A Strong Woman's Curse
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
I look at who I am and I realize I have always been known as someone you can depend on. Always. I am the highly organized sort, one who pays attention to detail, remembers random facts, numbers and conversations, and can finish people’s sentences just by feeling what they are talking about and knowing their vocabulary choices. I also intuitively sense when something is off in a situation, and will try to fill the gap to enable things to run smoothly. As much as I am a highly functioning and helpful individual, there is a huge downside to being that kind of person. I rarely experience that same kind of dependability from others and am oftentimes left hanging. My girlfriends of similar ilk would agree, and would go so far as to say our kind are not extended the same kind of concern, care and consideration since it’s assumed by others we are in no need of any help. The sad part is that it really is a faux aura of strength, responsibility and “non-neediness,” because we all could use a gesture of support, a helping hand. This “aura” that accompanies the highly functioning persona (and it is a persona) is a curse. A Strong Woman’s Curse. It follows us through all our endeavors -- even to the workplace -- where “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” When I bartended I would call it the Money Sparkle. A term I coined for those girls who guys would throw down the bigger tip for, even if their drink was made wrong…even if they didn’t order a drink at all. In personal relationships, it is when your partner lets you do all the planning. Or, it can even be seen in that simple night out at a bar when the girl next to you gets a drink bought for her.
Yes, I think all of us have been the one who didn’t “get the drink.” It probably kind of irked you a little (not that you would ever openly admit to that). Sure, you could rationalize the situation in your head and come to the conclusion that the girl may be a little prettier than you, or that maybe she really is the guy’s type and all is well, no skin off your back.
Life is like that: “You win some, you lose some.” I too get my own niceties bestowed upon me from time to time, and I definitely am one to look at the bigger picture when these incidents happen for others. Some are just what they are: a cocktail being bought for a girl across the bar. I’m really not a bitter bitch, raging with jealousy over nice things happening for other women. But I am a people watcher, always observing, objectively taking note. And as time passes, there are patterns that present themselves in the way of such helpful gestures. You can see when there are similar issues occurring various women’s lives and who gets the help, care and concern…and who is left to fend for themselves.
Simple drinks aside, a true quandary exists: There are women out there, who by happenstance, exude this energy, or aura, or something, that makes people feel like they want to help even if it is within split seconds of meeting them. While you exude an aura of what exactly? Is it written on my forehead that I am so responsible and capable -- so together, so indestructible -- that I don’t need a nice gesture? Yes, people will be drawn to whom they are drawn, but when you are on the reverse end and you can see the attentiveness given to these unknowing girls, who take for granted this alluring aura that brings considerate good will to them, it becomes a bit nerve-racking.
For me, I try so hard in my life to do the right thing, be helpful to others, and stay focused on the proverbial “carrot” that is my life’s passion, that it irks me to think that somehow my drive has translated into others thinking I don’t need a friendly hand as much as the other girl--the girl that usually has her head in the clouds and is never aware of those around her. That is probably where I do feel this sadness, a jealousy, a hurt. So much so that I am intrigued by how I got this kind of aura of capability. How is it that the drive and tenacity I muster to get through the day can sometimes cause me to be grossly misconstrued as someone that is in no need of a little care and consideration? And how do I undo it, or understand it and just be at peace with something that I may not be able to readjust? I suppose I could just call myself a Type A personality to inadvertently neatly categorize myself away from further scrutiny. However, despite the bit of acute awareness and order I try to maintain, there is no cutthroat aggression to warrant being called a Type A. And let’s be honest, settling on a neat label is a cop out; a way to avoid evolving into a new and higher level of self. I put this faux persona of strength on at some point in my life and I think that finding where I initiated that “strength” is the only way to find peace with it all. Maybe finding wisdom within my past will allow me to come into an aura that is more present.
The Runt Factor is what I will call that initiating moment. My divorced mother, despite the stigmas surrounding therapy, was adamant about my brother and I getting one-on-one therapy, as well as family counseling to keep us all in the family. To be honest,
I’m not sure if it brought us together or left us feeling more confused about ourselves and worsen our connection. My brother was already in his teenage years and veering the course of stability through drugs and truancy. Subsequently, the majority of my mother’s focus, time and energy were spent on him. I, a few years younger, was kind of this afterthought. In my protests of all the attention my brother received, I was given an analogy in therapy that would alter my behavior for a lifetime. I can only sum it up as the Runt Factor, a concept that worked for me as a child, but as I have grown older and looked back to that session, I now question the use of the analogy at all. The therapist talked to me in that low mother tone as if death or love were being explained. “You know when you have a litter of puppies?” she says. “Well, you know how there is sometimes a puppy that is smaller than the rest, the runt of the litter?” I, mesmerized by her voice and how this puppy story was to unfold, nodded with each line said to me. “Well, you know how extra care has to be given to the puppy, special feeding and holding, or the puppy will die....? Well, that is kind of what your brother is, the runt of the litter. He is the runt of the litter and needs a little more attention.”
I remember thinking it completely made sense to my 10 year-old mind, and I felt this softening towards my brother, a sympathy of sorts. I also remember starting to feel like I finally had one up on him, that I was better than him since if he was the runt that would make me the bigger dog. Come to think of it, I am wondering if that moment is the moment: Ego came into play and somehow I made the survival connection that I must be of strength to stay ahead of the game and not be forgotten and left behind. So, I took the Runt Factor to heart and put on this “costume” of strength and ran with it, not knowing I was exuding only the concept of strength and not true strength in which you have solidarity of heart and a belief in yourself. I’ve run “strong” for so long, taking it upon myself to be everyone’s Girl Friday and getting the job done no matter what it takes that I forget that my strength is a borrowed “costume” that doesn’t fit very well. I find myself tripped up when I hit those moments where I feel scared and unsure if I can accomplish the task at hand, or good enough to deserve a relationship where I don’t do all the work, or even expect someone to think of me if I am out of sight, out of mind. At one point it dawned on me that maybe my brother wasn’t the runt -- I was. Or, we were both runts but of different breeds. And the therapist, who thought she was so clever in telling me such a story, forgot to focus on just making me feel like a priority in the ways that my mother could not, and instilling in me a sense of self-worth beyond the comparison to my brother.
And there you have it: an aura is born, a whole false person, really. I look around to my fellow cohorts who share this aura of faux strength with me, and they, for the most part, have similar pasts of falling into a position of responsibility and strength to survive. So how do we modify our energy to lessen not only this need to be the responsible one, but also what our aura projects to others before we even speak? How do we lift the curse from ourselves? Remain strong of course, but soft and sweet in the eye?
I’m not actually sure one can magically disintegrate such a well-established persona and aura. These things clearly served us efficiently for a long time. Acknowledging that you have put an unwarranted pressure on yourself to always be the responsible, strong one, and tortured your soul along the way might be just the driving force you need to evolve into a more peaceful, truer you. A you who invites that proverbial “drink” to come a little more easily. The trick is where to start, and I’d have to say that seeing how I feel a whole body lighter after pinpointing such a character defining moment, journeying into my past was a blessing in disguise. It really does feel like I got rid of this dead body I didn’t know was weighing me down, much less give it a proper burial. So, I definitely recommend walking backwards through your own history as a good beginning. Another thing that may jump-start a new curse-free aura is to become “light in the eyes,” so to speak. Not focusing so hard on all you think you have to be and do for everyone around you could do just the trick. Throughout your day allow for a 10 second space between yourself and the running to-do-lists in your mind. Literally take a moment to remember a joke and be a goof, and a lighthearted, less-intense, responsible aura will start to emerge - not to mention maybe a few drinks from across the bar to match.