It has been so long since I had talked to someone and these words coming from a man seemed surreal. Being told you're crazy so many times a week for a number of years leaves you feeling and believing like you are—especially coming from someone you love.
Why do men do that? I say. Well, he says to keep you under their control. You sound like my hairdresser, I say. I am not gay, he says. I laugh and cry and explain that I love my hairdresser cause he can talk about his feelings and not just because he is gay and at the same time remembering that there really are men in touch with their feminine side. Men who can have a conversation about feelings and not tell you that you're crazy.
It had been so long since I had friends of my own. I still had to get used to being me again and not feeling so insecure. Like riding a bike again after so many years and being a little unsure, a little scared, but slowly it comes back and you just ride. "Sex is like that too", he says winking.
I could remember a time when men were friends and I could be myself. I had lost something when I got married. Questions started right away about where my husband was and what he was doing whenever I was out by myself, which over the years became less and less until I rarely even went out. Mostly for work or something related to work. When I started a freelance design business my time out in a social way became even less. Well, where is he? People, both men and women would get annoyed if I didn't talk about my husband rather than myself. Somehow we all tacitly agreed to only talk about "The Men". This would assure our "good wife" status at the expense of being ourselves. The men obviously liked it and as a woman, I slowly gave way to it because the consequences of not would get me the little reprimands that came with violating the silly marriage codes that seem to become my new reality—often leaving me confused. What did he say? nothing really. I would say this somewhat exasperated, but knowing that I sort of had to check in and let it be known there was really nothing going on—really.
Silly now as I think about the slow process that eroded my sense of self and replaced it almost exclusively with my husbands. Still so serious these little roles and rules, but I am slowly learning to see how I willingly gave up parts of myself in some pursuit of being a "good wife". I try and laugh at more of them now instead of crying. This helps to clear the way for me to get more in touch with my own thoughts and life again.
To sit and chat with a man and talk about myself again was funny. To also think about having girlfriends again and go to a movie or just goof around seemed so remote and yet sad. Some lost part of my life that was finding its way back again. Just like an old friend you haven't seen in awhile. Only this old friend was me and the way I use to be with friends.
Marriage became so serious. All the fun we had dating gave way to the serious business of me being a "wife". Somehow my husband stayed "The Man" and I became a "wife". He could still be himself, but I was expected to be what he and others wanted me to be—and there were so many others. We were popular as a couple, but mostly the popularity stemmed from him and not me. I was basically his shadow or girlfriend—"the slut he picked up in a bar," I was to learn later—never the real "wife." I was full of failures; my career, my family and the glaringly obvious failure of not having children. It was over before it started, but it took me awhile to understand I would never measure up even though I had spent years trying to be a friend and the wife he and they wanted.
I had not realized that being myself had no place in my marriage anymore and never really did. Who would have thought? I certainly didn't. Being exposed to Feminism in college and slowly building a career, I wrongly assumed most men and women embraced equality. It seemed so basic, so true, so
obvious to me in many ways. Not in all ways, I still loved and liked men being men, but women were just as valuable in their own right.
We would have a partnership I thought, but over time, that idea turned into a marriage that would resemble a copy of 1950 rather than two people who were different, but equal. I certainly did my share of the work and brought much value, love, money and time to the relationship. So being "crazy" seemed so remote—so out of the ordinary that it shocked me at first with its simplicity and also its depth. How such a word could so profoundly affect my ability to be me. Each time I was me, the word was used in that lighthearted way to curtail my spontaneity, my love of life and my ability to talk about me. That is "crazy" or that sounds "crazy" or the laughing that teases you into thinking your silly.
"It is ok," he said, "to be you." "Thanks," I said—it has been awhile. Men are human beings too. They have feelings and emotions and can be friends. Well, maybe not totally cause When Harry Met Sally, he told her they basically always want to fuck you, I thought, laughing to myself.
I had male friends throughout my life or so I thought cause you know how they always want to just have sex, I said and he laughed. I prefer having the idea of their friendship even if they also want to have sex rather than the way it was after I married when the control made me feel neutered; not a woman really just basically trying to be a "good wife"—I didn't even look at men or talk to them really and thinking about sex was dangerous—godforbid talking about it.
I knew I was not crazy all along and it was nice again to be out and be me. "Out and proud," I had to laugh. Maybe you will become a lesbian, he said. I laughed again and finally felt like I could have a good time and not worry about being the good "wife"—just be me.