Mom Said Marry Well

I keep dreaming about young men:  confidant, seductive, virile young men.  In my dreams, they cozy up to me, offer promises of love, and always, I remember who I am – a dried up old woman condemned to disability – and wake up…reluctantly.

Thing is, men have always been a mystery to me, like a hidden treasure for which I’ve searched, lacking the coveted map.

Mother never understood the need for a woman to be educated:  “Learn secretarial skills, get a job and land an executive husband,” was her philosophy.   We weren’t raised to aspire beyond domestic proficiency.

Trouble is, all Mom’s theory landed her was abuse from my CEO father, who used her lack of education as a whip, constantly flouting her “stupidity”.

My oldest sister, who “put the cart before the horse” married at nineteen and was divorced two years later.

“It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor one,”  she warned me.  “Go for the money.”

She had a wild life as a career mistress, never finding that one true love.

“Girls have it easy,” one of my brothers told me once.  “All you have to do is snag a man and sit back and relax.”

His comment infuriated me, although weighted against other advice, I couldn’t quite pinpoint why.  Besides, he married women who worked.

If men held the key to life’s happiness, then what sort of male would I attract, I often wondered.  I lacked the physical beauty of my sisters, was big-boned, quick-tempered, and “obnoxious” according to early suitors.  Grace and finesse were lost on me, who felt personal grooming was a waste of precious outdoor time, and I’d rather swing my fist in righteous anger than learn the finer art of submission.

Mom told me I’d be hard to love.  She conceded that maybe an education would be the preferred route for me, as if intelligence and romance were diametrically opposed elements.

My mind craved knowledge, my spirit would soar at the possibilities of higher education, and   my heart kept dragging me back to relationship.

I became a ‘grateful for’.

Grateful for attention, affection, grasping at any scrap that came my way, repeating the cycle of abuse and disrespect that had plagued the women in my family for generations.

“How could someone so smart, be so stupid?” I’d berate myself in the aftermath.

And still I dream of the prized male – the classic Prince Charming – sweeping me off my feet, carrying me to eternal bliss.

Maybe this has been my problem all along: searching for a perfection that does not exist.

Imagine if I’d been taught something different?  How might my life, my relationships turned out if Mother had only said:

“Follow your dreams, girl, and love will find you.”

Or sister had advised:

“Respect yourself above others and you will find a partnership that will support mutual growth.”

Or my brother had suggested:

“You have so much to offer, make sure the man you choose can appreciate and honour you.”

What if I knew, right from the beginning, that fairy tale endings don’t exist and that fulfillment comes from within, and that, no matter what messages the outside world presents, following one’s own instincts is the best path to success?

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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