Golden Rule of Womanhood: Thou Shalt Not Be a Nag

Happy Women’s History Month! In honor of the month, I’m reposting something I originally wrote in 2014.

As you can expect with any stereotypical, mother-daughter relationship, my mother and I fought hard when I was growing up. We still fight hard, despite how much love each other. What is unique about our fights (or maybe not so unique) are two of my mom’s patent phrases:

  1. “I didn’t say anything because I knew what you would do/ say.”
  2. and “I didn’t want to start a fight, so I didn’t say anything.

For the most part, she was right–I would have smarted off or pushed back–but I still resent the fact that something I had not been given the chance to say or do can be used against me in the heat of battle.

i grew up afraid of conflict

I have assumed that guessing what someone would do or say was a valid approach to conflict because I was taught avoiding conflict is important. My mother taught me this with her patent phrases; I watched her skirt surrounding tempers with her prophetic guesses.

And I watched women in my community and on my television be redressed when they didn’t appease the comfort and tempers of those around them. They would be called bossy, bitchy or a nag.

A nag, you’ll know if you are from Kentucky and/or are around horses, is a horse, particularly a useless, old horse.

female shrinkage

Words like nag, bossy, bitchy and bitch are tossed around as hazards for women to avoid. Their mere existence serves to keep women in some kind of place, to make us shrink within a conversation or a relationship.

In the video below, Lily Myers confronts women issues—both communication and body image issues—by illustrating how women are encourage to accommodate and to absorb, creating space around themselves for protection.  Give it a watch. It’ll make a little sad how true it is.

I realized that despite my best efforts to be quick on my toes and stern in the face of adversity, I am still inclined to follow the footsteps of Mom. Instead of bringing my concerns and aggravations to the person I have beef with, I unload on a few close individuals until I feel good enough to carry on like nothing is wrong (at least until the next time my concerns and aggravations start to choke me).

Or when someone says something that cuts, I’m inclined to tend the wound and not say anything. I assume that the words weren’t meant to hurt me, even if they did seem malicious. I assume that if I said anything the speaker would apologize then slash again, blaming me for taking them the wrong way.

How many times have women and men been told that they are being hypersensitive and that their feelings are, in essences, not valid?

the duck, hide n’sneak maneuver

I inherited these arguing skills–what I’m calling the “Duck, Hide n’ Sneak” maneuver–that enables me to avoid a fight. 

But where did my mother learn these skills? When will a people be able to stand up for themselves, especially to their family, without flinching hurtful and sexist names?

How did I turn into this person who favors class over kick-ass, who apologizes for her truth and who actively exerts energy trying to keep her cool and pretend to be happy until its true?

Was this the reason for the 5 years of out of control ache I had as a teenager?

let’s stop being afraid of the world nag (and bitch for that matter)

We are held back by linguistic lessons we learned from our mothers who learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers who didn’t have the right to vote in America.

My suggestion for others (and for myself) is to stop complaining, stop feeling hurt and stop being afraid of the words. No self-important person trying to throw animal-based words has a right to define what you think, what you feel and who you are.

Know who you are and show up for yourself. If they call us a nag or a bitch, let em because it’s not true.

A Day to Regroup

The last three days have seemed breathless. Yesterday I was able to read a few chapters of my book by the pool, but sitting in the sun wears you out! During the Maverick-Heat game last night, I fell asleep, that’s a nine o’clock bedtime for those not NBA follows. Today I’ve tried to regroup, set some expectations for the summer, and just relax. So this morning I watched “The Fifth Element” (I’ve seen the last 20 minutes maybe five times, but I’ve never watched the whole thing! So it counts toward my resolution.), ironed my dressed that wrinkled from the trip, registered for a Tuesday night drawing class at the local college, and am now sitting outside the Patton house on the back deck. It’s hot out here, even under their big porch umbrella, but it’s so nice and bright out, that I couldn’t resist. Maggie curled up under this table is the only element keeping this setting from being perfect. I’ve spent the last two hours working on a new story, more time than I’ve spent writing for myself since April! Today is good day.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and start scrambling to get everything ready for classes to start June 20th! From then on, every morning will see me Write Under the Stairs for two hours a day, some days four hours!, with little people closer to my height and flavor of humor. There’s so much to look forward to this summer—friends visiting, free concerts, music festivals, old friends, new friends, and maybe even the pending success of un-applied for jobs.

Aside from missing a summer with my friends, I hate the fact that I’m away from my family. My cousin Rachel is the first of us ten grandkids to be starting her own little family. She’s 36 weeks along and beautiful! Because of her diabetes and the large, squirmy ways of baby Aiden, she will deliver by C-section any time within the next two weeks. If I wasn’t here, I’d be in Hot Springs with the soon-to-be mom. I’ll be thinking about getting my stuff done here, of course, but I’ll definitely be thinking about her and Aiden, too!

On the Job

It’s like riding a bike, really. I hadn’t even put my lunch in the mini-frig yet (or switched out of my flip flops into my big girl shoes) when a very excited gentleman came in with his brand new pen. It’s been nine months since I’ve worked the store front of TT Patton, a fine writing and stationery store in downtown Barrington, and I hadn’t even gotten a second to get my footing before Mr. Dude was asking me questions. I told him it was my first day back and that he needed to be patient with me. Thank the higher power he didn’t want to buy or order anything; he wanted help loading his new Boston Red Sox fountain pen. The fountain pens I own are the college-priced disposable ones, and I was scared to death I might break or crack this guys new pen—not to mention incite my father and brother to come 400 miles to punish me for damaging anything with the Red Sox logo. I gave the pen my attention and in ten minutes I had successfully made a new Barrington friend—his new pen was loaded and taken care of and the customer had a earful of other products with which he could pair his new pen. It was like riding a bike.

Theresa was here with me this morning, arriving moments after my new friend and first summer success left, to reintroduce me to the computer system. I’m hoping for a slow day so I can memorize prices and brands and whatnot. My luck though, the graduation season will nip everyone in the bud, and I’ll be up to my eyeballs in questions and notes for T when she gets back on Monday. She knows she was leaving a rookie in her store, and I guess I gotta trust that she trusts me.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a good summer. The weather in Chicago Land is beautiful and sunny, and the faces are familiar and friendly. Three people have already said to me, “Welcome Home.” My Mother, when she reads this, will roll her eyes and pout a little bit, but being back in Barrington kind of feels like a homecoming. If only all the familiar and friendly faces could be here then life would be perfect.

P.S. To Theresa, I’ve had several other successes today.

Watch the movie starring my kids from last summer! I’m excited to get Write Under the Stairs (get it? the classroom is right under the stairs and we’re writing. . .) on June 20th!