Tuesday, October 05, 2010

30 Days of Truth - Day 2 What I Love About Myself

Well I knew this was going to take me longer than 30 days. 

My weekend was punctuated with exclamation marks. Paint picking out! Oh look we found a back splash! Look, the tile for the bathroom is on clearance! Oh my, I have a floor! These are all good things. My house is coming along beautifully. I couldn't be more happy with it and suddenly I'm thinking of things I'd never considered before - like grout and beautiful bathroom mirrors and hmm, what shower curtain is going to look best? These aren't things I'd ever given strong consideration to before. Decorating houses isn't my strong point. I've always followed the rule of put the furniture against the wall and keep everything neutral, but this is so blehh. I wanted to take this opportunity to change and bring in some color. I'm feeling very creative. I will post pictures when it's done and a third of you will love it, another third will hate it and the last third will wonder why I'm posting house pictures.

I'm also in a mild panic because of the biggest exclamation of all. Baby will be here in a couple of weeks. I have entered into the stage of pregnancy where I fear that I could go into labor at any possible second, so I'm a little nervous to go out for fear of some movie-like scene of water breakage and baby being born in the storage solutions section of Target. Speaking of Target - I want my old shape back because I want to wear this dress during the holidays. Desperately. I think I'd buy that dress in every color it came in if I could. I miss my clothes. I've spent the past several days in the same pair of baggy assed maternity jeans and my husband's tee shirts. I look like I should be running a meth lab. I'm not kidding. The other day my mother looked at me and said that after the baby is born that for my birthday, she's taking the baby for an afternoon and sending me to a spa to get cleaned up again. I am all for that idea.

Anyway, I need to get back to the 30 Days of Truth Meme and get on it for Day 2.  I wholly admit that "What You Love About Yourself" was really hard. How sad is that? "What I Hate" was disturbingly easy, but it was nearly impossible to come up with what I love. There are stupid things I love. I love that I can bake cakes and that I'm creative. I love that I write and that I have chestnut colored hair naturally. I'm pretty big on being five feet and six inches tall and I'm proud of my lack of pregnancy weight gain. I respect my grandparents and am decent about remembering the birthdays of my family members. I am a responsible cat owner and I am so glad I got an education.  But do I love these things about myself? Aren't they generally pretty shallow surface things? I mean when I think of love and loving myself, there has to be more to it than that I'm glad some genetic fluke blessed me with natural red highlights the likes of which many women spend hundreds to get in a salon. I also got a face full of freckles to go with those red highlights, which pregnancy seems to have made worse. It's like I have a secret inner ginger that always poises on the verge of coming out, but never quite does.

So what do I love? About myself?

What I Love About Myself

In 2008, my grandfather's death rendered my grandmother nearly helpless.  She isn't yet 80, and is in decent health. It's not that she can't drive but that she won't and her refusal to drive makes her a shut-in unless someone comes to pick her up. She has gotten to the point where she won't even grocery shop. Because of this, my aunt and uncle shop for her twice a month. Since they only shop twice a month, she doesn't get much fresh foods and subsists on an unhealthy diet of frozen meals.  My grandmother won't drive because for her entire life she never had to drive to a single destination alone because she is afraid of the car breaking down. She is  also afraid to use up the gas because she doesn't know how to put gas in a car and her town no longer has full service stations. Learning how to fill the gas tank is not an option for her and I don't really know why. The very suggestion of it sends her into a literal panic attack.

My grandmother was with my grandfather since she was sixteen. They married when she was eighteen and had twins five months later. She didn't work. She didn't drive alone and if she did it was to places she could walk home from and never when my grandfather wasn't close-by to come get her if something were to happen, which it never did. He serviced the car and filled it up with gas every Saturday night whether or not it needed it.

Because her husband took care of everything, my grandmother was in many ways, an invalid. She could clean, raise kids and make sure they got fed. She was the embodiment of the 1950s housewife. She even cleaned the house wearing lipstick, but that's about all she did with little variation for almost sixty years, so when Pop died, Mommom couldn't even figure out how to write a check to pay the electric bill. She'd never had to. My aunt and uncle do that for her too.

My mother, a woman of the next generation, has been more places and seen more. She's danced to better music and has figured out, though barely, how to check her email on AOL. We won't even get into her facebook skills, but I give her credit for trying. Do not, however, ask my mother to fill her car with gas either because, while she can figure it out if she is in an absolute bind and has no other choice but to pull into a gas station or end up stuck on the side of the road, she will find a way to make a catastrophe out of it. She's also not great at finding her way around a town where she's lived on and off for thirty years. The reason why is because my father, like my grandfather, has always done everything for her. She's never had to drive the car much so she hasn't had to go places alone and learn where places are. 

My mother can use an ATM machine. She can get her own groceries, though she definitely prefers company at Publix. There are still a lot of things she has in common with my grandmother though.

My mother and my grandmother didn't have options and opportunities. No one ever told either of them that college was a possibility or that they might be fulfilled more by having a job they enjoyed than by marrying as teenagers and immediately becoming pregnant (both gave birth at barely eighteen). They learned to get a meal on the table at a certain time and how to wash the dishes by hand. Each of them has an uncanny knack for stain removal.

My mother branched out significantly further than my grandmother. She was more adventurous, more rebellious and had a stronger desire for a something else. It's just that her lack of opportunity and dearth of strong female role models left her not always quite clear on what the something else was exactly and so, after her second marriage at 23, she fell back into a lot of the same patterns she had seen growing up. She may have moved to Florida and broken away from some of the small town ignorance, but ultimately she still ended up dependent on a man to run her life, to fix things and to take care of it all. Not as much as my grandmother by any means, but still dependent.

Then there's me. I'm the third generation here and I've come even further. I lived on my own for a long time. I've worked, I've managed and I knew that you didn't have to possess exceptional intelligence or come from a certain social class, gender or age group to go to college. I don't recall a single instance in my entire life when anyone has ever told me that because I was a girl that something I wanted to try, learn or see was off limits to me. No one ever told me, like they did over and over, both overtly and subtly, to my grandmother and mother that I couldn't.

What I most love about myself is not my ideal height, my chocolate chip poundcake or even my passion for storytelling.

I love that I was born now. I love that I had enough sense to recognize my opportunities, which were not gifted to women in generations before me, and that I took these opportunities and ran.

Gassing up the car is second nature to me, and not only can I fill 'er up, I can take the car and drive it wherever I want. I've been on road trips alone. Not only that, I've traveled to other continents by myself. I really love that I have zero qualms about deciding I want to go somewhere and then going. I can navigate unfamiliar cities easily, go to restaurants by myself, site-see alone and enjoy myself thoroughly. My grandmother and mother would sooner go to the moon than they would even attempt something like that. Some of the most exciting experiences of my life have occurred because of my bravery about traveling by myself. (You may find a slight discrepancy here. In my Chiropractor story I mentioned wanting to go to Paris and not having anyone to go with. I had traveled alone at that point but not out of the country yet. The next summer I went to Hawaii alone, then I graduated to England alone and finally I made it to Paris with my cousin, which means I may as well have gone alone. I had to build up to the international thing, but I did it.)

I love that I realize how lucky I am to be a woman of now. I have choices that my grandmother and mother didn't. Because I had choices and options I was able to learn to make decisions for myself, which I fear they didn't, at least not to the extent that I have. When you don't learn how to make decisions (because there are none to make) you are more prone to make unwise choices because you just don't know any better.

I didn't have to marry out of high school. I could use whichever birth control methods I wanted, shame-free. My grandmother told me that some young women in her day douched with straight Lysol or Clorox, doing God knows what damage to their vaginas, because they thought it would prevent pregnancy. Look, I can even say the word vagina. You think my grandmother could have done that? No way. Women used to live in a world of embarrassed euphemisms whispered only to other women.

I am representative of how far women have come since my grandmother married in July of 1950, but have we come all the way? I would say probably not. Often we don't know exactly what lies beyond, just that there is more waiting.

I love that I am having a daughter who will one day, probably soon, surpass the things I've done. I can't wait to see her do that. I can't wait until she rolls her eyes and makes fun of me because I can't figure out how to use some new technology or because I seem so old fashioned. I want her to find out what more is waiting for her as a woman and I want her to love it too.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post.


Green said...

Sorry I can't get past the idea of douching with Lysol or bleach. Never mind that the vagina is a self-cleaning oven, but when I read that, my jaw dropped. That must burn so horribly - how could anyone do that more than once?

I'm glad you are changing the direction of your family. I bet your daughter will even know how to put air in the tires, and maybe even change one.

FreeDragon said...

My grandmother never learned to drive and the thought of writing a check scared her to death. My mother used to write checks for her and then she'd sign them. Very carefully.
My mom doesn't like to put gas in her car and if I'm with her she makes me do it. She doesn't have an atm card. Neither of my parents can use a computer and they probablly never even heard of Facebook.

Melanie said...

I've often had the same thoughts about being glad that I was born in America, in modern times, but I never could have written about those feelings as well as you did.

When my mom was learning how to use the computer, she would ask me to send her an email. And then, she would call and ask me to drive over to her house (an hour away) and help her open the email so she could read it.

LegalMist said...

Awesome. :)

Breton Wench said...

If you can hear a standing ovation, it's because I am giving you a loud one from the crowded auditorium of my own head. I too love being a woman now, but you have put it into words.
I am keeping this piece of yours to give to my daughters when they are old enough: they are just coming into their adolescent selves right now.

Oh - and that piece about your mother dancing to 'better music' - beautifully expressed.

MonkeyPants said...

I am also glad to be born when I was. This is a brilliant post. Well done, and well done for going past the past expectations!

Unknown said...

I love this post.

I've watched as women my age have become more and more dependent and less willing to do things that make them uncomfortable, mostly driving in busy cities, then driving in strange cities, and then driving TO strange cities, and then driving on the freeway, and then driving outside of their little town. It's a horrible spiral to watch and even worse, I myself feel more and more uncomfortable doing these things, so I realize it's a natural age progression.

What I love about myself is that I am willing to push myself and make myself get in the car and get on the freaking highway and drive to Miami.

It's not enough to say that I'm happy I'm not like my mom or grandmother now; I have to vow to not become like them.

Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .

mcgrimus said...

One question: If you were born 70 or 80 years ago, how different would your life have been? I guess the question is, how much do you think the time/circumstances you were born into shape your personality and beliefs.


kerry said...

Oh, I'm totally with you on being glad to be born now!!!! I come from a line of independent women, and I'm still pleased to be living now, here.

Miss Kitty said...


I, too, am glad to be a woman--my own woman--born now. WL, thank you for writing this.

And yes, it's true about women of those days douching with Lysol concentrate or bleach--or Betadine concentrate, as my paternal grandmother did and raised her own daughters to do. It wasn't so much to avoid pregnancy as it was out of disgust with their own genitals/bodies in a male-dominated society. Ever notice how any drugstore carries dozens of products designed specifically for removing female genital odors...but absolutely ZERO similar products for MEN? (Examples might be "Masculine Deodorant Spray--for your Manhood!" Or "ManForms, the Ball-Sweat and Odor Neutralizer!") Oh, that's right: men's crotches don't stink. Silly me! [/sarcasm]

Naturally, all three of my dad's sisters had a terrible time getting pregnant, and they couldn't figure out why. Maybe douching with industrial-strength chemicals in the same of "feminine hygiene" really IS a contraceptive.

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