Single File: (Un)necessary Loss
DEAR SUSAN: I teach "Psychology of Women" at a local college. Last week, when we talked about marriage, most women in the class said love and companionship are the keys, but many feared their sense of self.
Women have long been conditioned to not develop their selfhood. Instead, they're told to maintain a "flexible identity" to make it easier to adjust to the man they marry. -- Rory C., Santa Rosa, California
DEAR RORY: Yes, we women have been fed pap, mushy stuff that kept us in status quo, a boring place to be; we revolved in neutral gear, passive little girls who took on the selfhood of the nearest man in sight. Ah, but then came the awakening, the shock of recognizing our power. We fought against the truth, telling ourselves no man would want any woman showing even the tiniest bit of individuality. Till now. It's been an evolution, not at all a revolution. But that worked in our favor, giving us time to get used to this aspect of womanhood. And yet, as your class affirmed, some (many?) women are timid to test this newcomer. Which leaves us between a rock and a hard place: wanting marriage but loathe to lose this selfhood we've worked so hard for, thus clinging to singleness as our last best hope of being a person. The truth is, though, that identity can be retained in a love partnership. We don't have to melt all over our partner and take on any form he wishes us to be. BUT -- and this is a whopper -- it helps to live on our own before we choose to couple (if indeed we do). Yup, a single space in our adulthood gives us the room to find out who we are and what we can do as an individual. That's the path to undependence, the wholeness I'm forever talking about. Yes, it's possible to achieve it while partnered, but the need for personal space requires a most understanding partner (not easily found, as you may already know). The world is already on to this, because singleness is becoming a global phenom. Are you listening, women?
WOMEN AND MEN: We women need to use our new freedoms to help men dig out of their tyrannies. (Yes, they have their own burdens.) Women want nurturers, men who acknowledge and respect their emerging sense of self. But men need to be assured that we're not out for revenge for the years of oppression. Just as we were conditioned to be baby lambs, they were socialized to be little more than breadwinners. Men and women share so many needs, so much commonality, it's a shame not to make it the foundation of our new and improved relatedness.
We ought to let men in on our secrets. Long years of oppression and victim-think have been our classroom to learn the art of diplomacy and the advantages of cooperation. We've become experts in compassion and compromise. Our influence tames the male warrior and guides him to favor mutual understanding and alliances and turn away from armed confrontation. Both sexes can learn the strengths of each other and use them to make this planet more peaceful.
The future lies in the hands of women. Yours and mine.
DEAR SUSAN: It began as a summer romance but ended with me taking a year off from school to live with him in his native England. In January of this year, we came back to America, but now he's back there and I'm so alone. It's not that he left me, just that I gave up so much to be with him. He's asked me to visit this summer, but I'm afraid of going through this pain again. -- Becky C., Long Island, New York
DEAR BECKY: And right you are. (Bless your instincts for doing their job.) The oceans have two coasts; how about his visiting you? I know, he has a job. But so do you, Becky, I'm sure. Both of you have responsibilities tying you to your homeland. Ah, but Becky, you've already shown the depth of your devotion. (One year of schooling is a big chunk of time!) So he can shift his vacation time to be with you. That is, if you want him to make the trip. Which leads me to ask: When you were with him every day, did you feel closer to him, or did the fantasy fade? Did the two of you make plans for the future? And do I detect just the slightest wisp of resentment/regret that you gave up so much to be with him and he isn't ready to do the same?! Before buying plane tickets I suggest you think this through. And through-er. (Is there such a word?)
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