When I first began to blog twelve years ago, my primary concern was finding meaning and happiness in life as a Catholic Single woman. I was in my mid-thirties, and I thought my marriage chances were poor. The fault, I believed, lay with the Sexual Revolution and also with my younger self by having a lousy attitude towards boys and men.
(It is a myth, by the way, that men don't like "smart women." Most men like smart women. Most men just don't like women who tell them they're stupid.)
Feeling oppressed by crushes on boys that verged on OCD, I would tell my fellow high school students that the Amazons had the right idea. It took me a very long time to develop the insight that women who want to marry and have babies shouldn't sound like Lesbian Separatists. The reality, of course, is that I was frightened of boys.
When I began to blog, I was less frightened of being Single than I was of others marrying the wrong person, which I thought was hell on earth. At some point I had the insight that it is equally problematic to BE the wrong person. I was the wrong woman for anyone until I was in my thirties, which was good (when he came along I was free to marry Benedict Ambrose) and bad (no children).
My concern now is how women can become "the right woman" for anyone before their fertility dies and also how men can become "the right man" before all the fertile women are 15 years younger than they are. It's the rare 40 year old man who looks all that attractive to a 25 year old girl.
I think the biggest block to happiness for women is not understanding where happiness resides. As girls my generation of women didn't know where happiness resided because we were lied to. We were told that it was boring, wrong, laughable and dangerous to get married young and have babies.
Cool girls did not want to get married young and have babies. Cool girls wanted to beat boys at their own game, man, and become the first woman CEO of BigCo/Premier of Ontario. At the very least, cool girls got Careers--or became poets and moved downtown. When I found out a classmate was getting married the summer after high school to a dentist, I was horrified.
Housewives were unhappy, I believed. Even if a woman was lucky enough to find true love with a prince of a fellow with a good job, she would be stuck at home being stupefied with boredom, wasting her brain, wasting her life. Yada yada.
It did not occur to me to investigate these claims or ponder why it was that people despised housewives so much or find out why not all housewives threw off their shackles. Having known some horrible boys (and read some very horrible things), I believed almost everything I read about the so-called Patriarchy, and thought it was responsible for just about everything bad. If it weren't for being a Catholic, I might have become a Lesbian Separatist after all. Being a Catholic, I was perturbed by the overt anti-Catholicism of the feminist movement and, of course, its obsession with abortion.
The embarrassing truth about women is that we want to be whatever society tells us "good women" are. And society jerks us around by changing its mind. Currently we're asked to be "badly-behaved", as in "Well-behaved women seldom make history." It's a con, though. It's saying that good behaviour is bad behaviour, and bad behaviour is good behaviour. What?
When I was going slowly mad at Boston College, I had a fit when someone whined about Catholicism being too obsessed with sin.
"We're all obsessed with sin," I snarled. "Only what we now think are sins aren't sins. People think smoking and belonging to the Republican Party are sins."
There was dead silence, either because the seminar group strongly believed that smoking and belonging to the GOP were very serious sins indeed or that it was obvious I was slowly going crazy.
I'll tell you something: most women, like most men, don't make history (whatever that is). We're lucky if, after sacrificing our marriage capital and fertility, we even have careers instead of a succession of dull jobs in unhealthy buildings with grey wall-to-wall carpets.
It's time to forget about "making history" and focusing on making happiness. In general, people make women happy: fond parents, thoughtful siblings, bright children, loyal women, decent men, supportive colleagues. Therefore, girls should be taught how to be fond, thoughtful, bright, loyal, and decent themselves, how to recognise these qualities in others, and how to help them develop.
Naturally, this is easier said than done, and there's a lot to sort out. But I think one thing that is absolutely crucial is to prevent boys and girls from growing up resenting each other.
Christians should recall God writes the only history book worth worrying about, and will read it on Judgement Day ;)ReplyDelete
And yes to the remsrk that 'men like smart women, just not those who tell them they're stupid'. The need for women to 'prove themselves equal' in study, jobs, sport, relationships is quite destructive and unnecessary. This is still remarkably prevalent attitude - churches should be innoculating against it with mentoring teens & young adults (this is done in some churches, but coverage seems patchy at best).
Oh oh oh! The quote "Well-behaved women seldom make history" comes from a article by Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the 1970s that was actually about funeral sermons for Christian women in New England. Her point was that historians rarely STUDY well-behaved women, but actually those women were impacting history. (Ulrich went on to study midwives, seamstresses, and other "typical" New England women.)ReplyDelete
In popular culture everyone takes it to mean what you've suggested, that women have to break the rules in order to make history, so your point stands. But I love the fact that the original quote was trying to encourage us to pay more attention to the contributions/impact of everyday, "ordinary" women!
That is quite interesting. Thank you! And we should pay more attention to the contributions and impact of "ordinary" women. In fact, not paying attention to them has gotten us into a muddle.Delete
Yes, I too was sold a pup I feel. Growing up in the Eighties all I cared about was having a career and showing men I was better than them! Thanks be to God, when I hit 30 and found myself very successful professionally, but alone and miserable I had the realisation that happiness is actually about connecting with others, developing intimate relationships so as to truly know and be known. I am so grateful I realised this in time and am now happily married (at 40!) and been blessed with a baby girl (against all odds). I have filed away your comments as "things I must remember to teach my daughter". Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Hooray! Good for you! People who study happiness say that the number one factor is strong relationships with others. Next comes temperament.Delete
Thank you for this post! I too think that the word and concept of a lady must be revived. Sadly it has become equally obsolete as "chastity".ReplyDelete