Nice lady

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.

11 thoughts on “Nice lady

  1. Becky says:

    You know I don’t think we have to be bitches.

    It’s just a matter of being assertive, and able to set boundaries, including saying no.

    But, it’s possible to do this, and still be loving, kind, and respectful.

    You know it’s not either or, IMO.

    We can look also to the interests of others without losing ourselves. For me, it’s about find a good balance, and wisdom. And, I suppose that balance is different for every person.

    I want to add that I don’t think it’s really loving to allow people to steal or take advantage of us. It’s actually enabling harmful behavior in their lives.

    Sometimes people can take good, and wise general principals in Scripture in such an extreme, and literalist kind of way that common sense simply flies out the window.

    Jesus taught the concept of turning the other cheek to check the cultural practice of an eye for an eye, a cycle of violence, and revenge that could just go on, and on.

    But, did he mean to advise us to stand idly by while an axe murderer makes short work of the family, or we’re stolen from, and attacked in the streets? Of course not.

    Well, that’s an extreme example, but you can see what I mean, Prairie..

    I think if we love our neighbors as ourselves, with a good, and healthy emphasis also on loving and caring for ourselves, we can’t go far wrong.

    The balance takes care of itself.

    • prairienymph says:

      In my comment about bitches, I was referring to the irrational fear that many people, especially women, have of being ‘not nice’. The fear of being labelled mean or bitchy is what causes many normal people to deny healthy and unhealthy parts of themselves. This leads to passive-aggression.

      So, it isn’t either/or. We are both. “There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us” as some famous poet said.

      I feel like I need to embrace my inner bitch to become a more real, whole, and healthy person. I don’t mean that I am going to look for opportunities to be disrespectful, I mean that I will no longer be afraid to admit I am not the ideal nice lady and don’t want to be. It is a step towards being assertive. Nice ladies aren’t assertive. That is too close to being ‘selfish’.

  2. ... Zoe ~ says:

    Expect retaliation from those who prefer the “nice-lady” you. 🙂

    • prairienymph says:

      I’ve pretty much avoided them for about a year now. I hope that by the time I see them again I’ll be strong enough not to care or fall back into old patterns.

  3. Lorena says:

    There is so much I could say about this post, but I don’t want to turn the comment into a book 🙂

    I wasted my entire life trying to be like other people, just to find out in mid-age that my job wasn’t to try to be like somebody else. My task should’ve been all along to figure out who I was, at the very core, accept myself as I was, and make the best of it.

    As it turns out, even though it sounds pretty, it is very hard, incredibly hard to do. In fact, it is a lot easier to imitate others and to pretend that that’s who we are. But it is also costly. We pay with our health, physically and emotionally.

    I think who I am is the six year old who went to the 1st grade. When I’m being real, that’s who pops up.

    • prairienymph says:

      I would love to read that book!
      For me, I had to act mature when I was little so finding out who I am is facing how immature and petty I am. I wasn’t really 6, so I have to work through it now. I just try not to do it when my kids are watching.

      • Lorena says:

        I wasn’t really six either. Never had a doll or a toy, and I was expected to behave like an adult at that tender age. My mom would scream, “Do the dishes lazy bitch. When you get married your husband will beat you for being so lazy.”

      • prairienymph says:

        Day 6 just talked about psychopaths. Sounds like your mom fits a lot of the descriptions. Amazing how you managed to learn compassion and understanding regardless of your family and brand of religion.

  4. D'Ma says:

    This post resonates so much with me. I’m trying to learn to embrace my inner ‘bitch’ too. It’s too much work being nicey-nice all the time, but I’m scared half to death to assert myself.

    • prairienymph says:

      I just watched Disney’s Cinderella with Lil’T. Whitney Houston/fairy godmother tells Cinderella that the only person keeping her from her dreams is herself. Its true how often we limit and restrict ourselves out of fear. This is my place to practice being snarky.

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