The Loyalty of a Woman in Love

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This is one of my found-text digital image from my magazine satire “WöM.” The article is from a 1950 British magazine, and praises the only women who for sure, really love their husbands – the ones who get beat up, and keep coming back for more. If the man didn’t beat them, after all, how would people know she wasn’t just staying with him because he was nice to her?

No questions were asked about the “love” these men have for their wives. None was apparently necessary. And it is the women who are compared to leeches, not the men. This was the world my children’s grandmothers had to live in.

Lately, the air around me seems filled with questions about how to teach boys and girls about feminism. My children, too, have been asking me questions that naturally lead there. I’ve always talked about prejudice, whether skin colour, age, or sex. Children know when people are ignoring them because they are little; they’ve already experienced prejudice. Lately my daughter has been asking me to tell her about my past boyfriends. It’s a good place to start – and stories are always a better idea than axioms or advise from authority.

I’ve told her about the man who broke up with me with the words “So long – been nice playing with you.” I told her I later watched him sprain another woman’s arm, and confronted him about it, which chased him away after he’d started hanging around again.

I’ve told her about the one I dumped because he let me know he was considering leaving me to find a woman with better breasts.

I’ve told her about the one I left because he demanded I commit to bearing two of his children in exchange for any commitment from him. I told her of reading about his arrest 19 years later for possession of child pornography.

I’ve told her about how all these men made me feel – like I was a thing, a collection of parts to be toyed with, judged, and discarded; a walking womb for someone else to use.

I’ve told her about leaving the men I couldn’t think of a good reason to stay with.

I told her I married the man who loved me so much, he wanted to spend his life with me to matter what, who was willing to re-write all the rules, and be an equal in building our lives together. I told her his love gave me the security and courage I needed to overcome fears of motherhood, in order to give birth to her and her brother.

My son and I had this conversation three years before, when he was about her age.

My children have always known everything about where babies come from. I read to them and showed them pictures from books on childbirth so they will know what miracles they are, and what miracles women are. I love re-making clothes and look at fashion magazines with my daughter for reasons of design, yet find a lot of material there to talk about prevalent cultural abuses – commercial requirements to buy a lot of cosmetics and spend your life superficially – as well as anorexia, underage models, and plastic surgery. Very early, I taught my children that not all dogs are friendly, and they have to ask permission from the owner to pet a strange dog because some dogs bite. This naturally lead me, sometimes, to talking about people in the same way. Not all people are friendly. Some will hurt others. There are such things as war, and mental illness. Not all grown-ups will behave like Mommy and Daddy. Not all grown-ups deserve their respect or know more about right and wrong than children do.

It’s hard to know how much reality to reveal at what age, but I think that if the news is on and if children are old enough to be bullied at school, then stories of past realities which have been learned from and lived through can only be a good counter to the fairy tales of Prince Charming and happily ever after – or of James Bond and his long list of expendable sex-partners. Boys need to know the kinds of things that women are subject to so they will know why so many women are afraid of them – are prejudiced against men, too, for obvious reasons. They need to know what some men are like – men they will meet someday. I also feel I need to counter our collective family adoration of all babies; women aren’t required to bear them to gain happiness.

My son recently initiated a conversation with me about how some Muslim women are treated, perhaps spurred by recent news items about fathers and brothers murdering their daughters and sisters. I did speak of the killing part. I took him to Malala Yousafzai’s Facebook page, a girl not much older than him, who fundamentalists attempted to murder for speaking up for the right of women to get an education. I must admit I shied away (for the moment) from the horror of female circumcision – practiced by a sub-set of Muslims, as well as many Africans.

I showed my son this image – The Loyalty of a Woman in Love, which I reproduce in full at the bottom of this blog — to show him how western culture commits and has committed crimes against women also.

I want my children to know that they are in charge of how they are treated. They draw their lines in the sand, must clearly demand equality and respect, and have to expect to fight for their rights sometimes, even with people they love; no one is born perfect or into a perfect world and we all retain prejudices. I want my children to be capable of separating themselves from those they may love, but who are incapable of loving them back. Abuse must be the sign of the abuser’s inability to love properly, or to love at all.

Some might consider all this too much information for children this age – almost 9 and 12– but they both had to live through my cancer treatment and the possibility that I might die, though only the oldest remembers. They live in the real world and they should know it.

This much information might not be right for other parents. Many feel they will be destroying their child’s innocence by letting them know certain things. I say there is a difference between innocence and ignorance. Being innocent is the opposite of being guilty. Knowledge makes no once guilty.

I was an excessively sheltered child. My ignorance made me feel stupid.

I remember my shock as a teenager, finding out about how people deliberately hurt and killed each other. My anger and disillusionment lasting for years. The standards I had been taught the world possessed were lies. Suddenly, to me, the world was a bad place rather than a place filled with both good and evil.

Maybe if my children know that the world is half good and half bad, and the same is true of people, they will be able to adjust to adulthood better than I did.

Much of this sounds like advice. I wonder if there’s a way to turn this all into a story. It would have to be many stories.

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2 Responses to The Loyalty of a Woman in Love

  1. Community and community standards really dictate what we expect from ourselves, and each other. I want to continue breaking the silence that surrounds the lives of women, and expose the false shame and abuse that has been hidden by it, sanctioned by these community standards.

  2. Wow. My first thought after reading this blog was I am so glad that from about age 6 I rejected all advice from my Mother’s generation. Still it didn’t stop me from experiencing bad good and amazing relationship wonders, its a learning curve, for sure.

    Even though my Mom was progressive, an RN and full time surgical nurse from 1955 and all through the years of raising her four children (and I really probably shouldn’t to discuss other people’s failings or create gossip) but I was there and lived it, so I can share an observation – my parent’s marriage was a mess. My father like most men of his generation did not take kindly to being unseated in the finance or career department. In the end they didn’t have enough in common to sustain the onslaught of survival. And people in the 50’s were very much about ” do as I say, not as I do”, heavy on the rules and clueless on the self-examination front.

    In hindsight if there was and if there is marital ‘failure at relating’ its more to do with a degree of frustration that all people suffer when they spend too much time thinking about what the neighbours think and not enough time following their own heart and making choices accordingly. Still we all get to play the cards we are dealt. There was an easement in the 60’s and more freedom to choose that was only slightly resolved in the 70’s… when individual yearnings and ‘heart’s desire’/horniness played out through the sexual revolution. I lived that too and observed that mostly the outcome was many many people ended up in a daze (drugs and sex) and through the 80’s as the babyboomers hit their Year 30 wall there were a lot of very disappointed and pissed off people. (Annoyed at themselves for buying into a bill of goods and at each other’s irresponsible behaviour and VD’s all round).

    I think we humans are far more afraid than we are brave and perhaps recognize that self preservation is important and linked with our interactive community daily functions than it is sexual or romantic happiness. These days sexual happiness is more about fantasy. Where bonding with another human and then living with them certainly is far less to do with romance and more to do with values that determine how we behave: daily habits, our choice of diet and how messy or clean we like our houses. I’ve not ever been able to bring myself to hire a ‘cleaning lady’ to clean up my messes, so to me achieving agreement about housekeeping is the biggy when it comes to domestic cohabiting, and then their’s co-parenting…yikes….But from my position after years of trying to break away from the 50’s housewife thing, most women and men have learned that cohabiting can not come easy unless some agreed upon organizational things are in place, only then does if feel like everything else seems to go well enough to support those date nights.

    And from listening to people’s stories (both men and women) all these years, personal experience included my observation is that all adults end up too tired from the daily slog of working, keeping things on track to preserve their lifestyle and be there for their kids, on the domestic scene to worry much about how much sex there is…. or let’s put it this way, the attraction and the notion are present with a life partner, just that the incidents are less that what our culture tells us is ‘normal’ or should be (advertisements, media promotions, romance novels!) chasing those rainbows continue to be nothing but folly. So again, personal happiness can’t just be about romantic notions as much as its about finding someone to share your life with in very boring domestic terms – if that is you seek calm and peace. If however you enjoy chaos and insecurity then sure partner with someone who’s personal habits drive you nuts (I suggest a duplex is in your marital future).

    Or and maybe when it comes right down to it, its much more important to just avoid being with someone who says one thing and does another.

    Community no matter what generation through all time always want what is known. They want responsible and this is sometimes pushed a bit to far toward rules of conformity, still, its the safety net that all humans when having experience failure end up believing. Though we all hate mandatory rules we also know that driving on roads that have no Stop signs will kill us faster. On any given day when we find ourselves burnt out all we want is some peace and quiet and a nice meal in front of the fireplace – – we haven’t evolved much in our relationships because our true comforts exist due to following a lifestyle dictated by a cultural norm that allows us our fireplace and our imported food but that this confines us in ways that make us restless still seeking greener pastures – perhaps that’s to do with innate survival instinct, or just plain old boredom. Most of us do not get far from the source of our income and whatever work we have to do alongside other people usually determines our financial and therefore our freedom to choose is based in that stability and that thing called social inclusiveness (tied to living societies rules) is for most the key to a form of contentment and even happiness.

    I tell my kids, find work you love, choose your friends, everything else will fall in place because its a matter of who do you trust – you trust yourself you trust the people who are constant and supportive in your life . They accept our guidance because they trust us and that is the ultimate guide, just to be constant and there for them to return from exploring the world. Our choices will guide us through experiences where we will learn to test Trust – hopefully without too many self destructive events, or that’s the goal.

    But back to the topic of love,sex and partnering, I think its trial and error that there is no perfect model. That perhaps perfection is the imperfect messy workings of it on a daily basis. I agree that when children start asking they are then old enough to get the inside info. And children have far better radar for lies than adults do because they haven’t started to lie to themselves yet, so the best thing is to be honest as possible except when perhaps allowing the stories to put the parent in a bad light i.e. (make yourself look stupid you loose some credibility, especially with teenage children) all kids want to think their parents have wisdom its important to note that there is a fine line between doing dumb stuff and gaining wisdom from it. Or maybe not a fine line, maybe the truth is its a whole lifetime of sorting through stuff to get to the place of personal emotional and physical comfort and fulfillment? For parents its very hard to allow our children to be social, suffer the pain and do that dance, yet we have to allow them to – and to fail in order to learn, so be prepared by knowing that you can’t save them you can only comfort them and listen to their stories, all bets are off because peer comparisons are going to be somewhat painful in all directions for years until say… age 25 or 30 years or when children reproduce and becomes a parent. Nothing like reducing the generation gap by becoming a parent, I love how it can enlighten one about one’s own parents and we may finally see how clueless we humans really are about life in general, isn’t that what life is for, a constant learning curve? And empathy is found all round.

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