You know you are out of balance as a woman when you keep encountering control-freakish, verbally abusive, men in power—men who act like doms on steroids.
Because as much as I want to make it about them, I know those power drunks represent aspects of me. It’s Jungian shadow work 101, along with the “life’s a mirror” theory.
Traffic cop Butterchuck pulled me over for a supposed infraction (really it was a trap and I wish I had the instant replay). Once he waved me onto the shoulder, he sauntered over and sneered that I had not stopped for him fast enough and indeed had tried to run him over. He sarcastically mimicked the way I talked to my passenger German Shepard (I was commanding her to stay versus leap through the open window to rip his throat out). As he wrote the ticket, he threatened to charge an extra $200 for my stolen front license plate that I had reported and replaced (but had yet to affix because, as I explained to him, the thief had stolen the screws.)
Basically, he acted like a jerk on a power trip.
Granted he was obese, and okay I’ll say it, with that triple chin, he was facially unattractive. And yes I so get that his life might simply be miserable. But I also get that of all the cops in the world, I ended up with an outright misogynist.
Then today, crossing to the U.S. from Canada, I get a male customs officer running the same wounded-masculine software.
Ma’am what will you be doing in Maui?
Lying on the beach and reading.
That’s not a direct answer ma’am.
Um. It’s not?
What will you be doing, ma’am.
I didn’t’ know what else to say except the truth, so I repeated more slowly that I would be sunning on the beach and catching up on my recreational reading. Did he want marital sex forecasts too?
After a few grim head shakes, he let me know the right answer was, I will be taking a vacation. He went as far as to mention the b word next, saying, and I quote, “If it’s not a vacation then you could be lying on the beach reading and making a bomb.” (I swear, this is a true story).
Next, in the same Gestapo tone: Do you have pets?
When I nod, he accuses my passport of smelling like animal urine (yes, I know, you can’t make this shit up). He says it three times in a loud voice. When he hands it back, I sniff. It smells a little bit like vitamin B’s which are usually spilled in the bottom of my purse. So I tell him it could be a nutritional smell. He almost grabs my passport back because, I assume, that too was the wrong answer.
Later on the plane, I ask my husband (who had a nice lady customs officer): Do I come across like a controlling asshole on a power trip sometimes?
I can tell he desperately wants to duck this one, but finally relents: “Yes.”
I’m sure that’s not the right answer. But I listen.
He says I can be so focused on what I am doing, usually writing, editing and, lately, launching my own magazine that apparently I can be harsh, dismissive and ridged when interrupted, or say, asked when dinner might be ready.
This is new for me, this driven, goal-oriented person I’ve become in the last year. It feels like play to me, muse-full and fun, but I can see too how it is consuming my feminine in a conflagration of masculine duty to do more, meet deadlines and work harder.
I am both masculine and feminine, as we all are, and lately I’ve noticed my manly side needs some tender loving care. It’s becoming a liability, my own inner Officer Butterchuck rampaging though my domestic and love life with all the grace and poise of a bull. I need to love it up, this manly me, the way a good woman would love up her stressed-out, overworked man.
So for all you hard-working, independent, successful working girls with a brewing Officer Butterchuck complex, take note and try this advice, which I promise I will be trying as well.
1. Whisper. When you want to shout at someone, take a deep breath instead and practice the breathless Marilyn Monroe sex-kitten whisper. Or better yet, try the Bette Davis throaty-hoarse voice that brings to mind long-stemmed cigarette holders, bourbon-sipping and nights of catch-your-breath passion under silk sheets with your lover. Bring this old-school gal voice to your life (use sparingly) and those commands to your loved ones and work mates will sound instead like a seductive suggestion. Yes ma’am!
2. Find Pasture Time. You’ve been working for 12 hours straight, slinging cocktails, running a corporation, editing a magazine. Whatever you’re doing, and doing like a winning thoroughbred racehorse, you also need to find time to simply laze and graze. Restorative measures might look like reading a good book, doing yoga, watching a movie, getting a massage, tea with girlfriends or a quiet night cooking at home with your beloved. The time-outs will fuel the work-time and create a needed balance between doing and being. Sigh of relief, anyone?
3. Shake your booty. Get up off your chair and put on an old-timey disco song (Stayin’ Alive?) or a club-stomping anthem (It’s Gonna Be a Good Night) and move your body. Bottom line, dancing is inherently, intimately feminine. It will take you home to your sensual, rhythmic female-ness faster than even the caresses and kisses of an attentive lover. Belly dance anyone?
4. Fool Around. This is what the quickie was made for. The best break from an intense stretch of work, is to jump your lover’s bones—or to jump your own. Pleasure with self or another, just like dancing, brings the body to the foreground. And again, the body is a key to the feminine just as the mind is a door the masculine. This is true for both sexes.
5. Be a Magnet. The masculine in each of us is a go-getter, the pursuer and taker. The feminine is the part of each of us that is receptive. It attracts what it needs and wants. Think of yourself a huge horseshoe magnet and your goals as the iron-filings lining up in response to your intentions. This might sound new-agey, but it works. Allowing things to happen is a whole lot less stressful than always working to make it happen.
6. Put on the Charm. Bill Clinton was a charismatic president who played the sensual saxophone. He is a powerful man with a strong feminine current that allowed him to broker middle-east compromises that more assertive presidents had failed to do. (And yes, this same charisma got him into trouble with mistresses). As a woman, your natural charismatic ability can be harnessed to enchant and bewitch. This means you can create harmonious deals, soften confrontations and get your goals met with charm instead of brute force. When your innate charisma is allowed to flow, life just gets easier.
7. Get Your Sexy Back. There’s something about feeling sexy that puts me right into my feminine. Sexy can be so many expressions, from how we dress, to how we talk and to how we move. For me, sexy means getting out of my jeans and into a clingy dress, or putting on red lipstick, or letting my hips sway when I walk. There is not one kind of sexy. There is just your own version of it. So find your sexy and put it on.
8. Trust that Something Good is Trying to Happen. This one is a biggie. Trust is a feminine trait, especially when we take it to the level of surrender. Believing that no matter what chaos, disruption and detours are taking place, somehow things are working out for the best. Even my examples, of looking at the controlling men I was encountering as a wake-up call to my own lack of balance, is how as women (and men engaging their feminine) we can learn to soften into reality. This bending instead of breaking is the hallmark of the feminine way. And those forehead worry wrinkles will soften too, when we learn to let go control and trust the process.
I grew up a tomboy, playing softball with the boy next door, building tree houses and generally acting like a commander-in-chief, rallying the neighborhood kids in games of tag and red rover.
And I founded the Sex Club, a secret group of mostly one eight-year-old-boy and all the little girls like me who wanted to see just what he had in his pants—and share what I had in mine. I still remember the time his part grew longer and bigger, and all us girls stood around with him marveling at this strange expanding “member”—we didn’t even know what to call it yet, though I think he called it his “weenie.”
This dichotomy of tomboy-tree-climber and sex-curious-girl still exists in me. I am equally at home in jeans, boots and a leather jacket as I am in a frilly lace dress and heels. I can be a charming dinner hostess leading the dance party, and I can be a driven workaholic writer and editor with a bossy streak.
I want to learn how to be manly and womanly, to be assertive and soft, to act with power and move with grace, to march when I need to and dance when I can.
I am womanly hear me roar. I am manly, hear me purr. That is real balance. I’ll let you know when I find it.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta