Friday, September 3, 2010

Who's Gonna Catch Me When I Fall??

I'm tired of being the strong one all the time. I even feel guilty for writing such a blasphemy.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had to be strong as I watched my mother have a break down for years after my father left her. When I was in the second grade, she broke her back and was in the hospital for quite a while and it took years for her to recover from her injury, so I became accustomed to having to watch out for my younger brother.

My brother was always weaker than me. I had to protect him from the other boys in the neighborhood, running after them and beating them up when they bullied him. My mother was very abusive and I often had to protect my brother from her physical and emotional abuse.

My mother and father always had higher expectations than they had for my brother. I had to have better grades, run faster, throw a ball farther, and anything else you might imagine. It wasn't even negotiable that I went to college, and when I was 16 my father told me that he wouldn't help me get a car because I had to work for whatever I wanted.

In my friendships I always served in the capacity as a mentor. My father had taught me a lot about money because his sorry ass became a stock broker when I was in high school and if there is anything that he did for me, it was to teach me about money and investing. That's about the only thing that he did for me, since he thought he apparently owed us nothing else. It always seemed that I also was able to crack the code to the systems-how to apply for college, how to save money, how to do this or that while my friends struggled with understanding how to do such things. So obviously while I was growing up, I did my share of making budgets for my friends, helping them find a job, and tons of other things.

In my family I always played the role of mediator and negotiator. When a cousin, aunt or some other dysfunctional person was fighting with the other person, I was always called in to mediate, solve the damn problems, or arbitrate some dispute or crisis. I sometimes look back on my life and I feel like I was never a child because I was too busy with adults dragging me into their nonsense.

The men in my life have always been extremely hard on me. Demanding, to be precise. Ever since I was a child my father demanded so much more from me than he did anyone else. "Who even needs a son, when I've got a daughter like you? You are ten times tougher than any boy could ever be," he used to tell me over and over when I was a little girl.

Many of my male relationships have seemed to repeat that pattern, where the men in my life sometimes treat me differently than they treat other women. "You're like one of the guys," I've been told far too many times. Male bosses tend to have such unrealistic expectations of me. And because I am such a perfectionist/workaholic/ambitious woman it seems that I just keep reinforcing the pattern where they have unrealistic expectations, I come through on whatever they want, and then they just ride me harder the next time.

Sometimes I just want to let it all go to hell, telling anyone who asks me for advise that to go bark up someone else's tree. Or just letting a complete disaster happen without even picking up my finger.

But then one of my male friends just called me and asked me if I would mentor his middle school daughter. "I need someone to teach her how to be a strong woman. Her mother is already losing arguments to her. I really look up to you and I need her to learn how that she can be argumentative, but in a professional way-like you," he tells me. And although I am extremely burned out with being that person who solves problems, how can I honestly turn that down?

But when do I ever get to fall and have someone catch me?? Well, it sure sounds good but then again a little thought in my head whispers to me, "Why on Earth would you even want to fall? And you definitely don't need anyone to catch you. Get up off of your bruised ass and keep on moving forward".

My point? Nothing. I'm tired. And maybe I need a damn vacation.


Lady Estrogen said...

Great post! I often feel the same way. I'm getting my vacation in November - just me, by myself, 26,000 miles away from it all - counting down the f'in days!

Meg at Demanding Joy said...

You speak my words. I was the oldest child. I have been working full-time since I was 16. I have been the primary breadwinner while being wholly responsible for all things domestic for 15 years. And now I have two small children. I am tired to my bones. And I wonder with a sense of desperation if there's a light at the end of this tunnel.

It makes me cry to say that I want someone to take care of me for a change, because my strength is my identity. But I do.

This was a nice bit of validation for me - thank you so much for that.

Admin said...

Meg, I understand completely. Being strong is what defines me, and I'm not even sure that I would even want to be taken care of always. It just so happens that in the past when I would meet men who wanted to "take care of me", I didn't really end up wanting them because they also were insecure of my independence.

I think that I just need to remind myself that sometimes we have to stop being strong for other people, and take care of ourselves. Today I went to get a two hour massage, and one of these days I just want to disappear on a vacation. I know that's a lot harder to do-to just disappear when you have kids.

I also have to ask--do we create this for ourselves? Maybe everyone else's expectations of how strong we should be are because we always take care of business, you know?

The Absence of Alternatives said...

I hope you got some rest: mentally and physically. Here I will tell you what Spiderman's uncle told him: "With great power comes great responsibility." I am so glad that you did not turn that girl's father down to be her mentor. You never know: she could be our first female president. It could happen, right?!

Speaking of being stronger than males... My father once said to me that he wished I were a boy. Please don't jump on him. He said it with utmost affection.