Maybe it’s coincidence. But Thursday I had my first granddaughter,
and then yesterday I felt the urge to go update my profile on Psychology Today — specifically, the paragraph describing my Tuesday night women’s group, which now reads:
Most women are trained to be codependent — i.e., to take better care of others than of themselves — as a way of winning approval and love. This group is for mothers, daughters, wives and single women tired of losing themselves in relationships and ready to make their own needs and happiness a priority. We focus on giving up compulsive controlling of other people and replacing it with emotional support, healthy self-acceptance, and realistic self-care.
One benefit/curse of becoming a grandparent is that you take the long view of things. You look at this hatchling, and then you look down the metaphorical road and anticipate what she’ll experience. Projection being what it is (the product more of fear than of hope), I imagine Callie struggling with the same stuff as the women I know, the mothers, daughters, wives and single women trying to grow past their conditioning and give birth to themselves.
After two decades of working with women I’ve decided I hate what we do to them. I hate what we do to men, too. In Monkeytraps (the book) I wrote,
Most men are raised to function as machines. Most women are raised to function as hostages.
Men are taught to sacrifice their emotional selves. Women are taught to sacrifice their independence and autonomy.
Men are expected too be tough, brave, and self-reliant. Women are expected to be endlessly accepting, sensitive and giving.
Men are taught to stuff their feelings and work hard. Women are taught to stuff their feelings and give until it hurts.
It’s a crock of shit, this training.
But it’s so universal and so unconscious that we all get infected by it and grow up emotionally lopsided. Then we spend our lives blaming ourselves for being inadequately machinelike or inadequately giving.
The luckiest people I know have someone in their life telling them (ideally, while they’re young) not to believe the lies. That men and women are meant to be just that, human men and women, not machines or bottomless wells of self-sacrifice.
That it’s our right to not grow up lopsided.
And that, if we have grown up that way, it’s our right to work on undoing our lopsidedness.
If not for our sake, then for the sake of hatchlings yet to come.