We’re talking about how each of them feels inadequate, though for different reasons:
Amy can’t keep her house clean.
Bonnie is struggling to get pregnant.
Caroline’s not sure she married the right man.
Denise doubts she’s a good enough teacher.
Emma is afraid she may be a bad parent.
“You’re all wrong,” I tell them.
In unison, they frown.
“I know how I feel,” Amy says.
“I don’t mean that,” I say. “I’m talking about why you feel it.”
“You don’t feel inadequate for any of the reasons you named. You feel inadequate because that’s how you were socialized.
“Like most women I know, you were taught to be perfectionists. You’re taught to care of everyone else — kids, spouse, parents, pets — and to believe that if any of them is unhappy or has problems it’s your responsibility. You’re supposed to fix them or heal them or love them back to wholeness.
“That same perfectionism extends to housekeeping” (I look at Amy), “and your job” (I look at Denise), “and especially to parenting” (to Emma) “and virtually everything else. Whatever you’re doing. Whatever you’re not doing, or can’t do.
“I’ve never known a woman who thought she was doing enough. Have you?”
They shake their heads.
“So you’re not inadequate. You’re just not Wonder Woman. You’re not all-knowing and all-powerful. You’re just a human being who’s been brainwashed. You think you need to be perfect before you can feel good enough.”
“Well, shit,” says Amy.
“How do you know this?” Bonnie asks. “You’re a man.”
“I’m a man who talks to women all day long,” I say. “And I’m a man with a wife and a daughter and a granddaughter. The first reason is how I know this about women, and the second is why it pisses me off. This brainwashing is stupid and crazy and cruel, and it bothers me whenever I hear it hurting women” (I look at all of them) “I care about.”
They are quiet for a moment.
Then Bonnie asks, “What about men? Do they feel the same way?”
“I think they do,” I say. “But for another reason.”
To be continued.