I remember ten or so years ago a dear friend and mentor, some years my senior, commented on the importance of “becoming a lady.”
Mind you, this a “progressive” woman who has had a successful career (in a man’s field, I might add) and lived in the “every woman for herself” world of New York city, pre-Sex In the City.
Annoyed, I recall internally rolling my eyes, thinking, “I am who I am. Take it or leave it.”
Needless to say, at the time I could often be what some might consider gauche, crude and/or too loud, opinionated or obnoxious, depending on who you asked.
It took me years to realize what the heck my wise friend was talking about…but, thank God I did.
I grew up basically believing that if a boy pulled your pigtails he liked you, and if you liked him you wrestled him (and won) or said something really hilarious about his inadequacies in front of his friends.
Oddly, quite a few boys actually found this appealing.
I have no idea where I got this approach.It is certainly not something that was taught to me by my very proper mother. (Whom I MAY have been rebelling against. Er, maybe.)
As the years went by and boys became men (for the most part) I could not, for the life of me, understand why my tactics were failing to help me find “the love of my life.”
A dear fellow whom I saw for a bit, and who is a true friend to this day, said something one day, with, I could tell, all the compassion he could muster, “You think maybe, you’re trying to hard, Hannah?”
I was hurt and angry. “I am who I am. Take it or leave it.”
But then life got very lonely. Many men are interested in a lively, cheeky, sassy gal with lots of opinions and witty comebacks…but not for a lifetime, and being in a so-called relationship with someone who really just likes to show you off like the latest Apple product is even lonelier than being alone.
Friends of mine had wonderful men who adored them. Why wasn’t I one of them? In despair about the whole thing, I started to ask questions and get astonishing answers.
It turned out that while my effervescence and verbosity could be stimulating, the male ego was much more fragile than I thought, and ALLOWING SPACE AND FREEDOM for it could yield gold.
I am not saying men are just big babies who need a woman to coddle them. What I am saying is, much like a woman and her body image, say, a man has vulnerable, tender spots as well, but, GENERALLY, unlike women, they do not talk about them over mimosas at brunch.
For that reason, I think many women unintentionally wound and emasculate their men over and over, telling themselves they are just being “honest” or “being themselves.”
Well, at least that’s what I did. I had no idea, at the time, but looking back to the most significant and painful break-up I had (I really thought he was “The One” after three plus years) I saw it clearly.
I saw every time I forced my way, had to be right, “put my foot down.”
Every time I subtly, but profoundly, chipped away at his manhood, by resisting, simply, just being a lady. . .demuring a bit, letting him have his space, asking what HE thought and REALLY listening, letting him have the last word (though we RARELY fought), EVEN IF I WAS RIGHT.
After he left, AND the gigantic wall of icy hate for men in general began to melt, I started, little by slowly, softening. I relinquished being “right” sometimes, if only for practice. I moved and spoke more fluidly, in lower tones. As an exercise.
Mind you, I was not being disingenuous. ALL of us have both sides in us. Feminine, masculine. Male, female.
I simply put down my megaphone and laundry list of big opinions and calmed down a bit, stopped working so hard to prove “who I was.”
THIS was what my mentor meant when she spoke of the importance of “being a lady.”
And you know what? IT WORKED.
A different kind of man started to find me appealing. Truly grown men. Mature men. GENTLEMEN.
I quickly realized that that was exactly what I wanted.
I did not want a man who blew the doors off showing me how manly he was, and it turned out that very few men that I would consider “life partner” material are interested in a woman who appears to have no soft spaces, no vulnerable areas through which he can REALLY see her.
I can still be loud and opinionated, but I know that the man I have finally found, loves me, in part, because I AM “a lady,” even while being sometimes volatile and still sometimes “trying too hard.”
I know he loves me because of my soft INNER “lady parts” as much as my outer. He loves me because I can let him “be a man” and feel safe being “a woman” with him.
I sometimes will start to push a door open on my own. He will say, “You’re opening your own doors now?”
My guy is 100% for women’s liberation and ACTIVELY participates in the women’s equality cause, but he is, very much, A GENTLEMAN and simply enjoys treating me like the lady I have become.
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