Damsel In A Dress (Distress Is For Furniture)
**The sound of a dark and calamitous saloon piano plays in the background** A woman is tied to the railroad tracks in an old silent movie with a nefarious villain rubbing his hands gleefully at his handiwork. She is helpless and frantic. When along comes the hero, her hero, who rushes in, unties her just before the train arrives. He rescues her and puts an end to the villain’s evil plot…. BAM, the blueprint for the Damsel in Distress is born. Ok. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. If it is an inherent female trait, it skipped me. If it is learned or taught behavior, I failed the class. I totally understand the concept. I completely, if albeit grudgingly, acquiesce to the fact that the concept exists. I just can’t manage to pull it off. I know these distressed damsels exist. I have met one or two. It is with curiosity and sometimes a twinge of jealousy that I watch them operate. But it’s not for me. Honestly I am proud to say that most of the amazing single women I know today it also does not work for them.
The theme is repeated over and over again in relationship books and talk shows. (I admit I was an avid watcher of Dr Phil until I stopped buying cable.) Guys like to feel needed. They need to know they have contributed something worthwhile. Performed a service. Helped. Fixed something, anything. It is hard wired into their DNA. I applaud that DNA. Trust me, I am not a feminist. I have no real problem (I can already hear the groans starting) with traditional gender roles. I will cook supper if you cut the grass. The problem I have is ASKING you to cut the grass.
I am not a tomboy, but I have done stuff. Non-girly stuff. I had a rifle and went hunting with my dad. I drove a tractor and helped on our small farm. My first paying job at age 13 was putting in tobacco. If you don’t know what that means, well you just wouldn’t understand. If you DO know what it means, then you DO understand. The first vehicle I bought was a 4-Wheel Drive Toyota Truck. (Ok, looking back, maybe I was somewhat of a tomboy.) But I never considered myself to be one. I was just a country girl. But a girl none the less; with the same sappy, dreamy ideas that most girls have. I had a life size poster of Scott Baio on my wall….yes I did. And the stair steps of my adolescence were meant to lead to college, a career, a husband. With that husband, create a partnership. My parents had a partnership. In the early years of their marriage they owned a restaurant, a gas station, a boarding house. (They did all that cool interesting stuff before I was born.) They worked together, united. When my father went to work at the shipyard, my mother went back to school to get her cosmetologist license. My father turned our garage into a beauty shop. Teamwork. After retirement and the move back to NC, they both worked together to tend a small farm and keep an immaculate yard, flower beds and fruit orchard. They didn’t have a chore chart. They didn’t flip a coin. They just did what had to be done. Worked in conjunction with each other. So it is their fault that I went into adulthood thinking that was the design for a healthy marriage/partnership.
I kept those ideas and thoughts and beliefs….right until the age of 28, when through no fault of my own (Well, that’s not a true statement. I do own some fault); I became a divorced single mother with two daughters.
What do most single mothers do? EVERYTHING! (Now for all the single dads out there, please do not get up in arms. I very much applaud you for also doing EVERYTHING. However for the purpose of this particular train of thought, I am sticking with the female side.)
Financial decisions, discipline decisions, car decisions, school decisions, vacation decisions…. The list is endless. Skinned knees. Science projects. Sibling brawls in the kitchen (and bedroom and front yard). First heartbreak. My obvious point is that being a single mom creates a situation where you have to be in charge. Become strong in areas that you really didn’t want to be strong in. When you are accustomed to those things it is then difficult to turn the tide. We can’t go from being an independent, self-sufficient woman and then fall to fainting on cue. Do we feel like fainting? Yeah. Sometimes we do. Or at least I know I did. I had an amazing support system with my parents, couldn’t have done it without them. But some nights after dinner, homework, and all the little problems are handled, you lock yourself in the bathroom, turn on the shower and cry. And pray. And wonder if there will ever come a time when you will not feel broken, inadequate and exhausted.
Ok, I know that’s a downer. Where’s the happy blog? Who is in charge today?? I just had to write all those dismal words to point out that we as single women and moms DO have distress. But we don’t LIVE in distress. We live in HOPE and COURAGE and LOVE. And when we meet a guy, those are the attributes we display. We don’t want you to feel sorry for us. We are proud of ourselves. So we can plan dinner, but would LOVE if you did it first. We can take the car to have the oil changed or tires rotated, but it would melt our heart if you offered to handle it. We can pay a plumber to unclog the toilet, but….well maybe we should just pay the plumber. My point is, just because we have risen to the occasion and CAN handle life, doesn’t mean we would not relish the chance to sit back, let go of the reins and let someone else do it from time to time. But some of us (me) just have trouble asking for help.
So for the men who are looking to be needed, resourceful, handy, generous in time and affection, please by all means DON’T LET US STOP YOU! We do not mean to get in our own way. Open the doors, bring the flowers, pick up the milk, make the reservation. Untie us from the railroad tracks.