Feb. 27th, 2009

joreth: (Super Tech)

You have a wonderful man who loves you, who will be there to catch you when you fall.  Do you know how special that is?  I would love to find a man strong enough to catch me.
~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex And The City

There are some misunderstandings floating about concerning independent people, women specifically, and me in particular.  In the past, I have been accused of, alternately, building emotional walls to prevent strong emotional connections, and preferring submissive men that I can control and walk over.  Neither one could be further from the truth.

I am an independent person, by nature and necessity.  I learned very early on that, ultimately, I was the only person I could count on to be there for me.  If nothing else, death will claim even those who would stand by my side until the end.  So I learned to fend for myself, which, honestly, was something I always enjoyed doing anyway.

But many people see this as an attempt to push people away so that I do not get hurt when they leave.  And that's just not so.  I actively desire to share my life with people, and I see the practical and emotional benefit to accepting help and love from those willing to freely offer.  I am just not blind to the realities of life.  I do not prevent myself from experiencing emotional connections, I just store in reserve those skills necessary to survive without them.

My grandmother married very young in an era and culture where divorce was not an option.  She was 15, he was in his late 20s.  They married until death did they part.  He was her whole world.  She existed as an extension of him.  It was a very traditional Catholic family:  she popped out a passel of kids, had no job, very little education, and let him control everything.

Then he died.  He left her with no understanding of how to use the telephone or where the checkbook was kept.  He always dialed and then allowed her to speak after him, so she did not know how to call her own children or even how to dial 911 in an emergency.  She did not know how bills were paid, or who to pay.  She was only in her 60s, but she remains a burden, passed from child to child, unable to care for herself.

My other grandmother divorced before I was born.  When I came to know her, she was also in her 60s.  She lived alone but had a boyfriend down the street in the retirement community in which she lived.  She is an artist and still attends art classes.  She wakes every morning at 5 to do her yoga.  She works part-time as a security guard at the entrance to her community.  Her children and grandchildren mostly still live nearby.  She is strong, independent, and surrounded by love and activity.

Being independent does not have to mean building walls or giving up love and intimate connections.  But it requires a strength of will that cause some challenges to romantic relationships.

There is a certain type of man who is attracted to a strong woman.  OK, there are several, but I'm going to talk about one in particular.  This is a man who sees the strength as a sign that she can take care of him.  He is looking for a chance to give up his independence and merge fully into the identity of a "couple" where she is in charge and she can take responsibility for him, under the cover of being a "couple", y'know, the two halves of a whole idea.

For a woman who is independent not only out of necessity, but also out of pride for her accomplishments, this is often the very antithesis of a good match for her.  I am not attracted to men with this desire.  There are those for whom this style of relationship works for them to the mutal satisfaction of all involved, and I say congratulations to them.  But part of my indepdence comes from a desire to be responsible only for myself.  I may enjoy sharing that responsibility, but I do not want to take it over for someone else entirely.  It's the main reason I don't want kids.  I do not want to be my Catholic grandmother, but I don't want to be my grandfather either, putting someone else in her indebted position.  I want my partners to be with me because they choose to be there, where every day is a renewed choice, not because they can't survive otherwise.

But those kinds of men are attracted to women who show self-reliance, strength, a take-charge attitude.  Those are the men who find me.  As I get older, my dating pool gets older too, and it becomes more and more difficult to identify these men early on.  You see, eventually they have to move out of their parents' house, get jobs, etc.  So some of them develop a few skills that allow them to survive alone.  It might not be until a few months into the relationship before I get a good look at his finances, for instance, and learn that his credit debt is steadily rising because he has a poor grasp of interest rates.  Because he's learned to manage money on his own, it might take me a while to ferret out his quiet desparation to find someone, anyone, to "complete" him.  It might be some time before he grows comfortable enough to let it slip that all those things I thought we had in common, goals, future dreams, ideas on relationships, even favorite foods or hobbies, we didn't actually have in common.  He merely agreed with everything I wanted as the price, the "compromise", of a relationship.

So I have a history of men like this.  And I grow a little wiser of the signs with each one.  And I grow a little more belligerent up front about my independence after each one, which contributes to the first misunderstanding of building emotional walls.  But this trail of co-dependent men strung along my past gives people the impression, if you don't look hard enough, that I prefer men I can control, men who are willing to let me be in charge, to decide, to be responsible.  But if you look just a little harder, you'll see that none of these men are still in my life.  At best, they are distant friends, but many are gone entirely, faded away as they eventually found women to take care of them.  If you listen just a little bit, you'll hear my endless complaints about being the "mommy" in the relationship, and how much I prefer to be in relationships with adults, not children.

I would love to find a man strong enough to catch me.

No, what I'm looking for is an equal.  Someone just as strong as I am.  Someone who can best me at my own games, but not every time - I don't want a master either.  I want someone who is strong enough to stand up to me when I'm wrong and who is strong enough to bend when I am right; strong enough to take care of himself and strong enough to accept support given out of love; strong enough to take care of me when I need it and strong enough to let me care for myself when I can.  Strong enough to catch me, a strong, independent woman who usually catches herself.


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