Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Radical Notion

I am turning into my parents.

First, some background: my parents (all three of them), although lovely people in many ways, have been successful in their lives largely by believing they are right about everything, holding themselves as number one and always doing exactly what they want when they want it. Self-centered? Possibly. Selfish? Maybe. Entitled? Definitely. These truths have caused much friction and stress in my life. So when someone important told me the other day that I was a bit like my parents, I became a little scared.

But then I realized, they are right. And you know what? That's kind of ok.

So, it is no surprise that I have a large sense of entitlement. People have told me that since I was practically in the womb. I know what I want and I think I deserve to get it. When I was small, this was called "spoiled." As I have grown, though, I have definitely seen the value in pushing myself and forcing myself to get the things I want. Nobody will hand me anything. I realize this now.

But these words--selfish, entitled, self-centered--they are all so negative. I know women who beat themselves up for being "selfish" and yet never actually DO the things that make them "selfish." There seems to be this pervasive idea in our society that because a woman has wants (even ones she never fulfills), this makes her selfish. I think this might be the reason so many people are miserable--unfulfilled desire and guilt in spades.

I do have guilt, no doubt. But I also have my sense of entitlement. And that often overrides my guilt. So, does this make me a bad person? The kind of person people do not want to hang out with? I don't think so. I care about people. In fact, the people I love, I love with everything I have. I would do anything to protect them. But is it so wrong if that includes myself? When did putting oneself first become self-centered?

I am not suggesting that we never put others first. There are many times I put Sam first (many) and many times I put R or my sister or my friends first, too. Like I said, the people I am loyal to, I will do anything for. But I also do not compromise myself. I loathe being taken advantage of and have never had a problem saying no to things I don't want to do. And most of the time, I really do not care what people think of me. All of these things are traditionally bad qualities in a woman, but I have a radical idea: maybe the reason so many women are miserable is because they constantly martyr themselves to others' needs. Maybe they are too scared to do what they want to do so they fall back on their swords like the victims they actually are not.

The few women I know who are not like this are also the happiest women I know. So, I am going to keep my sense of entitlement, negative as it might sound. And I am going to hope I pass it to Sam. Some might call me selfish, they might call me a bitch, but they will never call me unhappy because I feel entitled to fix that. And that is what I hope for my daughter above all. I hope she never has to apologize for wanting to be happy.

So, in a funny way, I think my friend was right. I am like my parents in some ways: I will never play martyr and I will never have a life I did not want because I was too reticent to speak up about it.

Does that make me a horrible person? Honestly, I don't really care.

No comments: