I promised you guys "a vengeance," but I don't know that I have avengeance in me. Instead, I have a cautionary tale. Or maybe a
bildungsroman. Or maybe a voyage of self-discovery. Or maybe a story of
grace. How about a work in progress?
This whole process (of being underground and unhappy for so many
years, then of coming out of that, then of trying to get divorced and
become myself at the same time) has been all about finally
understanding that I am not, nor do I have to be, a Good Girl. That's
an entire dissertation, so let me give you just one little piece for
I was having a bad 36 hours of feeling not very attractive, and that
made me think about how my own sense of attractiveness has changed over
the years. For a long, long time all I thought about was how I was
perceived, whether others thought I was beautiful, sexy, thin,
alluring. Even when I was at a woman's college reading John Berger and
steeping myself in the idea that I could be the gazer instead of the
object, I still didn't internalize it.
Looking back on the decisions I made, the relationships I had, it was
never about me or how I felt. it was about wondering how I would fit
in, how the other person felt about me. Which may have been why I
wasn't a long-term relationship kind of girl–I wanted to please, but
then couldn't stick around because something was wrong. I just couldn't
be all in, because I'd made my decision on what the other person wanted
instead of how I felt. I didn't even let myself think about what I
really wanted, because that would have been too scary and dangerous.
Even when I got married, it wasn't about what I wanted, what I needed,
how it made me feel. It was about picking the person who looked right,
and who seemed like a decent bet. It was "time to get married." So I
did. No one has a soul mate. No one can see to the real me, and no one
would want to anyway. Play the hand you're dealt.
But then, somehow, I started feeling like what if I was enough, just as
I was. What if there was something inside me that was reaching out,
that needed connection, that needed more? I started getting almost
obsessed with Jorge Ben music, the sexually romantic melodies and
Procura-se uma noiva
Que goste de fazer carinho
Encostando a cabeça no meu peito
E ouvir meu coração dizer baixinho
Eu te amo, eu te amo, eu te amo
and with "my cowboy singer" Josh Turner and his cowboy ethic about love
and relationships. The idea of connecting so intimately because it
would give me pleasure was something new and scary to me, but I
couldn't stop exploring it. It felt like everything I had been was
coming apart at the seams, but I couldn't not know anymore.
The period right after I told my kids' father that I needed to get out
of the marriage was one of the most bizarre times of my life. On one
hand I was feeling guilty and sad but on the other hand I felt so free
and almost deliriously joyful. I started feeling sexy in a way I'd
never felt before–powerful. I was lush, ripe, on the verge. I started
buying clothes that showed myself off, and sexy shoes not suitable for
pushing a stroller. I looked at men with new eyes, wondering who they
were and what they were like, if I'd want to be with them or whether
they'd bore me.
And this feeling flowed out of me so other people could pick up on it.
My friends (old and new) told me how beautiful I was suddenly. Men
stopped me on the street to compliment me or hand me their cards. I
felt like Janie with Tea-Cake, able to wear my hair down, long and
thick and wanton.
At the same time I was going through this period of blossoming, I was
the only woman in my office, and the guys there were retraining me for
the world of men. What was reasonable, what was right, what was
expected on both sides. They're a hugely disparate group, but all are
chivalrous, kind, funny, and real. Most are married, and seeing how
they interacted with and about their wives (and one husband) was
eye-opening. I felt like my whole life had been about punching holes in
important documents, only to find that I'd misjudged by half an inch,
so none of the holes lined up with the other pages to go into the
binder. Instead of making a core so the pages could be held together,
the pages were preventing each other from being fastened.
How could I process all of this? The private sexy me, the public sexy
me, the private and public Good Girl who'd accepted and asked for far
less than she was worth? The PTA mom, Moxie, church committee
chairperson? The woman who was undergoing a huge spiritual renewal of
being claimed by a God who loved her even, especially, broken and
I'm still processing it. I still struggle at times with the idea of
"Will I be loved? Will someone find me attractive?" But knowing what
it's like to be in the wrong relationship, I now know that it's not
just about being desired, it really is about desiring and being
desired. I wonder if, once I'm free, I'll go through a selfish phase or
truly not caring how I'm thought of, or if the emotional work I've done
on myself will render that unnecessary.
How do you process it? This figuring out that you are not who you
thought you were? Who you'd been programmed to be? That mothering has
changed your core or allowed you to start to shed the layers that hid
who you are supposed to be? How do you know your own worth?
I know I'm not the only one has gone through this, who is going through
this right now. Even if you chose the right partner, there is still the
crucible of motherhood that hones you if you let it, but boils you down
if you resist. How do we go through it and come out on the other side
knowing we're not the Good Girl anymore, but allowing ourselves to be
all the angles of ourselves–good, bad, angry, joyful, sexy, inspiring,
You're watching me write my story. How do you write yours?