This is the big work of my life.
As I begin to pick apart the debris of my personal history, I try to work out a new way of thinking about myself at this age, in this time, as a woman who is ready & willing to love wholeheartedly or not at all.
A big part of that is to move from a place of abject mistrust of men (as emotional creatures) and begin to believe that they are capable of love.
So, I'm reading a book by bell hooks. 'Communion: The Female Search For Love'. In it, she writes:
"Shere Hite published her voluminous report Women and Love. Providing an accurate and realistic examination of women's attitudes toward love, her data suggested that far from 'loving too much', most women were cynical about love. She reported an overwhelming majority of women in relationships with men testified they did not feel loved. Hite commented, "Given the assumption in our society that one grows up, falls in love and gets married, it's surprising that few women say that they are 'in love' with their husbands and how acceptable this seems to be to them." In her section 'Loving Men At This Time In History' she documented the reality that women involved with men felt they had surrendered the hope of finding love, accepting in its place the pleasures and/or benefits of care and companionship. In short they...gave up their desire for men to embrace emotional growth and become more loving. They repressed their own will to love. Denial and repression made life more bearable and relationships more satisfying."
I linger on this passage for a long time. I type it and send it to my closest friend. I re-read it several times. The pull of this extract becomes clearer and clearer.
I am the consequence of what bell hooks & Shere Hite write about.
Born of a woman who bartered her definition of love and a man who refused to partner her in emotional growth. She needed more than children and a roof over her head. He understood marriage as just that.
I have always carried their denial & repression inside me. It started sprouting at a young age until it spread its tentacles to the extremes of my body. Reinforced repeatedly like a self-fulfilling prophesy, like a cancerous growth so malignant, I could see no virtue in allowing men anywhere close. They could skirt the peripheries, yes. But my greatest asset: my loving & caring heart was hidden safely away from them.
Except in hiding it so carefully, I encountered the same paradox again and again: How is a heart supposed to do its job of loving if one keeps it boxed in?
Is this a dilemma that other women (whether currently in relationships with men or not) face? Is there a cynicism born of repeated disappointment with their men, who while wonderful at companionship & security, are failing to embark on emotional journeys? I see it in the eyes of so many wonderful women I know - all in relationships with remarkable and caring (in a way) men. And I wonder, have they completely surrendered their version of love to accept whatever the men are willing to give?
If yes and if this is the norm, I can't see myself following in their footsteps. It's a path I've already walked down through the lives of my parents & their parents and I know how it will end. Because you see, I am their heart's desire never fulfilled. I am the consequence.
|Image stolen from here|