I used to feel very moved by a Gloria Steinem quote. “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry,” I read from either a screen or a book, and teared up. There is still something prescient about how the quote captures the aspiration in longing—how a lover can placate or bring us closer to ambitions that are denied or fundamentally out of reach—even as it plants a seed for lean-in feminism’s bizarre, autocratic (indeed, anti-erotic) insistence on work.
I now think that the unfulfilled dreams are more interesting. Few people will reach much satisfaction from work, meanwhile there are so many unofficial obsessions that we transmit, more unexpected ways to trace genealogy.
My dad fed me the internet like many parents feed their children books. He lacked the early aptitude for engineering that allowed his older brothers access to high-skilled visas, but moved with them from Karachi to California, the other side of the world, and nurtured Silicon Valley dreams adjacent to the boom and bust dot-com years. My inheritance: a portal to the internet. A trusted guide through a series of links. A walk. I read the Harry Potter and Magic Treehouse books at the same time that I explored sweet milky green of the early web. I almost don’t remember going outside.