When you're married…

Tonight and many days and nights since I said "I do" to my husband of almost three years, I had a glimpse backward into the days of before. Before I was married. Before I made it to the end of the journey of obtaining a man. I have written elsewhere on the blog about how much social pressure there is on women to this early and to choose well.

But I haven’t really dipped into the pressure women put on themselves to find a man of their own. It must be subliminal because almost from the instant a woman even hears of a man she is imagining how it will be to "pick out curtains" as they say.

Is this because picking out curtains was a woman’s main occupation in much of the world – and still is – only forty years ago? Or is it another longing to be part of something larger than oneself? The urge to nest, to use another oft repeated phrase does it come from our environments or from within ourselves?

What’s strange about this whole cat and mouse game is that now from the vantage of a married woman I am much more often engaged in conversation by men. Young, old, it doesn’t seem to matter, they want to talk and about anything from what they had for dinner to what they will have for dinner tomorrow. This is counter to the myth that men aren’t as verbal as women or uninterested in the pieces of daily life. I don’t know how else to attribute this change but a mixture between two facts: marriage and age.

Or is that I myself am older and less panicky about where the man I will have will come from? Less anxiety means men feel more comfortable around me because the hunting look in my eye is missing?

It’s true that since high school I have not enjoyed male friendships as I did between the ages of eleven and seventeen. While throughout childhood my best friend was a boy which was very taboo in my conversative family, throughout college and graduate school men largely faded into the periphery.

Now at the age of thirty, as a married woman, I find that I enjoy their company once again. They are funny, they are silly, and most of all, they do care. It’s amazing how all of that becomes clear after you take the desire for a committed relationship off the table.

Why does the chase warp us all so? 

Learning when not to be helpful

“No good deed goes unpunished.” 
I heard twice this semester while trying to help a friend/colleague with a project. While being encouraging, resourceful, and generous, I heard this pithy statement when things didn’t go according to plan.

Imagine my surprise, as an almost thirty year old, to learn that not everyone in the world appreciates those who are willing to help.

Since moving to this small community I’ve had to train myself to do the opposite of my parents’ example. They were eager and willing to help anyone at any time – in my father’s case, almost to a fault in many instances according to my mother.

Many people will tell you I have boundless energy. And from the inside, although it isn’t what it used to be, say when I was in college, I do manage to get quite a few things done at the same time.

But I’ve had to harness my energy for myself. This sounds so selfish and counterintuitive, but it is nevertheless the case in the nearly three years I’ve been in the desert.

People don’t appreciate boundless energy, as someone in the hallway at a conference said to me: “There is such a thing as too much enthusiasm, you know.”

Well, now that you bring it up, no. I did not know. I did not know my effusive optimism and belief that excellence in work would win anyone over (or at least silence the naysayers) was hopelessly naive.

But I’m practising triming things back. Stifling the urge to lift my hand at meetings and offer to untangle messy knots. Keep my time and talent to myself for other things.

It’s hard to break years of seeing your parents offer rides home to people they had met in the Wal-Mart check out line. Or to temper the knowledge that I can help with the update that it would not be appreciated it.

If I sound like I’m swinging between disillusionment and being protective I am.

Knowing where the line is with different people is hard. Figuring out where their trigger between generousity and jealousy is exhausting.

So I’m learning to keep it closer to home. Where it is generally more appreciated anyway.