Monday, July 26, 2010

I Feel You, Girl.

The other day, while reading about reading, and the authors that make reading possible, I stumbled upon the name Anne Lamott. She's been on my radar for awhile and I've been told on quite a few occasions that I should read her, so when I saw her name and her book on a list of "must reads" for people interested in writing, I decided to read up on Ms. Lamott. Three minutes into reading excerpts from her books, I decided to purchase Bird by Bird. I am impatiently awaiting its arrival.

By the end of my "Lamott excerpt session", I had compiled a long list of quotations by her and emailed them to myself. I also emailed one to my friend, Rachael. It was one I figured she could nod to herself emphatically while reading. (I know I did.)

Rach liked the quote so much that she posted it on Facebook. What followed was an interesting conversation on gender, culminating in 18 comments in a very short time. And rather than fill the Facebook feed with my input, I decided to take to my very own blog.

Here's the quote:

"Part of me loves and respects men so desperately, and part of me thinks they are so embarrassingly incompetent at life and in love. You have to teach them the very basics of emotional literacy. You have to teach them how to be there for you, and part of me feels tender toward them and gentle, and part of me is so afraid of them, afraid of any more violation."
-Anne Lamott

I imagine if you're a [straight] man reading that, the first reaction is one of defensiveness. She's using a word that no person wants to hear- incompetent. Who wants to be described as in incompetent? I don't. But sometimes I am. And sometimes men are. And sometimes men are incompetent in very similar ways to one another.

I agree with this quote. I agree with every part of it. I do love and respect men desperately, yet I do not think there is one topic more turned on its head more frequently in my life more than the "What the hell is WITH men?!" topic. I am 25 years old and I have not lived much, and I certainly have not loved much. I'm not even sure if I have fully. Probably not. But I'm able to read a thought by a fully grown woman and completely relate. I'm trying to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm having a "THIS is what I have to look forward to?! MORE of this?!" moment right now.

I think that a thought like this, a thought that so many of us women (young, old and in between) can probably relate to, mustn't be discounted. This is a feeling that is true to many women because it has been experienced.

Cave woman probably drew on the walls about this...
-"So, then he grunted and so now I'm like, 'WHAT does that even MEAN!?'"
-"Girrrrl, sure beats the hell out of me."

One of the scariest parts of falling in love IS the fear of violation, of vulnerability and confusion mixed with the desperation, admiration and love. It's terrifying to fall in love with another being who's hormonal and chemical make up is different than yours, who literally sees no problem where you see ten and whose emotional communication is not enough when you feel like yours is at a surplus.

It sucks and it's wonderful. Sometimes simultaneously.

I don't think this quote is a dig at men, but rather an acknowledgement of something that straight women all feel at some point. Is this all men? No. I was raised by an extraordinary man, who happens to be, in my unprofessional opinion, the best dad in the world. (My mom, however, might admit to cracking the whip from time to time, along with his phenomenal mother back in the day.) I've also dated some real winners and maybe one day I'll like one for long enough to say "Hey, you're cool. Let's have a baby!" to him. Maybe.

That being said, I think that there are plenty of commiserations shared amongst men (in brief exchanges, of course) about the complexities of our fair female species. W.C. Fields once said, "All women are crazy; it's only a question of degree." And y'know, I can see why he'd say that. And I could also counter that with the fact that oftentimes men drive us crazy, but then I'd be here for as long as this back and forth has been going eternity.


leakytincan said...

I haven't read that quote before. Being a straight man, my first impressions aren't that this is an attack. Incompetence is a good word to describe it. It illudes more to a communication barrier as opposed to an outright ignorance. Men are SO sensitive. The problem is a lot of the time we cannot describe how or why we feel certain emotions. Personally, when I am really dwelling or hit hard with heavy emotions, I get this almost primal urge to work it out on something. Like actions are the only way I can communicate it. For example, when I lost my best friends mother to cancer, I didn't even know it affected me, untill a couple days later, when I was riding my bike and I kept hearing an annoying click. And I stopped maybe four times to try a nd fix it. I got so frustrated that I threw it in an alley and walked for while. I pinned all my loss on this one, seemingly easy problem to fix, and I was totally incapable.

Oh I felt those emotions very deeply. I was very sensitive. It just took two whole days to soak in and really fester. I feel that this is often the case with smaller emotions. It is too many times that I have felt the frustration or hurt or excitement long after the fact. Long after it is appropriate to bring it up to the other person to deal with it. That "woah! That was like a week ago!!!" blindside kind of thing. Not that I hold on to it, I just simply have no idea that it is there.

K.S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K.S. said...

Leaky Tin Can, you are 'da man!

Thank you so much for your well-thought-out and sensitive reply. I adore men and think that the ways that each sex feels things and deal with life are endlessly fascinating. Your story is a perfect example of how we deal with things differently, but feel them deeply.

Thanks again!

Stefanie Grace said...

FANTASTIC! When you've read the book, tell me whether I should be reading it or not - I'm thinking yes already! xx

Hilary said...

OH MY GOD, KATE. I LOVE ANNE LAMOTT. Bird by Bird is beautifully written and I am so excited that you are going to read it! I would highly recommend it to anyone else who is thinking of reading it.
Love and miss you, Hilary