When I was growing up, I heard all kinds of comments about women come from the men who were married to them, or at least attached in some formless, ambiguous way.
A lot of times, these men didn't know I was around the corner writing on inventory cards or looking through Chilton manuals, but some of them did and some of them made these comments directly to me with half amused expressions. As though I could understood this male peer kind of comedy.
As though they could control some slender, pre-real-life teen thing from turning into the old ball-and-chain blimp wife that "starts expanding at the alter" by making these sly, clever little digs to a naive sixteeen-year old.
These ranging biker varieties were hardly qualified to give advice of the marital kind to the young, impressionable daughter of a Harley repair shop owner; but there we were: them giving me the advice and me unknowingly committing it to memory as I shirked their comments off with a smile in the middle of an oil-reeked garage.
My dad added to it occasionally by inserting his own thoughts, opinions, and ideas of the unrealistic kind. "You know, women should be more like..." were the common preface. He gave me lots of good ideas! Don't nag, don't let one's self go, be graceful, try to see where he's coming from, things that maybe his biker and miner comrades shared a common plane of thought, but things that quickly translated into: how to be the perfect woman for any guy. No wonder my mother seemed so unhappy.
How it turned from the point of my dad's well-meant-though-ill-informed intention (especially because of or completely in spite of his customers and friends) to me processing my father's words as a manual to my life, I'll never know, but I do know that for what I DO know now, I didn't know anything back then; and perhaps, just maybe, the responsibility to shut the hell up about things he did not understand or accept (the female pscyhe, for one) fell on his shoulders.
But it happened. I recalled these dislikes of men, vowed silently to never gain weight (though exactly how, with zero athleticism, I thought I'd pull that off I'll never know), never left the house without makeup, dressed modestly, put what the guy would think or want on the forefront of my mind without any regard for my own feelings, development of my own thoughts, or embracement of my own female self. Ooops.
What started out as perhaps helpful suggestions based on the frustrations these men and my dad were having with their wives (or even if they were just real life comedic releases!), became notes of extreme value tucked away in my cerebellum, never to be released again until a time much later revealed how damaging these thoughts had been to my own personal development as a woman.
I am over feeling embarrassed about this lament. I'm already over it. I just don't care. I've thought about this enough times to write a book and shirked it off just as many times as I shirked off the comments of my dad's customer friends. The fact of the matter is that having such an insight to a guy's mind, and it was a mission for my dad, was to understand how they think.
And it's been helpful. I can understand how men think. I can understand them really damned good. I understand them so damned well that I can't even see what my feelings are/were/could be. To the point of reasoning away my own womanly complaint and forgetting what I could have possibly been upset/perturbed/wistful/museful about. I can understand them even better than myself (though this is changing, progressively resorting to embracing the fact that I am, indeed, a bonefied, certified, hard-wired from birth, real live woman) because I was made to understand them before I even understood what it truly meant to be a woman.
This infinite, valuable insight has been immeasurable. I've been able to modify who I am, how I react, things that come naturally to me as a woman so that I can be a man's woman and understand how, where, and why they think from where they do. But it unwittingly made me a very angry woman.
How could I ever be okay with venting, being frustrated, or anything/something I viewed as lesser value? That is to say, how could I ever possibly know that it was OK to feel the things I felt as a woman, when the man-brain in me kept reasoning it all away? I never recognized that I was letting little things built up over time to one big mess, I just thought I was being petty over one thing; and trying to find that one thing making me so angry was next to impossible. Just ask my poor husband, who saw it through a few versions. In reality, I was just not accepting that this boiling point had been brought on by a series of undigested moments.
I'm just saying...
It didn't matter that it totally screwed with me as a young woman, fiercely fighting off my femininity (rather than for my independence), to be this perfect type of woman (which does not exist and hello! why couldn't anyone have stopped me to tell me that?); I was still able to identify with the male side of any argument faster than any woman's and was excruciatingly embarrassed whenever I didn't and got caught. Even more was all the ways it affected my parenting, my whole thoughts, and the process of completely denying myself like some saint when Kyle was sick and then when he came home.
It just made things a little more difficult to process while life was slapping us in the face or while recouping the losses suffered in the consequences of our decisions; and the relief comes in knowing this now and being a better person for it. A gal able to look back at her 'silly ol' self' and reflect with wider-opened eyes.