Tag Archives: friendship

Dear Jane: This Isn’t a Temporary State of Being

2 May

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Hello, dear readers. Those of you who have been following awhile might remember Jane, my first follower. She recently sent me an update, which I wanted to share, along with a few words. Thanks always for reading. I hope to have more exciting updates soon!

Dear Jennifer, 

Hello again. It’s been a few months since I wrote to you. That’s really cool that I kind of inspired your adventures. Me – the waitress from Kansas who used to spend more time waiting at the pharmacy window than staring out the window of an airplane. But that’s going to change soon!

My dad is a lot better now, but he still is on a lot of medications. But I think he can handle things on his own. I’m glad I stayed home to take care of him. If I hadn’t, I would have thought about how I was letting him down. But also, staying home led me to the most wonderful man I ever met. 

Thank you for inspiring me to be patient and do things that make me a more interesting person so that I would meet a great guy. It really helped me get to this point where I can actually see myself really being with him for a long time. I’ve decided to postpone my college plans for now so that I can follow him (his name is Kurt) to Arizona where he’s going to finish college. I feel like I’m starting a new life with Kurt – all thanks to you.

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me get through a tough time and for inspiring me to be the kind of woman who could get a guy like that. Good luck with your dating life! (I think you should give that last guy a second chance – you never know when it might be the one!).

Sincerely,

Jane

(name changed for anonymity)


Dear Jane,

I’m happy to hear your father is better. You sound happy and that is always a great thing. I admire you for sacrificing your future to help those you love. I’m sure your dad and brother will be forever grateful to you.

You seem like a sweet and unselfish young woman with genuinely good intentions, so I feel like a jerk for saying this so bluntly, but I just have to: I think you misunderstood me.

You are not alone in mistaking my intentions, or the intentions of even stronger, more determined women. It’s a familiar narrative that I’ve noticed in my past self, in my friends, and even in female protagonists in crappy movies. It goes something like this: woman becomes single, woman gets mad, woman finds voice, voice makes her interesting, some other man finds that attractive, woman couples with new man, woman’s new voice is validated because it led her to a better man.

Let me say this loud and clear, in case there’s any lingering confusion: being an empowered female is not a coping mechanism to employ between romantic relationships. It should be a permanent state of being.

I didn’t make it my mission to become an International Woman of Mystery so I would be more appealing to my next boyfriend. I did it so my emotional and spiritual center of gravity would always reside in myself. I did it to find a long-lost inner confidence. I did it so I would have a permanent independence in an impermanent world.

Sometimes I let my mind wander to a post-apocalyptic state where I have nothing but the clothes on my back, the brain in my head and the soul in my heart. What would I ever do in that future world if my identity resided in someone or something else that no longer existed? I would have even less, and that would be devastating.

It’s not any of our faults for making this mistake. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a female problem. But I do think women are more often raised to believe that the men (or women) we end up with, the weddings we have, and the children we bear warrant our efforts to become more intellectually, emotionally and physically successful.

Jane, be the best version of yourself because the things that make you that way fill you with joy. Do what makes you happy and share that energy with the world. Fall in love, of course, but be careful that you’re not doing it to validate your life, or because you depend on it for your main source of happiness and acceptance. Let the men in your life be not the leads in your story, but the supporting cast, for that very reason.

If I sound redundant, it’s intentional. We have to make these points often and we have to make them loud if we’re really going to change the way we women value ourselves. And so, I must say Jane, you have inspired me once again, though maybe not in the way you planned.

I see now that I still have so much more work to do. Thank you for showing me that.

Yours,
The International Woman of Mystery

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This Is Unacceptable

28 Jan

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My Boston friends have caught onto this blog.

Apparently Katie, that girl that I skied with in Vail, told them about it (I had told her about it in a moment of drunken vulnerability that I now regret), and a few of them were curious, so they looked it up.

I received exactly three emails in the last week from three of those close female friends who read the blog.

One email was generally encouraging – thank you, friend, for that.

The other two emails had a critical edge – subtle, but damaging. There was nothing directly punishing or aggressive in them, but the implications behind their loaded comments hurt when I first read them. It was clear they didn’t agree with the way I handled the breakup, and they didn’t seem to like my Jenny G. persona. I let them know that, to little acknowledgment in return.

It’s possible they’re reading this now, so I won’t republish their comments here. But I will say that their questions and passive criticisms made me feel like they were judging not what I’m doing, but who I am. It felt like they think that the person driving my actions is not someone they particularly care for. It felt like they were saying, “Why can’t you fit the version of who I wish you were?”

It was a familiar feeling. When I was with Mr. Poison, he was often disappointed or irritated by my reactions. He used my faults for ransom. Change your faults or I will leave you was the constant, unspoken ultimatum. I criticized myself based on what we fought about. I put myself down in the hope that it would motivate me to change. If I could be perfect the way Mr. Poison wanted, then he would love me perfectly.

It makes you feel like you are unworthy of love unless you change. If you fall for that, you will spend your entire life changing who you are to please someone else. Of course, they will never be pleased because their disapproval has more to do with themselves than with you, and you will never be happy because you’re putting your love of yourself in someone else’s hands.

This is not to say that we can’t get annoyed with each other. This isn’t to say we can’t ask someone to improve a behavior because it’s hurtful or dysfunctional or unsafe. And this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t want to be wiser, more mature, healthier people.

But my friends’ criticisms, like the ones from Mr. Poison, were not about a behavior. They were about a personality trait. They got down to the bare bones of who I am at my core, and in the moment of truth, none of them liked that so much.

After I got the emails, I re-read my blog, from beginning to end, scrutinizing every detail, every perspective, every event, through the lens of someone who actually knows me. I looked at the posts critically. I searched for points where I could have said something less cheesy, or emoted less and opined intelligently a little more. I cringed at the parts where I could feel some of my annoying tendencies coming out.

And then I thought: this is unacceptable. No one should make me feel this way.

Moving to Denver and devoting myself to this IWOM project is one of the first times I can remember developing myself into the person I wanted to be – not the person I believed I needed to be to receive love and acceptance from certain people.

Changing for yourself and for no one else simply makes you a happier person. It takes the burden off others who feel like you depend on them to make you happy. It allows you to bring so much more joy into others’ lives. It’s liberating to figure out that you alone hold the cards to make you happy just by embracing and enhancing your inherent you. And guess what? It’s been that way all along.

When I started this blog, I honestly did not think my friends in Boston would find it, read it, or judge it. I certainly wasn’t writing it for them. Back then, I think the only person I was writing for was myself. I never really thought about an audience until Jane showed up. Now, I am more aware than ever of that audience. I can’t say it makes me totally comfortable, but if I really want to inspire others through my adventures, I’d better get used to it. I’ll just have to remind myself to continue to stay true to myself.

-Jennifer

Home For The Holidays: Part Two

26 Dec

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I’ll admit, I added that last line of the last post for dramatic effect. It sounded good though, didn’t it? Like a real International Woman of Mystery?

I hadn’t been this upset since that night in Boston. Then, I fled. Now, I write.

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I Was Done a Long Time Ago

1 Nov

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“What did you do?”

I finally talked to my mother. I’ve been here four weeks and, though I emailed her a vague story about leaving Boston, told her I’d changed my number, ignored her calls, this was the first time I told her the full story.

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Batgirl’s Wedding Bell Blues

28 Sep

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Last weekend I had to go to San Diego for a wedding of a long-time childhood friend. For as long as I can remember, we’d been promising to go to the other’s wedding, and though I don’t talk to her much anymore, I don’t break my promises.

Maybe I should have broken this one.

Have you ever been to San Diego? It’s hard to walk between neighborhoods. Downtown is a narrow range of chain stores and restaurants built for nondescript tourists. Cruise ships and military vessels dirty the water; the city in its entirety lacks substance and soul.

It was a beach wedding at a fancy hotel on Coronado Island (I was not staying anywhere close to that). The wedding itself was beautiful – a plethora of roses and carefully tied chair bows, thoughtful table centerpieces, and a graceful, three-tiered cake. Everything was understated and perfect, so controlled it made you anxious.

When did weddings become the acceptable replacement for kindergarten show and tell? The couple’s choices say, “Look what I have!” and all the guests think, “I wish I’d had that” or “Mine will be better!”

For show and tell in kindergarten, I once brought a miniature bicycle my older brother made for me. At the time I was struggling to learn how to ride a two-wheeler so Alek twisted some stray wire into a little bike that I could keep in my pocket for courage. He even spray-painted it purple, my favorite color. I loved that little bike and brought it everywhere, so naturally I thought my classmates would love it too.

When I showed it, the kids whispered as I shyly told about how Alek made it. After I sat down, Amber Bauer showed her brand new American Girl doll, with its white stockings and tiny patent leather shoes, the perfectly ribboned hair. After class, all the girls wanted to play with Amber.

This wedding was Amber’s American Girl doll: nice-looking, expensive, coveted. And I was the kid playing in the corner, wondering why no one was interested in my pocket bike.

In the two hours between the ceremony and cocktail hour, the guests freshened up and socialized in their suites. Since I didn’t have a room, and didn’t know anyone, I thought I would explore the community. At first, I enjoyed looking at the colorful beach houses of the San Diego affluent, but once I hit the main strip of independent shops and restaurants, my heels were bleeding from my shoes and my hair had became tangled in the salt-water air.

I showed up to the cocktail hour disheveled and starving. I was so hungry that I shamelessly stood near the kitchen doors so I could pounce on the appetizers as soon as the servers brought them out. When the tuna tar tare came out, I was standing too close to the doors, and I fell over when they opened, spilling my white wine all over my dress.

How could I show my face after that? The rest of the night, I felt permanently blushed. At one point, I finally found myself in a circle of women who looked about my age and didn’t seem to care that I’d just humiliated myself. I walked away less than a minute later, too bored to hear them talk about the merits of a shared bank account.

For the rest of the night, I occupied myself with memories of the wedding I was supposed to have, and the unrequited love that drove me from Boston, and how little I had to show for my life.

At dinner, I sat at a “singles” table that consisted of the bride’s 45-year-old alcoholic, chain-smoking uncle, a couple of cousins on their phones, two empty chairs and the ring bearer and his older brother.

Later, at the bar, just buzzed enough, someone asked me who I was and I told him, “The International Woman of Mystery.” He was less than intrigued.

I stayed long enough for the cake and to make an appearance in some photos to prove that I had been there. Before 10 o’clock, I was back in my rented room downtown, ruminating on the tar tare incident.

Boy did I feel sorry for myself. I am not proud of that. I wish I were the kind of woman who could have made the best of a dull situation, who could have found something interesting to do, who could have enamored guests with her mystery, who would never think about pitying herself. I wish I were the kind of woman who could turn her bike into a Batmobile.