On Being Well-Behaved
My mother loves to tell this story about a two-year-old Madison:
I was playing in another room and suddenly became very quiet. She was understandably suspicious - a quiet two-year old is rarely a good sign.
"Madison?" she asked, "What are you doing in there?"
To which I promptly shouted in reply, "I'm being-haved, Mom!"
She loves the story as a sign of my early scholastic brilliance - the fact that I had been told to "behave" so many times that I had conjugated the verb to "being haved".
Personally, I still shudder at this story. Because what was cute at two has haunted me my entire fucking life.
Am I behaving?
Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?
Am I doing it right?
Are the results perfect?
What does everyone around me think about the way that I'm doing the thing?
Good note for parents out there - if you want a high-achieving daughter, monitor them every minute of every day for perfectly feminine behavior. Correct as necessary.
(Side note: My mother is an amazing and brilliant woman who I respect and love with every cell of my being. She just happened to give birth to me at the age of 22, when she was attempting to figure out how to adult as well. I can't imagine anything more difficult. My mom had chilled out considerably by the time my sister came around, which is why my sister is so much more well-adjusted and gives so many fewer fucks.)
I am tired of being a well-behaved girl.
I am tired of following all of the rules, of doing the things the way that they "should" be done.
Of listening to the authority figures without question. (Who decided that they were the authority, anyway?)
I want to be my own damn authority figure.
It feels like a much longer lifetime when you "need" to always be nice, be sweet, be kind and caring and thoughtful. When you spend your days trying to make sure that your actions leave no one the slightest bit uncomfortable. When you constantly worry that the way in which you navigate the world might reflect poorly on your mother, your father, your partner, your siblings.
A whole lot of pressure built up.
29 years of rage, to be exact.
And even if certain emotions aren't allowed to be expressed, they still have to exist somewhere.
Ashtanga yoga was a good pressure relief for me. It became imminently clear that 2 hours of sweating every morning mellowed me considerably, and took most of the edge off. Partying helps, too - dancing, blowing off steam, getting rowdy in a socially-acceptable setting.
The rage still simmered - mostly below the surface, but when it did show up, it had a tendency to be more than slightly irrational. It usually reared it's ugly head in the form of cunning, passive-aggressive behavior and power plays. Mostly towards "authority" or controlling figures in my life.
(My Indian astrologer explained it all to me - it's because of the placement of Mars in my chart, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it, except maybe some pujas, and it's also the reason why I will never be able to get married and be controlled by a man. Good thing I happened to marry a man who doesn't attempt to control me :) )
I made a habit of provoking my poor, patient, and ever-loving father with a passive aggressive comment whenever he made a less-than-progressive statement. I told off a junior high school teacher - loudly, fiercely, in the middle of a crowded classroom - for his sexist comment about boys being better at math. I've made more than a few sly, under-handed comments about other people's shitty behavior. And, in one of the weakest moments of my life - I thoughtlessly smashed the heart of the man I love into smithereens; over a deep, abiding fear of not being able to "succeed" in a life-long marriage.
Those are all fucked-up life experiences. I'm not proud of any of them. That's not who I want to be.
When I have a problem with someone's actions or words, I want to communicate with them - honestly, patiently, as an adult. I want to hear people out before I fly into a rage about how Goddamn WRONG they are.
I want to focus on the good that is innately within each of us, not run around condemning people for the things they do or say that I don't agree with.
But I also want to honor myself.
Because I get passionate about things.
I get emotional.
I talk loudly, and fiercely, and with my whole body.
And I don't want to be told to hold back because it's unladylike or too intense.
Life is intense.
People are intense.
Passion is exciting and invigorating and necessary when we need to create change in an unjust system.
And that, my friends, is who will be changing the world.
The passionate ones, the bold ones, the brave ones.
The ones who follow their hearts and heads and brilliant minds.
I'm talking about every single one of my amazing girlfriends and sisters and mentors and mamas, and the incredible men who befriend them and love them.
The Feminists, both Men and Women - Bold, and Brazen, and Free.