As I grew up, the people I most admired were nothing like me. They were loud, outgoing, funny and got things done.
I felt like I should have a mentor, a role model, to pattern my life after. Since I was often compared to one of my aunts, I thought I should try and be like her.
(In fact, her husband angrily warned my then-fiancee not to marry me because he thought we would have the same marriage as they did, since I was supposedly so much like my aunt.)
I love my aunt, but I do not want her life.
She is sweet.
And for her, sweetness is something she aspires to – it is more than her personality, it is her ambition. Her natural compassion was warped by lies which told her what a “nice Christian girl” is: someone who puts others first, turns the other cheek, gives to those who steal from her.
She has been taken advantage of, emotionally and spiritually abused, and mentally broken down. Thankfully, my aunt is made of more than sugar. She is strong, she has grit, and she is very smart and resourceful. She just doesn’t often show it. It doesn’t fit her idea of herself as the nurturer.
I found an old journal I kept around the time I got married. My life plans had completely changed. The church was clear that I needed a role model to be a married woman and I wrote about how I should try and be like her. I tried to be happy at home with small children. I tried to be busy with volunteering and told myself that, like my aunt, I’d find something I could do from home later on.
And, like my aunt, I got suicidal.
Luckily, my husband didn’t encourage the Christian caricature of a nice lady. He didn’t want a shell of a person who always smiled in public and cried in private, always served, and denied any desires and needs of her own.
I still look for examples of people who I’d like to be like and loving that I don’t have to find them in the bible or the church. I’m learning that the ideal woman is not the sanitized Mary who was obedient, submissive, and asexual.
I don’t want to be a nice lady, patted on the head for being taken advantage of. To get there I have to stop being afraid of being a bitch.
Maybe my parents should have let me watch Roseanne.