Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tea and Sympathy? Tea and No More Apologies.

"Women are like teabags; you never know how strong they are until they're put in hot water."
— Eleanor Roosevelt

My daughter pointed this quotation out to me recently. She is my champion of late. I am watching her grow into this incredible young woman and the transformation is incredible. She has also been observing how I have been coping with some hot water- steeping, strengthening and hopefully cooling off, full-flavored and revitalized.

I have been noticing quotes lately. More so than usual. I have been stopping and reflecting on them. Even searching them out. Brief little soundbites of sorts. Motivators and encouragements, heart candy for my soul. A delightful friend gave me an inspiring gift for Christmas. A desk calendar with the fabulous title, “Keep Calm and Carry On” Oh were it that easy! Wouldn't life be charmed?

I have been attempting calm. I certainly need calm. I have been thought to be calm in the midst of chaos. Sometimes stoic. Grounded and purposeful. Recently, I was described as “the most productive person ever met.” And while I have great respect for the woman who said it, it left me feeling a bit proletarian, bourgeois, maybe. Productive didn't exactly feel light, or calm. It felt busy, nose to the grindstone, missing out. I have been attracted to or at least in awe of, a little more fun, a little less production. Maybe even a few brief dalliances with wild abandon. I don't know, dancing, shaking the groove thing. Not analyzing, over-thinking, processing or producing a thing. So the quotes have been helpful, I think....and a hot cup of tea is calming.

But alas, I may need many more quotes and post-it notes to help me get to that carefree place.

When my daughter, beautiful woman that she has become, posted the "Women are like teabags...” quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, it got me wondering. After I got over feeling a little peeved about the idea that we are put in hot water. Why is it that we women get “put” anywhere, I wondered? Why don't we determine our own destinies a bit more. I thought about my strength, real, perceived, projected and produced. I have danced around this aspect of myself for some time. Being strong is the essence of who I am. And yet the next quote sums up my dance with this trait; “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” Lois Wyse. I have been exuding strength and equivocally apologizing for it. Often, making it appear as though I was conflicted by it. Over time I have allowed myself to become troubled by it and even shamed. I have permitted others the opportunity to hold it against me and coerce and control me.

We have all heard the negative connotations regarding strong women. Controlling, bitch, raging, emotional, out of control. Earlier in my life, I scoffed at these terms to some degree and didn't allow these terms to compromise my stance, or what I stood for. I agreed temporarily with the following quote maker; “I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want.  If that makes me a bitch, okay.” ~Madonna Ciccone. Yet, some of these terms are damaging and derogatory and I have buckled under them. I did not want to be thought of as a bitch or be called one. I wanted only to be self-assured and strong, ambitious and possibly productive. I wanted this to be a part of who I was and remain to be. Men on the other hand, get to be: leaders, aggressive, powerful, uncompromising.

I did not however, want to be a man, ever. I did not want to make any man feel devalued or emasculated. I was not being, in comparison to anyone, I simply was, and am, being true to myself. I agree with the next sentiment that seems to address the belief that strong women don't like men. Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.  ~Betty Friedan I, and many before me, have been accused of emasculation. I deny the accusation and challenge the accusers. I have not hidden any bears, stopped the hunting, or derived any pleasure from taking out the trash. Emasculation is to deprive of virility or procreative power. Maybe it was all that productiveness I was embarking on that was somehow perceived as threatening. I am ready to embrace my strength and no longer desire to apologize for it, or be controlled because of it. I will not be manipulated or quieted. I am woman hear me roar, laugh, hum, sing, whistle, cry, moan and confer. I am not now, nor have I ever been responsible for emasculating any man because I have been strong. The emasculating of men comes from an internal struggle, a weakness or an inability to embrace weaknesses, preferences and or/otherwise manly or womanly leanings, true or culturally expounded. I don't feel less feminine when I am accomplishing an otherwise manly task, I generally feel gender-neutrally proud or maybe just productive. Man-up or woman-up, but be humane.

Sadly, a woman I knew of hung this quote on her refrigerator, “Grow your own dope, plant a man”. Numerous men later and a son and daughter raised under this mantra, I am not sure if her current husband is considered to be a dope or a man. I am pretty sure her son was devalued by the experience, and her daughter confused. I think she may have been planting the seeds of emasculation if not “dope”. I personally don't believe we need to devalue men because we have felt devalued. I do think we need to raise our children, as valued beings. This quote may inspire; We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. ~Gloria Steinem

The initial reaction to the scalding hot water that I have been thrown into, jumped head-first into, and at times blindly or foolishly walked towards, was an internalized shrieking from the pain. I am currently embarking in the boiling water of family court. There is little support of family in this place. The onslaught of adversarial American divorce proceedings seems to be the ultimate war zone for the battle of the sexes. My strength, in this particular cup of boiling water, is at times, weakened from the experience. Maybe not my strength, as much as my idealism. My sense of being a woman is challenged to say the least. There is no power in attack and retaliation that seems prevalent and somewhat, "manly" here. For me, only destructiveness and demoralization seems to be the offering. It is not a place I wish to linger. Yet, it is helping me to find acceptance, in myself and those around me. I am learning to step back, be less "emotional", or reactive, I am learning; We acquire the strength we have overcome. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson In the end, I wish my children to be supported, loved and cared for. I wish for equality. And I wish for peace, happiness and a bright tomorrow for all parties. Iced-tea and sunlight, anyone? Rainbows and silver linings?

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.  ~Thich Nat Hahn

Iced tea may not have as much wisdom as hot tea, but in the summer better a cool and refreshed dullard than a steamy sweat-drenched sage - leave sagacity to the autumn!  ~Linda Solegato

All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.  ~George Orwell, "A Nice Cup of Tea"

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.  ~A.A. Milne

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand why you look to, and for quotes for inspiration and possibly justification, but from your writings, I think you have all you need within yourself.