I was going to reblog this (which I have never done before, reblogged anything), but in true Kat style, I decided to link it so I had plenty of space to write out my own comments. I enjoyed reading this post by marriagerecoveryblog.
I love how she tells her story and then talks about how she has explored the motives of a “woman who willingly has an intimate relationship with a man she knows to be married.” She has “sought a more comprehensive understanding of difficult and shameful female to female relationships.” Her story is very different from mine, but the similarity lies in the fact that a woman (or women in my case) has willingly pursued sexual relations with our husbands. The women in my husband’s life knew about me, and our children. They knew we were married, I believe they knew my husband never intended to leave me for them. I believe they knew that I did not know anything about the extramarital relationship my husband was having with them. Did they care that there were innocent victims to their crime? It doesn’t appear so. How can this be? Where is all this bad behavior coming from? In my limited research googling articles about mistresses and why women cheat with married men, I had come to the realization that many women are just plain broken. Similar to my husband, they have deep seated issues that allow them to rationalize their behavior due to their own issues around self esteem and sexuality. They trade a true, intimate, honest loyal, and monogamist relationship for a “sharing” relationship because they think they can do no better. Or they rationalize that they are making the man happy (usually with their body, tsk, tsk) and eventually the man will leave his horrid wife. Or maybe the wife isn’t horrid in their mind, just disposable. From what I read, they don’t really believe the man will leave his wife, but delusion and rationalization are what this adultery game is all about. Although they are broken and need help, this still leaves innocent victims in the wake of their selfishness. I think I was letting a whole category of women off the hook. Just calling them vulnerable, or broken, or exhibiting low self esteem is maybe only part of the story?
Marriagerecoveryblog has analyzed this topic even further and in her entry above, she references an American Author named Phyllis Chester, and her book entitled ‘Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman,’ which she admits is a troubling book. I would imagine for me, it would be difficult to read in that this topic of women hating and being envious of other women is more prevalent than I might like to think or admit. I want to believe in the good in people, especially other women. But, it’s true, from an early age, females can be aggressive in a passive sort of way (it’s not nice for a girl to be actively aggressive, so we go behind the back of other females to hurt them). Women are sneaky, and sexist, and can be misogynistic in that they are disrespecting other women, allowing themselves to believe negative ramblings about another woman even though they have no actual proof. They are stealing from another woman and rationalizing hatred. Perhaps they don’t trust other women because they have not been trusted or they are in fact, untrustworthy.
But where does it all come from? I have not read the book, but I do raise the question, is this all learned behavior? What biology would be necessary for women to want to turn on other women or steal what they have? If not for some nurturing event gone wrong in their life, would this kind of behavior even exist? Were these women, in fact, neglected? Or did they just plain learn the behavior from other women in their life and the behavior is carried on? I have never felt the need to be competitive with other women in my life. I have never stolen anything from another woman so I find it baffling and frustrating and just plain sad. I have, however, talked about other women behind their back. But I also talk about men. It is a horrible habit. Eliminating gossip from my life is something I continue to work on. I have always known it carries negative energy. But I am talking about something a little more destructive than gossip here.
I have two boys, so I have not been involved in raising girls. Although I have younger sisters, none are very close in age to me. I kind of grew up as an only child for the early years of my life and then my sister came along. By the time she could walk, I was well into elementary school. My mother is a very sweet, kind, and gentle woman with nurturing in her soul. Things have not always been easy for her, but she is a true survivor. I look up to her and I respect her and she has always treated everyone in her life with the utmost respect and dignity. I think she showed me by example and also taught me to be kind and gentle to all things. To be honest and true. I never struggled with female relationships because if I didn’t like someone else’s behavior, I just walked away. I always knew I didn’t need “mean” people in my life. I have also been incredibly understanding, realizing we are all imperfect beings, of other people’s needs and challenges. Sometimes this understanding has really come back to bite me in the ass!
Boys versus Girls
As I have watched my boys grow, I have seen them tackle life’s little hurdles. When The Pragmatist was in childcare, very early on, he was incredibly verbal. He started talking at 18 months. By 20 months he was putting sentences together. By two years old, you could carry on a fairly intelligent conversation with him, which often shocked people as he was so tiny. By five years old, forget about it… he gave me a headache from trying to think hard and fast enough to keep up with him. Now he is nearly 24 years old, has long hair (maybe longer than mine), he lives in Brooklyn, spends most of his time in museums and coffee shops and you might see him marching for this or that cause if you are in Manhattan. But back in preschool, he was very very small (well, truth be told, he’s still small). He got pushed around a lot. Some of the boys just didn’t know how to communicate, so they did a lot of bullying and being physical. We encouraged The Pragmatist to use his words. To express his discomfort. It didn’t work. The Pragmatist learned to be afraid of boys and hang around with the girls. But, since he wasn’t a girl, he didn’t have the girl baggage, but he loved that on the outside the girls were much sweeter and kinder and softer than the boys, and they were incredibly nice to him even if sometimes they weren’t very nice to each other. All the way into elementary school, the girls would fight over him. They all wanted his undivided attention. I think he got married about three times in Kindergarten. Girls learn very early on what they want… and what a lot of them want, is the attention of boys (nature? nurture?), even my little non-aggressive boy. As the years went by, we worried about The Pragmatist. He remained quite small, and hugely popular with the girls. We thought surely one day they would wake up and realize he was not actually one of them and then he would be caught in the middle, no longer friends with the girls, and shunned by the boys. Honestly, over time I have learned to leave well enough alone. Things will work themselves out. But back then, I hadn’t learned that yet. In third grade, we encouraged him to play soccer. We figured it would be great exercise for him and his growing bones. With proper coaching, the boy energy could be contained and maybe The Pragmatist would make some friends. He agreed to play and was a pretty decent little defender in that he was so low to the ground and fast, that he could dart in and around the bigger players and get the ball safely out of the danger zone. He was also the voice of diplomacy and reason on that team. It was not uncommon to hear him suggesting the boys not climb so high on the fence behind the baseball diamond because they could fall and hurt themselves. He tried to keep the boys focused and organized. He tried really hard to keep the boy energy on the field and not on “wrestling” with each other (he was like a mini Kat out there, ha). The Dad coaches thought all the boy energy and swearing and bad behavior was just “being a boy.” I was constantly at odds with them. In my opinion, teaching them the sport was secondary to teaching them respect, and good sportsmanship. It was a lost cause. The Pragmatist just never quite understood the boy physical energy. I’m pretty sure he thought his bigger and athletic “little” brother was brought here from a foreign planet. The Pragmatist did, however, make friends from the team, which carried over to other boys in the class and from then on, he had female and male friends. As a matter of fact, by fourth grade his verbal skills and confidence made him a class favorite. He has never lost that ability to charm people and garner their respect, people of all ages and genders. When The Pragmatist hit middle school, he was ready to date (pretty sure this was nature?). Again, the confidence on this kid was sky high even if he was still shorter than nearly every single girl in his class. In seventh grade, he asked a girl to the school dance. She was mortified in that, as she said, no one else was going one on one. She didn’t think it was appropriate. The Pragmatist wanted to be a pioneer, a trail blazer. He kept on her and she refused, so he just went with the flow and attended the dance with a bunch of boys. It was right after school and in the broad daylight of the afternoon in the school gym, ha. During the dance, he went up to this same girl and asked her to dance. She said no because not enough kids were dancing, so he asked someone else to dance. Later he asked this girl again. Again she said no, but she gave him no reason this time. Finally, The Pragmatist gave up and danced with other girls and called it a night, or actually, afternoon. On the drive home, he told me all about the dance situation. I told him that he needed to be respectful of her wishes even if he didn’t know or couldn’t understand what they were. She was probably just shy. He did not really understand shy. He just seemed so confused. He knew she liked him because she had told some of the other girls. What transpired after that dance, however, went a little like this. The rest of the girls in The Pragmatist’s class decided they had his back and they decided to gang up on the girl. They started pulling pranks on her. A couple of them called her and told her they were going to the mall and did she want to meet up with them. She went to the mall, but no one was there. They did that a few times, stood her up… the movies, the park, etc… I can only imagine how this poor girl’s mother felt dropping her off all over town just to have her daughter’s little heart crushed. They called and told her they were all wearing pink and then she arrived at school to find everyone else in purple, while she wore pink. I am sure her hurt was not really about what color everyone was wearing, but about the fact that people were ganging up on her. I had volunteered in both my boys’ classrooms numerous times and I knew all the kids. As a matter of fact, I had been a chaperone on their 5th grade trip to Japan and I new them all very well. The Pragmatist came to me one day. He had found out what the other girls were doing “on his behalf.” He was so sad, but didn’t know what to do. I was mortified. I told him he needed to immediately get the other girls together and tell them that you respected the other girl’s decision not to go to the dance with you and not to dance with you and your feelings weren’t hurt and you need them to stop being mean, RIGHT NOW! They also need to apologize to her. Tell her they regretted the mean things they had done. I didn’t care if they actually regretted them or not. The girl needed to believe them. So, The Pragmatist got on his phone and his MySpace and all that and soon the mess was cleaned up. He came back to me and said the girls were sorry. To this day, a group of four of the girls who had picked on her, have become her very best friends. They are friends with me on Facebook and they are the sweetest girls. I don’t think they ever wanted to hurt her, they just went with the crowd. The girls told The Pragmatist they didn’t know why they had done it, they had gotten together and the power of the group sort of got away from them. Their instincts were bad and they hoped HE could forgive them. The Pragmatist said to me, “mommy, why do they care what I think? Why don’t they care what the girl thinks about their behavior?” And you know, I didn’t have a great answer for him, because I didn’t understand it either.
How do I know I wouldn’t do it
When I was 17 years old, I graduated high school but was not going off to college like most of my peers. I went to work instead. I worked at a printing company in the accounting department for 2 1/2 years before eventually heading to university. I started as a file clerk, then a payables clerk, then a receivables clerk, then I ended up managing the pool of accounting clerk staff including A/R, A/P, monthly reports, payroll, etc… As a 19 year old there was no where else for me to go, but college. Since I came into the company as a “friend” of the President’s “lady friend” (the lady friend was my high school counselor who was extremely upset I wasn’t going directly to college so she took it upon herself to find me a decent job), I was kind of protected. No one knew what to do with me, but I think they innately knew they needed to do something with me. Keep me busy, keep me happy. They put the 28 year old CFO in charge of me. I eventually developed a huge crush on this man. He was married with two small children and mine was a purely innocent crush. He wasn’t exceptionally handsome, but he had a great smile and he took me under his wing, so to speak. He taught me all about the financial aspects of companies. He was the CFO for five of the owner’s companies. We scoured those financials together and he taught me about balance sheets, and income & loss statements, and profitability. We were in a wicked recession and the young CFO was brought in to decide which companies should stay and which should go, especially whether the printing company could be salvaged. The owner had inherited the printing company from his step father and he had no real interest in it. The CFO wanted to save it. The owner had his own planes and mansion and other companies and he barely paid attention to this little company. I wasn’t opposed to hard work and so I did everything I could to help out the CFO and I learned A LOT. I started working for him on the weekends too, doing the books of some of the other companies. The Boss, as I will call him, was a freakin’ workaholic. The guy worked all the time. Sometimes I would ask him about his kids, what activities were they involved in, why he wasn’t off at their ball games or dance recitals. They were pretty little back then and he left all that up to his wife. His wife was a machine. She was a nurse and she took care of the two kids AND she was an aerobics instructor. To me they seemed like a good match for each other even if it seemed they spent very little time together. Although The Boss crossed a few boundaries during the regular work week as well, it was really on the weekends when I realized he needed to be kept in check. Now remember, at this point I am an 18 year old virgin. Horny as hell, never having gone past the kissing stage and even that was with guys I didn’t really care about. It was more for experimentation purposes while visiting friends at college. But here was this man that I was attracted to, I think mostly because of what he stood for more than his actual physical presence, and it was quite obvious he was attracted to me. He told me all about how he met his wife. How he had stalked her at college, parked outside her dorm and then later her apartment. Followed her. Begged her to date him until she finally gave in… and how I reminded him of his wife from 10 years ago (and we did have similar features). I was a fairly mature 18 year old, I must say, and so I said to him, “you mean I remind you of a younger version of your wife who was more carefree, had more free time on her hands, less responsibility, no kids, no job… a body you wanted to have sex with, a conquest.” He said, well, yeah, he supposed that was it. I kind of blew it off, but knew we were entering the danger zone. The Boss often came in on Saturday mornings with a huge hangover. He would send me off to McDonald’s to get him breakfast including a bunch of cartons of milk. I never like running errands for him and I never understood why he didn’t just pick up the food on his way in. Anyway, it got to the point where he told me his dad was in town and they were going to the dog tracks and wanted to know if I wanted to go with them. I asked why his wife wasn’t going. He said she didn’t care for his dad (he was kind of a player) and she wanted to stay home with the kids. I asked if she knew I was going and he said, yeah, she knows I am going with my assistant from work. I said okay. I had never been to dog races before. The race track was fun, if not a little seedy. The Boss’ dad was hilarious. He kind of reminded me of my own Dad, kind of immature and like he never grew up. If my Dad had not cheated on my mom and remarried a mormon woman and had seven more kids, I could kind of picture him roaming around the country like The Boss’ Dad. We had a great time, but I noticed The Boss looking at me a lot and quietly talking with his Dad when he thought I wasn’t looking. I wondered if Dad in fact condoned cheating, and son was kind of asking Dad his opinion, or for permission. Although it was all very flattering to a teenage girl, it started to feel creepy. I mean I liked The Boss for his work ethic and I enjoyed being around him and all, but he was not available for a romantic relationship. That was not what this was about, no matter what I fantasized about when I was home, alone, at night. As time passed, there was more flirting, and a near kiss as I looked at The Boss’ file cabinet behind his desk and the pictures his children had drawn for him. I never gave him the wrong impression. I didn’t commiserate with him about his wife or anything about his personal life. His wife was awesome, and frankly, I was kind of surprised she put up with him. I told him what he was doing was wrong and to stop it. He gave me a really sad puppy dog face. We continued to work together and then I realized I really needed a higher education. By this time, the department had been restructured and I was reporting directly to the Controller for HR purposes instead of the CFO. I gave my two weeks notice. The Boss heard about it later that day. He walked up to my desk, something he never did… I was always called into his office and the door was promptly closed behind my back (which created lots of gossip in the office, but people that really knew me knew I was not that kind of girl). Eventually I took to requiring the door open. This time he stood at my desk with that sad puppy dog face and asked if I would come into his office for a chat. In his office, he told me he was sad and happy. He was happy for me that I was heading off to college, but he was sad for himself because he wouldn’t get to see my pretty face every day any more. I thanked him for the sentiment, while inside I was kind of dying and thinking staying right where I was was lame, but I would miss him too. Those feelings would never be voiced. He tried to hug me but I told him I thought it better if he didn’t. I told him I respected him and had enjoyed working for him and that he had taught me so much. I told him I thought his wife was an incredibly strong, beautiful, and talented woman and I hoped he never ever hurt her. I was 19. He looked directly in my eyes and I hope he understood what I was saying. By this point he was pretty depressed about turning 30 and he made no secret of it. I was 19 freakin’ years old. Maturity and proper boundaries do not necessarily come with age.
Strangely enough, I have been reunited with The Boss two times in my life. Once while I was finishing up university here in my home town and another time three years later while I was pregnant with The Pragmatist. Strange how life does that sometimes, reunites people theoretically by chance, for no apparent reason. We have a mutual friend. The Boss is now 62 years old and a grandfather. He is still married to his beautiful wife. I have never been tempted by or allowed myself to get involved with a married man. I feel good about the choices I have made in my life. I wish people had been as respectful of me.
I want to understand this other type of female behavior, but more than understand it, I want it to go away. I want women to stop hurting other women. I want people to stop hurting other people.
A tropical island, out in the middle of the ocean, looks really, really appealing right now, probably because I know people will never stop hurting other people, and I don’t want to think about it anymore.