into the fairytales of our mothers' generation, and the incessant criticism of our culture, it tells us we are the sum of what we can do for men. We are the sum of the perfection of the household we can create. We are the sum of our potential to be Sarah Jessica Parker. If we can maintain a career too, good on us. But don't think for a second that we can prioritise that.

To those women who are with men who shame them for their success, or neglect their achievements, or remind them of their vulnerabilities to reduce their empowerment: listen to Gina. Strive to have it all. But if you can't, know that you, and your success, is enough.