Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ignore the Wallpaper

When I was 17 or 18 and started having guy friends I started hearing stories about "psycho ex-girlfriends." Oh the things these girls did. And every story was always liberally sprinkled with accounts of how crazy this ex-girlfriend was. And being 17 I thought wow who knew there were so many psychos out there. And then I listened a little closer to the stories. Hmmm. . . you blew her off on her birthday to go a party without her and she got mad? Yes, what a psycho indeed.

And as I started dating I started noting the things I wasn't allowed to do if I wanted to avoid the dreaded psycho title. Let's see you can't get mad. Big one. No anger. Didn't you know only psychos get angry. So your guy lied to you about where he was going or blew you off or didn't return your calls. If you get angry, you're the psycho. So just laugh it off. Ha, ha, I don't mind. And if something is in your face at that very moment and you explode, oh dear. Every guy there (and every girl that is also trying to avoid said title, see: psycho) will attest to your psychosis. And when they retell the story, believe you me there will be no mention of the cheating or the lying or the disrespect. No, just that you blew up.

Society has really progressed if women don't even have to be threatened with actually being locked up (see: The Yellow Wallpaper) in the summer rental but just accused of being psycho is enough to keep us in line. But I digress.

When lightening strikes a person there is always an exit point as well as a entry point. You see the body cannot contain all that angry violent electricity and it must be released. Fury is no different. The fury that women endure must come out. And when you scare women into not releasing it as anger how does it come out? Well if anger is shouting and life is a library, we must turn our need to communicate into whispering or give up on communication.

Yes, the Stepford wife. Push it down. Never stop smiling. Take up a speed habit or fuck the gardener but try to keep up appearances. Carry your own weight by working full time and also take care of the kids and cook and clean. Why do you spend so much time online? Why do you relate to these women you can't see but can hear and don't relate to women you can see but can only hear the wah, wah, wah? Why doesn't someone else have to ask you these questions? Why are they in your head because you are so well trained that you self-regulate?

And for the things that must be communicated, there is always the whisper. The quiet sneaking pull of manipulation. If you cheat or lie or disrespect I'll laugh it off but I also might sleep with your best friend. Or casually mention that you aren't so great in bed. Or subtly suggest that you are weak or stupid or less than or whatever I know will hurt you the deepest. Push me and I'll push back. But of course then you'll tell everyone how evil and cold I am. But it'll take more than that to hurt me, I was only 16 the first time I was called a cold bitch and that was by my Dad.

And if it's evil and cold you want, oh I can do that. I know that role like the back of my hand. I know how to push down the worst pain and disrespect with a cold smile. And I know when tears will best serve what I want or need. I know how to inflict pain in all the right places. Yes, I know this role. So well that I'm quite sure my daughter will learn it too at my knee. My own precious Estella.

This is what makes my blood turn cold. My Maggie, my baby. I want to teach her to shout. Fuck inside voices, shout, my girl. Never whisper or give up.

But how do I teach what I cannot do? Learn. I will learn to stand up. Learn to be like Elaine who stopped whispering before we had gotten to high school and never looked back (even when her "friends," including me, tried to school her). Like my stepmom. I'll take the remedial classes that I somehow missed. Not only because I think my way is bad for me (it is) but because I don't ever want my baby to be like this. I always want her to take care of herself first. I want her to stand up and demand to be treated respectfully. I want her to know that it is ok to say no. I want her to shout.

1 comment:

lucythevaliant said...

Oh, wow, this is a seriously amazing post. Probably because it hits so close to home for me. I cried for like three hours when I found out I was having a girl because, God, it sucks being a girl. And how on earth am I going to teach her to be healthy and strong when I struggle so much to be healthy and strong? You put it into exactly the right words.