"My husband and I never fight."
"He can just look at me and I have multiples."
"Labor is the worst pain ever."
"My boyfriend's is enormous."
"I'd never want to be as skinny as she is."
"Every time is as magical as the first."
Thank god Amherst didn't have sororities or I would have been in trouble. I've not been fortunate in amassing a coterie of close female friends. There are a number of almosts, some halves, but I don't have that terrific group of women with whom I can take a week in Barbados. This makes me sad and the future prospects aren't great.
But, and rationalization this must be, some of the above statements have always given me pause when I am surrounded by an XX crowd. If you are a woman, you have heard other women you know, and occasionally like, utter one of the above ridiculous statements. Maybe you've ignored them, maybe you've pitied the speaker, or maybe, like me, you've seethed at the necessity for the utterance at all. Devoted partner has often said, and I have often been pissed at him for it, that while men measure their relative worth against other men on the power/income metric, women measure by relationships. And as we all know, no relationship can be good unless there is never friction and always huge member magical special time. Right?
I mentioned sororities up top because I always found this kind of chatter a form of hazing. I remember it especially when the topic of giving birth was brought up and those that had would launch into the most hyperbolic hysterics about how painful it was. But my mom told me it was no biggie. Sure, she wouldn't choose to do it every day, but her report of the experience was at complete odds with every other report I received. I chalked it up to a bit of one-upmanship. Of course when followed immediately by, "but it was worth it because my husband is gigantic and we had magical whoopie every night in an effort to conceive and I had a million little deaths each time," I felt less charitable.
Because isn't the goal of those statements, if only for a moment, to make the listener question her own life and choices? Wait a second, sometimes our special time isn't all that special, and last night I yelled about dirty dishes, and then there was that time when for a couple of months no one was reaching satisfying completion. F$%#%$K! Is my marriage/relationship/life doomed? Cause this bitch in front of me has it all!
Not nice, ladies, not nice.
I swear, and those who know me well know I am precisely this stubborn, I sometimes consider never marrying devoted partner simply in protest to all the people, most especially women who look at and speak towards me pityingly when they hear about my "situation." Or, should we birth, to film it and put it on YouTube showing me calmly reading a book during the whole process; or playing Parcheesi. For someone admittedly so good at lying, I seem to find insincerity and dishonesty at the top of my peeves list, and when I am around groups of women (no matter what kind of group), I hear it everywhere.
Now that we're older and people are, especially the coupled ones, having less sex, the bragging rights go to the couples that don't fight. Ever. I don't know why this is considered a good thing. To my mind, if you never fight, you're never really invested in something. Or you are so indifferent to one another that nothing seems worth getting heated up about. Or you've both already commenced your affairs, so why stir the pot?
Why this upsets me when, much like the television, I can choose to tune out or change channels, is that it simply perpetuates the wholly unrealistic picture of adult couplehood lapped up by young women. Which, when they discover how unrealistic it is, can spend much of their time feeling like they've failed. After all, if everyone else has X and I don't, there must be something wrong with me. And even among us liberated self-determinative, impervious types, there are a couple of moments of doubt we can all recall.
So why write about this? Well, I've been asking myself to identify things I'm passionate about and, as I look at what I've chosen to write about, I see a lot of women's issues creeping in. But not the traditional ones. Pay equity and reproductive rights, while certainly on my list, are issues there are more than enough people tackling. These other things, these insidious cultural things, these are never mentioned, and their ill effects are perpetuated. And we're all culpable. Any time we lied and instead of saying, "I'm really happy," we said, "it was perfect from the first moment," we contributed to the utter falsification of what a stable adult relationship is.
And we miss the opportunity to share the important information - how relationships aren't always easy, but when you know you want to work on them, you've probably found one worth staying in.
3 weeks ago