Yeah, the other day I had a bit of “Oh you have this degree, you should [insert employment ‘opportunity’]” directed at me specifically. You know, by someone I don’t (yet) know well, with no interest expressed nor questions asked as to what it is I actually do during the day, if I like it, how good I am at it, how interested I am at doing something else, what my family’s organizing principles are, etc. I observe over a decade I have never had this advice directed to me by a woman (so to borrow a phrase from Jasmine – men, get your shit together!).
But for serious I was thinking about careers and status. And men. (More in a minute!) Until the other day it had been a while since anyone else brought up my former life of moneyed and statused career in referendum of my current life which is a bit different in both those spheres. The symptomatic current-life devaluation of my existence doesn’t sting like it used to simply because I rely on my spiritual life and people I know and trust to help me know how I’m doing and what I’m worth. Really, the whole thing is funny to me (but it wasn’t when I first heard that college-degreed women who stay home to raise children are “opting out” and a bunch of other stuff about how they’re Ruining Everything – heard it from close friends, coworkers, etc). Because all of this is about them, not me. The day someone queries what it is I do, what I find value in, what my life is like, what I’m passionate about, who I help, what I’m skilled at (up until now), what I’m not (so far), what I long for, what I’m afraid of – and then makes some suggestions? Well first I’ll acknowledge them for even giving a damn to listen so much, but at that point I’ll also be interested in hearing their opinions on my life’s course.
I was thinking about, and this is related believe it or not – and truly a confession here I’m not proud of – how angry it’s made me, in the past, when men flirt with me. I have responded to men and women (very rarely) by flirting back, sure; but increasingly over the years I have become a fixed and hardened person when it comes to men, a smiling cipher who will move away when they move close (literally or figuratively), an outward smile and tactful deferral but years of scorn and fear slowly calcifying around my heart. Until very recently I have taken (false) pride in my defensive response, but now I realize it was a sign of my weakness. Because really, until now I have thought men who flirt are telling me they don’t think I’m worth much. They don’t care to find out if I’m in a mated pair (I am, and I wear a ring for one thing), or anything about me at all except for I make them have feelings in their pants or maybe I’ll take care of their laundry or their kids or their Existential Loneliness, whatever they crave, with sex of some sort. They (often) don’t know anything about me whatsoever; how can any interest in me be anything real or personal at all? Why do they put me in the position of having to do a goddamn thing (like “Yes” or “No” to an advance) when I want to go about my day and buy potatoes or ride a bike or mail a package?
I’ve hated myself for not saying something aloud. Like “Please stop, this is bothering me.” Of course, most women know what happens – often – when you do this. I haven’t been strong enough to stomach any more of what always happened before. “What’s your fucking problem?” “Don’t flatter yourself.” “I wasn’t doing anything.” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” “Bitch!” Physical threats.
But today I need to forgive men, or at least those with the entitled assumption that all women find flirtations welcome or flattering. I need to forgive those who’ve abused me in the past (all of them). I need to forgive those who diminish me. I need to forgive them their clumsiness, even forgive those who are straight-up manipulative and/or hate women (that hatred is a Fear response anyway; I can empathize because Fear is indeed a plague that besets us all). We are all lost, at one point or another. I need to forgive myself for receiving and internalizing the message it is my beauty (ha!), or my “nice”ness, or my accommodation, or my cooking or my figure (ha!) or my performance of Femaleness, or a myriad of other things, that really count and that are up for others’ measure and evaluation. The thing that counts is I’m a person. Other people may not give me respect or be interested, not in Me really, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give these gifts to myself – and to them. I don’t have to hate those who are only doing the best they can at the time. I can’t forgive all, and instantly so, but I can know it’s what I need to do.
Do I wish sometimes I could have two weeks on an island free of this stuff? Yeah, I do. But I don’t have that space or time, and life is life.
I have been messing about fixing a car; if you’ve been counting, you’ll know we currently have one that’s working and one that is not. The car stuff is bringing up some of the Flirting D00d stuff; today in a garage I was assailed repeatedly by no fewer than four men, jumping on me like starving fleas. Doing that thing where they apologize profusely for their slips of “bad language”. Because I’m a Lady. And I guess I need smelling salts when someone says the word “fuck” (the thing that actually disturbs me is, acting one way when a woman is around and another when one is not, feel free anyone to self-reflect on that). Then telling me I smell good. Then wanting me to come look at their car project (“Hey, guess what this is?”). Then teasing me for texting (my husband, as it happened) and asking me to come over (I am not making this up). Instead of learning a bit about my car as I’d hoped to, I had the opportunity to experience all this. Finally the owner showed up – he actually helped me quite a bit in a totally direct and friendly manner. I drove off happy. I told myself I would never know why these men treated me this way, I can’t assume they were flirting with any intent, maybe they were just hyper – or Lonely. Hey, Lonely is okay. We’ve all been there. Nothing to be pissed about.
Short potential morals of these stories, if you find them useful: pay attention to people and who they evidence themselves to be. Ask yourself why you’re being prescriptive. Don’t be a Creeper. Find what you’re passionate about. Enjoy the passions of others as they display them. See if you can look yourself in the mirror and say aloud you (honestly) like yourself. Respect others.
When you run across a person you can be damned amazed you have this life and another human being to share it with. You don’t have to fuck it up, or at least you can fuck it up less.