Choices & Self-DefinitionnLinda Gray Sexton: Between TwonWorlds: Young Women in Crisis;nWilliam Morrow & Co.; New York.nRobert May: Sex and Fantasy: Patternsnof Male and Female Development;nW. W. Norton & Co.; NewnYork.nby Christina Murphyn1 hat sex roles form the parametersnof individual identity and the nexus betweennprivate and public selves is anpremise to which both Linda Gray Sextonnin Between Two Worlds: YoungnWomen in Crisis and Robert May innSex and Fantasy: Patterns of Male andnFemale Development adhere. Each author,nhowever, arrives at this philosophicalnperspective via a different analyticalnjourney.nLinda Gray Sexton’s intent is to writena sociohistory of the generation ofnwomen born between 1945 and 1955, angeneration which she perceives asnstranded between the complexities andndemands of the ietninine mystique andnthe ieminist mystique. To these women,ncoming of age while the traditional femininenmystique of marriage and motherhoodnwaned and feminism’s counterdemandsnof independence, careers andnachievement reached ascendancy, thenworld presented a difficult jumble ofnshifting values and contradictory expectations.nMaking sense of the contradictionsnand finding a sense of personalndirection amidst this conflict of valuesnconstitute the “crisis” Sexton feels thesenyoung women face.nFrom interviews with fifty women.nSexton has culled the fifteen she considersnmost representative of the womennisolated “between two worlds.” Includednin the sample are “like mother, likendaughter” women who adhered to thenDr. Murphy teaches English at MississippinIndustrial College.nmiddle-class paradigm of wifehood andnmotherhood, “maverick” women whonchose the middle road of marriage and ancareer, and “self-made” women whoneschewed traditional roles entirely andnsought fulfillment in achievement. Notnsurprisingly. Sexton finds a measure ofndissatisfaction among all three categoriesnof lives, based largely upon hernown statement in the book’s introductorynchapter that the recognition ofnchoices is the deepest disillusionmentnand the strongest limitation an individualnencounters in structuring a personalnidentity. With what might appear tonsome as the rawest of romanticism. Sextonnstates of her generation: “. . .wensimply weren’t interested in hearingnabout necessary choices. We needed tonbelieve it was all possible—career, marriage,nand motherhood.”nGiven this simplistic beginning, it isnnot difficult to envision what Sexton’snphilosophical terminus will be: the realizationnthat there are necessary choices,nthat they are difficult to make and thatnthey are, at once, both self-enriching andnself-limiting. Predictably, Sextonnconcludes about the women of herngeneration:nThere are, I believe, many of usnspread far and wide across Americanwho all feel a little lost and insecurenabout where we are headed, aboutnwhere we have been. As two warringnworlds give birth to a new composite,nconfusion is inevitable. Sooner ornlater, we all wind up beached on thenisland of indecision. I take solace innthe notion that if we stop to listen, ifnwe stand still, quiet, under the darknnight sky, we will hear a cacophonynof voices, the cry of others who havenlearned that to choose is to live.n”To choose is to live.” Is this news.”nSexton contends that it is with regard tonher generation of women because “fornthe first time in history there are nonlonger any clear-cut social mores thatnnndictate who we are supposed to be, noneconomic circumstances which force usnto struggle toward specific goals.”nWhile this is an interesting thesis, itnis, at best, a shell game, a philosophicalnsmoke screen obscuring some verynfundamental truths. These women arennot facing history so much as they arenfacing reality. Their supposed historicaln”crisis” is no more than the typical disillusionmentnall people (not just women)nin all generations (not just the magicalnone of 1945-55) undergo in confrontingnthe fact of their own personal limitationsnand their mortality. In any human life,nnot all is possible, only some. Decidingnwhat that some will be and structuringnone’s life so that as much of that some asnpossible can be attained constitute thencore of coming to terms with reality andnof mastering one’s own identity. To suggestnthat these women are somehownundergoing a process unique in historynis both specious and pretentious. Thentypes of choices available to women havenindeed changed since the advent of feminism,nbut that single reality in itself doesnnot alter, nor should it obscure, the factnthat choice is still choice and choice,nin pursuit of self-definition, is still annarduous and self-initiated process. Tonsuggest otherwise by reference to historicitynseems a rather blatant misperceptionnof both the “crisis” these youngnwomen face and of the human conditionnitself.nWhile Sexton invests portraits ofnindividual lives with philosophical significance,nRobert May, in Sex and Fantasy:nPatterns of Male and FemalenDevelopment, is confidently at work innthe fields of the quantifiable. WhilenSexton’s book fails to live up to its subtitle.nMay’s fails to live up to its title.nThe book is decidedly more about thenpatterns of male and female developmentnthan it is about sex and fantasy. Innfact, sex and fantasy remain largely anperipheral topic, given one scant,n• M M H H H a l lnMarch/April 1981n