The Taming of This Shrew.
I have lived with the dynamic of being a feminist since the womb, but raised in a traditionally conservative religion. This has had some unintended consequences, much like if you were a person raised by wolves or gorillas, or a goat raised by a lion, or some other weird mishmash of unlikely, strange and opposing friendships.
I imagine Tarzan and I have a lot in common. His plight is my plight. Is he wild animal or is he respectable human? I don’t know who I am…the girl raised to believe that the greatest happiness was being pleasing and pretty, serving others and losing my self in a sacrifice to relationships/kids/housework/homemaking, OR, the woman who is on a mission to make this life my own and discover the power and divinity inside regardless of who thinks what about this dedication to self development.
Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the classic 1994 film “Greystoke, The Legend of Tarzan: LORD OF THE APES”, then you have a hole in your heart that will only be filled with the genius that is this movie. Chris Lambert mostly naked, Andy McDowell overdubbed by Glen Close because her accent and acting were so bad, and a storyline that has Tarzan returning to civilization when he finds out he’s from a well to do family and they want him back. It becomes apparent that Tarzan, who prowls around growling like a panther, releasing caged animals into the wild, bedding virginal engaged ladies (OK, just one, but I watched that scene like a million times so it seems like he was having mad sex all the time) and refusing to learn proper table manners is of course completely incapable of living a proper British lifestyle. I cheered for him to leave civilization in the hopes it would mean he’d take all his clothes off again…a confusing series of emotions stirring up in my then 12 year old self.
In the words of Tarzan of Greystoke, “I AM HALF GREYSTOKE AND HALF WILD!” except I would actually yell “I AM HALF DOMESTICATED PEOPLE PLEASING DOCILE FEMALE AND HALF WILD!”…something I actually did shout once at a little get together where laughter and booze flowed easily. I was meeting many of the women there for the first time and trying to make friends. This drunken outburst made them all love me and want to keep me around, if only to watch the dichotomy between traditionally conservative and fiercely feminist play out in zany ways so they could then laugh at me.
I fluctuate at an alarmingly psychotic pace, although lately I’ve been stuck on the “women who run with wolves” side of the pendulum.
My friends watch with amusement. Especially when I attempt to date. If I’m in a group, they will approach me quietly and point out, “Hey, that guy that offered his jacket for you to wear? That was nice, he likes you, why didn’t you take it?”
and I say, “I DON’T NEED ANYTHING FROM ANY MAN!!! I AM HAPPY AND FULFILLED IN MY OWN SELF!!! AND IF MY OWN SELF BECOMES COLD BECAUSE I FORGOT A JACKET THEN I AM SMART ENOUGH TO THINK OF HOW I CAN GET WARM AGAIN!!!”
Then they say, “OK Rambo. But maybe think of it differently. Guys really like to do nice things for girls they like. It makes them happy!”
And I say, “I’M NOT HERE TO BE A PAWN IN SOME GUY’S SICK GAME!!! I AM MY OWN WOMAN, HERE TO MAKE ME HAPPY…NOT TO FOCUS ON HOW TO MAKE SOME SAD DUDE FEEL HAPPY IF HE’S INCAPABLE OF BEING HAPPY ON HIS OWN!!! THAT’S WHAT PETS ARE FOR, AND I AM NO PET!!!”
Then they say, “yes, we know, we know. YOU ARE WOMAN! But Jesus Christ, you need to tone that shit down. You can be WOMAN and also be a little flirty! A little girly! A little bit of a damsel in distress, you know?!”
So I say “I SAVE MYSELF!!! I AM STRONG, CAPABLE, CONFIDENT, AND SMART!!!”
and then they laugh their asses off while directing me towards groups of men so they can watch the interaction and feel better about themselves in comparison to my confused and disorienting life.
At the end of the night they ask about specific dudes that it seemed I clicked with. I tell them that while they were nice, they kept calling me “Princess” or “Love” or “Doll” or “Beautiful” or some other bullshit nickname that takes away all my feminist power and totally ruins all feelings of equanimity.
“Oh! I looooooove being called a princess!” says my friend as she skips off arm and arm with her knight in shining armor. They are both beaming.
I want to be beaming with a guy. I really do. But every time a dude calls me something like that or texts it, an alarm goes off in my head and I hear the Ting Ting’s singing “THAT’S NOT MY NAME!”
My friends ask what nicknames would be better.
I think for a little bit.
“I’m kinda partial to “Killer”, “Tiger” and “Champ”, I say.
They try to maintain their composure. “So you kinda want him to treat you like a softball coach would.”
“I don’t know about softball culture, ” I say, “I was too busy taking ballet and going to cooking classes.”
“You are a very interesting blend” they tell me.
Ever since getting rescued, though, I’ve softened up a bit. Dudes ARE here to help. And it DOES feel good to be rescued.
The other night a man offered me his jacket. Shivering, I refused. Then I took a breath, got over myself, said I’d changed my mind, and asked if I could wear it. So I did, and it was cozy and warm and smelled like man. I liked it!
The next day I texted to thank him for the courtesy. He replied, “You’re welcome, Doll. Anything to keep that body of yours warm!” and I vomited in my mouth a little bit.