Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Time for Me

I've been hearing this phrase with ever greater urgency from fellow Boomers for a decade or so. When Chani, in a recent blogpost, argued that she tore up the memo that "told me I was supposed to have low self-regard and take crap from people," I felt some response larger than a comment was needed.

Chani complained about a woman who was talking endlessly about herself (another creeping Boomer affliction, but also seen at all ages). The woman was admittedly spitting out negativity best left unspoken: TMI. She had also committed the cardinal sin of showing no interest in Chani's life.

Sound familiar? Yes, folks, men and women are the worst people around. No one really cares about you; everyone, including you, is really concerned with self-gratification and survival.

We are all about "me." (Actually, younger people seem to be more about "duty," but that's another post.)

Chani's complaint that she has lived "consumed with the needs and wants of others," which in my experience is not that uncommon a refrain among women, misses the mark. Living for the needs of others is not self-effacing, it is self-aggrandizing and self-affirming.

The put-upon nurturer is in reality saying, "I am the only thing standing between these people and utter chaos." One of the big gains of motherhood and similar traditional roles that I have observed is that women who may have been self-questioning gain enormous confidence as "executives" in the lives of others.

No one does anything except for gain of some kind. The nurturer gets something from nurturing, or else he or she wouldn't do it. Maybe it is approval, a sense of importance, feeling that one is "good."

A change that sounds more appropriate to me than to tear up the memo, is to realize that doing what one is told is no longer appealing. The "oughts" of the past no longer make sense to us; there's nothing in them for us any more.

That's because all our time, from birth to death, has always been really "for me" and "about me." Let's not fool ourselves.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think you are minimizing the issues Chani raised in her post on the basis that many women express such complaints, which does not negate their legitimacy. You sound like an apologist for women's roles remaining as they have been defined for a very long time. I can assure you, Cecil, very few homemakers are considered "Executives" in their homes, and the fact that they love their spouses and children doesn't mean that they are happy to see their deferred dreams dry up like raisins in the sun.

thailandchani said...

I think you might have misinterpreted some of what I wrote. While you make some good points in general, I'm not sure they're entirely accurate. In my case, the complaints I lodged really have more to do with the fact that I am a tenant in this woman's house. The boundaries have been blurry, mostly due to my lack of skills in setting good ones. Basically, I am an unpaid caretaker with no legal rights. It's exploitation. And it's entirely my doing. She got away with it because I allowed it.

In general, I think nurturing is a natural and wonderful thing. I also think boundaries and reciprocity are what help it to stay that way.


Cecilieaux said...

Chani and Heartin, as the man said in Cool Hand Luke, what we've got here is a failure to communicate.

In Chani's blog, she took an experience and expanded it into a general principle more or less along the lines of "it's time to put myself first."

I can't speak to the experience and did not attempt it -- hence no minimizing, H. My reference to her story was simply to briefly suggest the train of thought. I wasn't there, had no idea this had to do with the crazy landlady, whom I thought long gone. In any case, people will experience the same events differently. I am not questioning anyone's experience, C.

What I am discussing is the general principle. I disagree that there is anything novel about look after oneself: this is instinctive from womb to tomb.

As for what I sound like, H, how do you reach the absurd conclusion that I am "an apologist for women's roles remaining as they have been defined for a very long time"?

When I spoke of the executive role, I used quotes on purpose and for a reason that I thought was obvious. No one would claim that "homemakers" are equivalent to the overpaid con artists with executive jets, lavish board rooms, seminars in topical places and taxpayer-financed bonuses. To reach that conclusion you have to ignore well-documented pay and time use differentials, not to mention the pointed particulars in my phrase "motherhood and similar traditional roles."

A mother gets to tell a 2-year-old what to do and when to do it 24/7. She has to be constantly making life and death decisions. She is an executive: she is a decision-maker with considerable power -- ask any psychotherapist.

Finally, as to raisins in the sun, I'm reminded of the Simon & Garfunkel line about wanting to relax "Talkin' to a raisin who 'casionally plays L.A. /
Casually glancing at his toupee ..."

What was old Roger draft-dodger going down there for?