Friday, January 21, 2005

In Which the Protagonist Finally Begins Quoting Oprah (C'mon, You Knew This Was Coming)

Oprah's latest is out, and work is dull, so guess what I'm reading? Our mailperson's probably thinking our house has got weird taste. Oprah, National Geographic, Shape (yea, I know, I should be subscribing to Hers, but Shape was damn cheap. When the sub. runs out, I'm switching), The Sun (some lit mag), Mother Jones, Locus, and Scientific American arrive on our doorstep each month without fail.

Being the February issue, this one's all about love, and happy hetero couples. The day they've got a couple same-sex couples in here is the day I'll feel more comfortable with it (and they have, actually, but female "friends," and in an issue where the focus is marriage... well, you know). As much as I love this magazine ("Be a better person," "Live Your Best Life," it ain't Cosmo), there are still things like that that irk me. That, and the spread about how Oprah's working on losing "the last ten pounds" with a couple other people from her office, and I'm like, "Maybe you're having trouble losing those ten pounds because you've reached a really healthy, comfortable set point. You look amazing. You feel great. Why are you doing this?"

Anyway, so it's articles on marriage. Yes, and they're all happy-ending marriages. No 20-year partnerships, no long-term "we decided *not* to get-married"s, but everybody who did the ceremony and signed the certificate. And there's a little too much chasing and freak-out going on in some of these. But it's headed toward February, and as my roomie's been pretty much living with her SO, this stuff's been on my mind more than usual. Humor me.

There was, however, an interesting little spot with Gloria Steinem. I was one of those people who, when I heard she got married, felt pretty let down and deflated. Who did I have out there that I could look up to and say, "Dude. She's not married!"

Steinem explained why she did it:

She [Steinem] said what we're all really waiting for is to become strong enough so that we can be "interdependent with another human being without giving up ourselves... Two whole beings leaning on each other equally," she said. "not one leaning more than the other." She added that we can't get interdependence "until we have experienced independence first."

As cozy as that sounds, there's something I read, I think in Greer's The Female Eunuch, about the deep comfort of knowing that the person sleeping next to you was there because they wanted to be, and not because they had nowhere else to go. And a legal piece of paper and personal words of committment spoken aren't the easiest things to undo (well, celebrities notwithstanding). I think I find the idea terrifying that I'd be sleeping next to someone merely because he or I felt trapped, and had nowhere else to go. That's not an equal partnership, to me.

Back to Mark Epstein and women growing up as "it," I found this tidbit, which struck me as sounding very familiar:

Simone was an accomplished architect, respected and successful in her field. yet in her relationships, Simone hid behind a persona that she did not feel completely in control of. She was an expert in adapting to other people's needs. Simone came across as something of an ingenue: pretty, self-effacing, caring, empathic, and more helpless than she really was. Men fell in love with her easily, and she would often find herself involved in relationships for extended periods of time with people she was not really interested in, simply because they wanted her. It was not that she was not in touch with her true feelings: She was. But her need to please was so overwhelming that she could not listen to herself for any sustained length of time. Other people had priority. She would resolve to break up with a boyfriend, fend him off for a few days or weeks, but ultimately surrender to his needs or demands... Listening to her own voice, to her own desire, carried with it the risk of offending those she was close to.... to be kind to herself, and to free those she had ensnared in her adaptive web, Simone had to hazard being mean. To desire meant to risk being offensive.

What I love about blogging, reading, education, going out into the world, is that you realize there are actually a lot of people like you, and you're not crazy (this was my big draw to feminism. I finally came into it, for real, after Clarion, when I was trying to figure out why I was writing what I was writing). Anyhow, Epstein goes on to say some really great stuff about women overcoming the "it" feeling and men overcoming the "must have `it' to be a real man" thing, and talks about love as equal partnership. And I'd roll that over not only into hetero/same-sex love, but friendships-without-sex too. If you're not all on an equal footing, if the affection isn't mutual, friendships will falter too.

Some days, I think I shouldn't read this shit, cause it's hetero-marriage-centric. Other days, I fess up to the fact that it's something that interests me, figuring out people, relationships, desire. I'm fascinated with what pulls people together, and tears them apart.

Then I was paging through Shape, and found an article that looks at finding "emotional" problems as to why you aren't losing weight, or why you put on weight. As somebody who knows herself very well, I'm clear that the two times in my life when I've put on the most weight were times when I was seeking to dissuade male attention, to un-objectify-myself because I feared that male attention. One of their suggestions for overcoming this?

Take self-defense classes.


And I'll tell you right now, if there's anybody out there like me who's noticed this same tendency: the self defense thing, feeling stronger, more capable in your own skin -- it does really, really help. Instead of trying to put a layer of fat padding and baggy clothes between you and fear, you get to look it in the face and go, "Not so scary now that I know how to throw a right cross and a front kick."

It occurs to me... that things are better.

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