Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rescue Me!

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I published the following piece in my college paper nearly ten years ago, Tuesday, December 2,1997. It really made me think about how much my life has changed. If I only knew then what I would be like now.

By Staff Writer Jane Schmo

Being an independent woman is essential today. Women can no longer rely on marriage to save them from the hardships of the workplace. The alternative is dependence upon a man to make our dreams come true: a destiny of miserable waiting, an overwhelming waste of energy preparing ourselves to become “perfect mates,” promises of anger and dissatisfaction when these poor souls can't grant our every wish, and being robbed of the confidence and freedom that comes from making our own decisions.

Women seek, but rarely achieve, independence. Even women who call themselves independent exhibit signs of dependence on men and relationships. Are you really an independent woman? Do you fancy yourself a feminist, march in “Take Back the Night,” carry a subscription to Gloria Steinem's book-of-the-month club, consider yourself cast free from the binding chains of relationships — yet still exhibit the following behavior?

You hear a prowler outside. Rather than call the police, you call the cute neighbor next door to come stay with you because you don't feel safe.

You found out your ex-boyfriend just won the million-dollar Lotto and is getting married. Rather than call an emergency all-women conference, you seek out that guy from last quarter's biology class, whose calls you never returned, and decide to take him up on dinner.

When on a date, you dissolve into silly giggles and weak handshakes. You avoid talk that exhibits your intellectual capacity and confine yourself to discussion that will elicit the necessary response from the man buying your dinner.

If you can identify with these scenarios you still suffer from relationship/male dependence. Free yourself and discover your full potential.

For years I proudly declared my independence, yet still held on to my reliance on men and relationships. As a child, I rejected the color pink, swore off ear piercing and other “girlie” things, feigned interest in astronomy and model trains and pretended to enjoy hiking so that I could gain my father's affection. None of it was enough. I never reached a point where my father swooped me up in a hug and declared his undying love and admiration for me.

At the age of 18, I involved myself with a man whose idea of a great night was a carton of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream, a Lazy Boy reclining sofa, home movies of his days as an All American Basketball Great and one spoon. I became domesticated and wasted four years of my life imagining what it would be like to be his wife and watch TV by his side every night.

I blamed him for my own stunted growth. As many women do, I became stagnant and stopped going to the gym, participating in community events, spending time with my women friends and pursuing my ambitions. I put all my time and effort into building our relationship and made it his personal job to build my self-confidence.

Even recently I've discovered I call my male friends to share my great or crummy news, I prefer the easily manipulated environment of male friendships over the honesty of other women. I know I'm not alone.

My women friends spend 60 percent of their time discussing the men they pursue, the men who broke their hearts and the men who won't leave them alone. When they feel depressed or lonely, they call those men before they call each other.

Women exhibit this behavior because the media portrays success and happiness contingent and implicit in finding a mate! Could Disney survive without exploiting children's fantasies about love and the quest for a perfect partner?

Would The Little Mermaid have been as profitable if Ariel left the boring Prince Arik so she could walk freely through her life as a newfound two-legged woman?

Would “90210” be as much fun to watch if any of the women were able to live through a single catastrophe without having to run to Brandon for comfort? The media and society tells me I need to be with someone to succeed.

Societal roles also say a woman needs a man in order to feel complete. Historically, men have always enjoyed independence often accompanied with increased self-esteem. While women learned to groom themselves, raise children, keep house and select a mate, men learned to believe they didn't need women for anything but spreading their seed. Society taught them to make money and decisions — no one else would save them.

The man was the rescuer and the provider. Society did not allow men to fail in juggling all the balls of success. If a man dropped the balls he picked them up and started over.

How can women learn the lesson of independence? I've chosen to ignore the media and society's overwhelming pressure to find a “better half.” I have exhausted myself trying to win men's love and adoration and I've decided to stop trying. We are not destined to rely on relationships to provide our self-confidence.

I've pledged to take responsibility for myself and grow up. I will not give my choices away or succumb to societal pressure to gain a mate and settle down. I will stop renting Disney movies. I will change light bulbs myself, buy my jeans without having to bring my boyfriend to tell me if my butt looks big, and go to the gym for overall health and strength benefits rather than to achieve the look of an emaciated Vogue model in time for my date tomorrow.

In this way I free myself from male dependency. Can women promise not to sit around waiting for men to save them? When we meet men, can we retain the things that built our self-confidence?

Achieving such success will make us confident and no longer afraid to take on the next challenge. Instead of fearing a decision we will be eager to take a larger role in controlling our futures. We must feel the horrors of the real world in order to gain the rewards of confidence and immense pleasures that come from making the decisions society previously denied us.

I read somewhere — I think it was a Promise Keepers brochure — that women's newfound independence has left men feeling emasculated, lost and without purpose. Society no longer needs men and men no longer feel needed. This lack of need creates insecurity. The brochure advises men to cling to the old rules of the game, taking back the decisions for their families and reclaiming the dominant role in a reliant household.

I will not give up my decisions in order to restore confidence in the male gender. We need to accept that we are a new generation of women, capable of taking care of ourselves.

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 8/29/2006 05:45:00 AM |


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