So many people have said things this week that have influenced this week’s post. They are all shouted out within, and you should check them all out.
Don’t worry; I’ll be here with a drink when you come back.
Don’t Robyn be knowin’?
I love talking to SBG, mostly because she gets me, but mostly because, despite our vastly different ways of handling things, she reflects back to me that the issues I harbor about certain aspects of traditional trappings of womanhood are not crazy. She is my real life Janie Crawford, the first woman in any book that told me I was not alone. For her, I am grateful.
She and I have talked extensively about the varying degrees of shade we cast over those who wish to try to shame us into being less vocal about being unsure about marriage or kids or houses or any of those things we are supposed to want because we have uteruses. (Uteri?) We have also leant many a side eye to those who wax philosophic about how breathlessly amazing and perfect it all is, cause, girl, ain’t you heard the divorce rate hovers around 50%?
I can’t speak for Robyn because I don’t know her life, despite the fact that she stays trying to write mine. But for me a large segment of my uneasiness with being a We of the more permanent, forever sort was that I never saw a marriage that looked anything like one I might want to participate in.
I know two couples that have been married for a significant amount of time; my daddy and my stepmom. My godparents. And, well, that’s about it.
My dad and stepmom, while together for decades and still reasonably happy, I suppose, don’t have the type of relationship I wish to emulate. For reasons I won’t get into. My godparents are closer, having spent the last twenty years happy and angry and travelling and loving and parenting and separating and working it out together.
As I am far more forthcoming on the internet about my own issues than I should be, I can admit that being well versed in what it was like before marriage, the concessions made building to getting in one, vaguely familiar with what happened during one, and intimately acquainted with what happened when one was over, don’t make for the best picture on the front of the marriage brochure. There is a something that happens to you when all you’ve seen is a potent combo of few successful, happy marriages, fairy tales that seem absolutely foreign to you, and the cacophonous concert of noise that is societal opinion about all the things a woman should do to get/stay married and all the ways she should become fully immersed in her husband and their children and their home and their bake sales and their laundry and their homework and their home cooked meals. There is an ongoing conversation about all the woulds and the shoulds and the dos and the don’ts and the sacrifices and the failures, all largely directed towards women.
And, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem particularly appealing.
Well, that doesn’t. But what if you could define your marriage, your motherhood, your womanhood for yourself? What if your marriage didn’t have to look like a fairy tale or your mom and dad’s or the universally acceptable husband-two-kids-a-dog-and-a-minivan? What if, you know, it could actually be your own?
Yesterday, Crissle said on twitter, “I just started living for myself… and it is so damn glorious. I can’t imagine giving it up anytime soon.”
I get that. I feel that. I just wish I weren’t judged for it.
That is what I’ve struggled with; the idea that if I still want to be La outside of a label, that if I needed to have a tent pole in me-ness while still being a wife and a mother and a whatever-the-hell-else, then it simply wasn’t me fighting to hold on to the self-work I have done so ardently. It’s selfish. It’s self-indulgent. I would be damaging my children. A detriment to the societal construct of the family as a whole. That it must be, if I actually liked me before me becomes something else to someone else, that I am deficient. I am lacking in some deeply profound way that speaks to my womanhood. And for a long time I didn’t know how to reconcile that. Some days I still don’t.
But what I am getting to see is people striving to determine what their marriage, what their motherhood, what their lives get to look like. With little to no credence given to the shackles of Supposed To.
That seems appealing.
The interesting thing about watching my closest friends marry and become parents and buy houses is that it doesn’t look like anything anyone ever told me about, or any Disney movie I’ve seen, or any God-awful new “study” about how women are forever damaging the traditional family. I can still sit in my best friend’s living room and talk and laugh and trust that my secrets are safe with her husband as they are with her, free from judgment. I can meet Gem for lunch and talk about cloth diapers as readily as I can nail polish or my career, with no sort of unspoken value implied about the importance of each. I am eternally grateful for my friends that are married and are parents; not because they tell me that it’s all stifling- never-having-sex-again-all-Disney-everything boredom. And definitely not because they tell me how amazing and fulfilling and easy and sunshine and rainbows it all is.
But simply because they tell me the truth.
It’s a lot to unpack, this idea that despite what you have seen or have been told, you can build a life, a marriage that edifies you in ways you are scarcely allowed to even admit you desire, let alone pursue. That perhaps your idea of partnership and companionship is no less valid than someone who desires all the trappings of tradition.
I’d imagine, once you’ve done all this, that it is even harder to find someone whom won’t reduce you to some caricature of a fire-breathing, bra burning, man hating feminist if you say, oh, I dunno, that you wanna keep your last name. (Ironically, and for no explicable reason, I don’t want to keep my last name. We will file this under Shit About La That Makes no Sense.)
That is all probably a story for another day though.
The fact of the matter is, I don’t know anything about marriage. Or parenthood. Or buying a house. Or filing taxes jointly. Or, hell, even sharing my space with another creature that might leave toothpaste in my damn sink. Because I have never done those things. Because I have hardly sought to define what those things look like to me. And because, despite their honesty, I am wise enough to know that I know nothing about all my favorite parents and marrieds.
But what I do know is I have asked the same of my lovers as I have asked of my friends; I was who I was before I got here. Let me grow with you.
But please, let me be me.
And as I have surrounded myself with a village of people content to do just that, and moreover hell bent on protecting the me I was when I showed up, I have to believe that the same can be replicated elsewhere in my career, in my love life, in my motherhood, should I choose to seek it.
If only we would give each other the freedom and the protection to do just that.