The Independent Woman

It’s not easy being an independent woman. Men are attracted to us; but they don’t know what the hell to do once they have us.

Last week as I was working on my “Getting To Know Me” post, a friend of mine pulled up. I was actually putting in a section in the post of “independent woman” after talking with her, I pulled it. YUP! Damn straight it deserves an entry all its own.

This friend and I have known one another since her and her son came to our old neighborhood. We honestly did not get to be best of friends until after Jack left. Sure she is a little more abrasive than I am. Her and I still laugh at a night we went out for my birthday and the place we were going…well ok I can say it now…their food was crap. However we didn’t realize until we got inside that once you are in you are not supposed to go out. This is also where she pointed out “you’re a rule follower.” We wanted to have a bite to eat…not damn pimento cheese sandwiches. We wanted…munch food…..not tofu what the hell ever. However, she went to the people at the front, and basically said we are going across the road to get a bite to eat and you are letting us back in. The lil college kids at the front did a “umm.ahhhh…hrrrrr. You can’t do that the sign says. We have food on the roof top.” Where was I? I wandered off. I am just not like that. Never have been and never will be. Five minutes later, she was talking to the manager and she told him the food on the rooftop sucked and they would probably get more business on fries, onions rings and ahhh drunk food than tofu and pimento sandwiches.  I’m playing on my phone away from the whole situation. She comes up to me “come on let’s go.” Me “where are we going?” her “to get real food and then we will come back and watch the band.” So my friend is a lil more abrasive, a lil more outgoing, etc. We blend really well though. We do have a common bond; we are independent females. How we grew up, we had to do for ourselves.  She actually had a harder life than I did growing up. One accident changed her life at 14. I hope she does not mind me talking about this, but I feel it’s important. That accident killed her father and left her mother in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. In an instant that 14 year old young girl; had to be a woman.  A lot of people judge her for her abrasiveness, her demeanor.  I guess that is why her and I get along so well, because even though we have different personalities for the most part, there is a reason why women become that independent female. We had a life where we had to grow up fast. The reasons we became independent females were different, but the reasons were the same. No one else was there to do it. Could you imagine at 14 talking to adults getting things set up for your parent who was walking one day and now in a wheel chair and would need nursing care the rest of her life? Don’t judge her or any female that is independent. There is a reason we are that way.

So anyway, she popped by, I was working on a small pool I had bought for the kids trying to get it situated just right. The box had a suggestion of having more than one person situating the pool. (Laughing) Yeah right in a perfect world.  As she is talking I said “come on through the house I have a pool to put up you can talk to me while I am doing it.” We talked, I moved, situated and without hesitation she picked up a side of a pool and helped me. It wasn’t an intrusion for me. There was no innuendo of you can’t do this by yourself. She knew I could do it by myself. What would have taken me about 20-30 minutes to get where I needed it to, her and I had it done in 5 to 10.

Oh did I mention that she also spent the entire weekend helping the kids and I move because the house got foreclosed on? Two women and the kids moved all the contents out of the house in 2 days.  Oh there was a guy was there, he sat on the tailgate a lot. Her and I were in the “let’s get this shit done mode.” We wore his ass out. I think all three of our kids (her son, my son and daughter) did more work than he did.  We were like two tornadoes in that house.

Anyway, once we were done, we came out on the front porch and sat. I could tell she needed to talk and mostly vent. As she is talking, I am listening, nodding about and also finishing her sentences and she could tell I was active in the conversation she looked at me and said “I am glad you understand and are following me on this.” I laughed and said “it’s funny we are talking about this because a few minutes before you came by I was working on a post about this very thing. About the fact that men are attracted to independent females, but don’t know what to do with them once they have them” she laughed “no shit.”

She said it out loud and I was thinking it at the very same time. “Men don’t understand that even though we are independent, we still need that compassion, caring, appreciation and attention.”

Even in 2012, while men are attracted to that independent female, they aren’t used to having an independent female as a partner. They sometimes forget that we are still women and we need compassion, tenderness, touch, kiss, communication, attention and appreciation. We cry, we hurt, we have feelings just the same as any other woman.  Don’t assume that when you get into a relationship with us that we are going to be that woman that is the housewife, that does all the cleaning, cooking etc for you.  Also don’t assume that because you are a man you will be doing the yard work, house repairs and have a honey do list. The list is an “us “ list. We aren’t that woman that is going to watch you fix the roof; we’ll be up there with you. We aren’t that woman that you go do the yard work and we clean the house. No we can both do housework together and we can both do yard work together. We also know that this won’t happen all the time.  There will be times our partner will ask us to do something and vice versa. That is part of a relationship. We also know we have to tone down (not let go) some of our independence for the relationship. Don’t think for a moment that if we ask you to do something, that we are not capable of doing it ourselves. It’s called we have got so much on our damn plate we are delegating. Just because we are independent does not mean we do not know how to ask for help.

Men how many times have you done a project and your wife, girlfriend made suggestions on how to do it? How many times did it piss you off because you know she’s never done anything like that before? Guess what when I offer suggestions I’m not talking out my ass, chances are I have done it before. Here’s an example. In the old house Jack and I shared we had an unfinished room in the basement (I say basement because it was a split level), this one wall was concrete…and pipes. Jack’s dad came up to help us. While they are standing there looking at the wall and all the pipes figuring out how to put the framing up, The wall was literally a jigjaw of pipes. What do they decide? Do jigsaw framing. I looked at both of them and I offered my opinion. Extend the wall out, we would lose a foot of space. If you do the jig saw framing you can’t put anything on that wall, not even the smallest nail because once that wall goes up, you aren’t going to remember where the pipes are at. And if someone pounds a nail and it hits one of those pipes you are literally going to have shit all over the place because one of the main pipes was the sewer line to the septic. I got the what the hell do you know look and “you’ve never done this before.” Ahh yeah actually I have. I’ve done framing, roofing (worse pitch than the house we bought)…NEXT!!! Whatever,  drive the bus Jack, I’m an idiot.

I’m not a know it all. There are a lot of things I do not know how to do. Guess what, I will figure it out on my own. Or I will ask someone that knows. This woman is not afraid of getting dirty, breaking a nail, getting sweaty etc.  I’ve made my own slide out shelves for my pantry. I’ve painted rooms, mowed, edged the grass, planted, moved furniture up and down stairs, rearranged furniture…would have been nice to have help and it sure as hell would have been a lot easier. Ask for help… I did.

I also cleaned the house, did dishes, did laundry. I’m not a clean freak. I am not the woman who is going to bitch and moan about shoes in the house when I just cleaned (Unless I just steam cleaned the carpets), I am not gonna freak out over a Kool-aid spill on the couch. There’s a reason my children knew how to drink out of a regular glass under two years old and why your six year old is still drinking out of a sippy cup. Not gonna kill myself cleaning and getting onto the kids over every little thing.  When they were younger I would help them pick up their rooms and they would pick up toys. Jack and I had a difference of opinions on housecleaning. Apparently in his world of growing up, it had to be pristine, presentable at all times.  As my therapist said he was ready for the Marine Corps before he stepped off the bus, when he was 18.

Now I will say this, my mother was not the housekeeper type. I was the one that did the housecleaning. God rest my mother’s soul, the house wasn’t dirty, it was just heavily cluttered. She “collected” everything.  I can’t watch the Hoarders show because of how I grew up. My room was messy, hell even my friends rooms who had clean houses (that the kids did) were messy from time to time. There were a good many times I couldn’t see the floor of my friends rooms.  I’ve seen their floors dirty, bathrooms in disarray, beds unmade. They were far from slobs and their house wasn’t messy. IT’S CALLED NORMAL LIVING PEOPLE.  I felt more at home and welcome at my best friends house than I ever did at Jack’s parents house. When you aren’t sure if you are allowed to sit on the couch or if you should use the hand towel in the bathroom, and everything from ceiling to floor, to include furniture is white….it’s not welcoming.  Taking the grand kids there?? HOLY SHIT!

Here’s my take on it and I know not everyone will agree with me. A house that is always clean and never in disarray gives me just as much of a red flag as a home that is a disaster (Hoarders people I’m talking Hoarders). Both of those extremes give me vibes (don’t knock my vibes).  That overly clean, overly organized and everything in its place, house gives me vibes that it’s not always necessarily a happy home. I get the same feeling with the hoarder type of house.

I also get that there are women out there that enjoy doing that. (laughing) and regardless of what type of woman you are, when we know people are coming over, we scurry around making sure things are picked up. We are ALL guilty of doing that.

I’m not the woman who spends countless hours in the kitchen cooking, every night. I will cook,  but don’t expect it just because I am a woman.  If you ask “what’s for dinner?” you might just get a “whatever you are cooking” answer. My kids love my cooking, so I cook for them. I cook their favorites a lot of times. Sometimes it’s whatever I can find. They know the rules. Eat what was made for you or go make something yourself. When they were younger, I would try to get them to eat new things, if they didn’t like it, it was a battle of wits. I no longer do it. There were a lot of things I didn’t eat as a kid that I eat now. They will figure it out. I make the vegetables they like and the foods they like. I encourage trying new things. I have actually had more response from them in trying new things by not forcing it. My daughter is less picky than her brother and sometimes if it’s on my plate and it’s something she wants to try I will see her fork or spoon come over to my plate and grab one. “ooh mama that’s real good. Can you put a little bit on my plate?” Smile, “I sure will.”   The kids aren’t going to be screwed up because of it. Even in the marriage there were a lot of things I enjoyed cooking, that Jack refused to eat. Growing up I used to doctor up the spaghetti sauce, green peppers, onions, etc. I used to make an awesome beef stir fry, using bok choy. Tried to make those things, Jack didn’t like them. Started to make what him and the kids liked. Still wasn’t good enough for him. Guess what, chicken nuggets and fries it is then. I have never been the big meal person. I don’t need potatoes, meat and veggies for supper all the time.  Some nights I just want a salad. Some nights a PB&J suffices because I am not that hungry.

Tomboy? Yes I am and very proud of it.  With being who I am, I have not had many female friends.  The female friends I have in my life are very special to me.  When Jack and I would go to parties, I wasn’t in the kitchen talking with the girls. I was with the guys. I was more comfortable with what the guys were talking about because I know what they are talking about. Don’t want to be in the house with the women, gossiping, bitching, moaning and oh yeah taking care of the kids while the boys are outside. Jack would never understand that, “go hang out with the girls” ahh no I have my female friends and these aren’t them.  I don’t want to talk about the 400 plus dollar Coach pursue you got cause I could care a less. I don’t give a shit about designer clothes, purses or the new trendy fashions. Don’t care how long you spent at the salon getting your hair done and nails done. I am thinking sweet Lord these women are buying all this crap and Jack is bitching at me for buying useful stuff we need.

I’d rather be that woman that can be independent and can do this by herself. Than be in a relationship where I am still am doing it myself.  That is more hurtful than going it alone.

Part Two: The Mother-in-law from Hell

Remember that storm that I mentioned I felt brewing? It took from Christmas 1997 until we moved back to the states, for that storm to come ashore. It took a Thanksgiving in 2001 for it to build it’s ugly head. An outsider witnessed the entire thing over the holiday. Actually my brother in laws partner. He was disgusted with the way I was being treated. Guess what people? When an “outsider” sees it, it’s happening. I knew exactly how I was being treated. I just took it. But he was the one who spoke up to my brother in law and then apparently my brother in law confronted his mother. BTW it’s my fault he did that. What happened as a result to that?

March 2002 I get card in the mail because it’s my birthday. Oo the card is from my in laws; that was very nice of them. Oh and there’s a letter in it. I get excited with mail too, just as much as I do Christmas. 7 pages of note paper of how much she hated me. I was using her son. I did nothing. Her son did it all. I didn’t play with my child. And I had the gall to turn her sons…not just Jack her other son as well..against her. I drove a wedge in between her family. How dare I. I was pissed beyond belief. I stayed outside most of the night. I threw the letter at Jack. “I just want you to know. I am not done with you, but I am done with them.” Ugly words…and nastiness uttered my mouth. My husband read the letter and he was more pissed than I was. So pissed he wished “that bitch would die.” What she doesn’t realize those words did not hurt me. I might have seemed weak to her. She may have believed every word she wrote but what hurt the most was that this mother who claimed to love her son, did this to him. I never made him choose his parents over me. I would never ask him to do that. I wouldn’t want it asked of me. My heart ached for my husband. All I could do was hold him and told him I wasn’t going anywhere. I even told him to stop saying those horrible things about his mother. “don’t wish her dead Jack, she’s your mother. She’s not perfect. Yeah it hurts what she said. I know it’s not true. I’m pissed as hell because she never gave me a chance. She never wanted to know me.” He assured me he wouldn’t regret what he said over that kitchen sink if she croaked tomorrow. He also took away my keys and he went to the store and bought my a six pack of my favorite drink. Even in a crappy situation I can make a joke because if you don’t the hurt will consume you. “Why you taking my keys it’s not like I am going to waste the gas to drive 8 hours and confront her. She’s not worth it.” he knew I was upset. Yes I was. He didn’t want me driving. I wasn’t the only one to get a letter. Her daughters husband got a letter….9 pages. Him and I joked about it. Of course if they read this they will say I didn’t like him. Guess what I didn’t have to like him…I wasn’t married to him. He loved their daughter more than they will ever know. Him and I may not have always say eye to eye. I didn’t like the things he did , but I didn’t have to live with him; none of my damn business. It was after the letters we received I actually got to know a different side of him. He was tough on the exterior, but he had a soft heart.

The reason for her letter? Blah blah blah. She has always been the black sheep in her family. Her family treated her like crap. Her mother was dying and she was so frustrated. Blah blah blah…wonk wonk wonk..whatever.

Over the course of the next few weeks it was quite interesting. She called the house to see if I got the letter. Jack answered the phone because I told him it was their number. I didn’t hear her end just remember what I heard on his end. Yeah she got the letter. Did she call you to discuss the letter? Then I don’t think she wants to talk to you right now. Can’t say as I blame her really. No I am not going to get her on the phone. it got worse. He started yelling. what the hell do you mean you’re pissed she showed me the letter and how dare she? I’m her damn husband and my mother just sent her a hate letter in her effin’ birthday card. He was more ticked than I was. He was screaming on the phone. Veins were popping out of his neck.

A couple days later his dad called him. I always liked his dad, I never really had a problem with his dad. I had a lot of respect for his dad. I would have called him dad because that’s how I felt being around him. I didn’t always agree with his dad, didn’t always liked his views, but I liked him. His dad had called to get me to apologize. Just make it go away have her apologize and we can move on. It hit a nerve in Jack that I had never seen before. The two of them got into it as well.

The whole thing made me sick. Regardless of what she was accusing me of it wasn’t true. I knew it wasn’t true. I wasn’t perfect but I knew her accusations were not true. Jack accused her of never liking any of the women he hated or had relationships with. He went back and recounted girlfriends he had in school. She disagreed.

A few weeks later Jack’s grandmother died. We all rushed home to Moline. If I recall he said I didn’t have to go. What part of I am in this for the long haul don’t you understand? I knew I didn’t have to go. I knew I had ever right not to want to be around this woman. I loved my husband…her son more than she could ever comprehend. I think even more than he could comprehend. If you aren’t willing to go through the fire with a person you have no business marrying them.

The day of the funeral, I stepped outside for a smoke. I didn’t have anger, I didn’t have hatred. Despite what his mother did and said to me, I still showed up. Not to be in your face you can’t break me. Sometimes people do these things to others that are hurtful because they are the ones hurting the most inside. She came outside as I was puffing enjoying the cold March air in Illinois. We stood there, she started talking, I talked and then she broke down. I did the most instinctive thing I knew….held her. It was awkward I won’t lie. I recall hearing in history class of soldiers…enemies stopping the fight to wish each other Merry Christmas. It wasn’t some “fairy tale” I heard it through the tears of a War Veteran. I didn’t think of this woman as my enemy, she was human. I didn’t like what she did or how she did things or hurt people but she was family now. She just lost her mother and regardless of all the bickering a mother and daughter do there’s a relationship there that no one understands. I was leery of the situation however. Are the fangs going to appear from her? You can think of all the scenarios. I didn’t care if she spit venom at me. She needed to be held. She was hurting. However, as a woman I also knew…it wasn’t me she wanted holding her. I was just the one that showed her kindness despite what had taken place. The rest of her family was still pissed at her and she deserved everything she got. I excused myself politely and marched into the funeral home and sought out her husband, daughter and two sons. “I have spent the last five minutes outside holding a woman who just weeks ago told me how much she basically hated me. GET YOUR ASSES OUTSIDE and go to her. She doesn’t need me consoling her. She needs her family; she just lost her mother for crying out loud.” And I stood there looking at them all.

There was no mention again of that time, I never forgot and it still hurt. It never got better; it only got worse.

2003 I was pregnant with our daughter. Our daughters due date was actually my mother in laws birthday. She was excited. I knew my daughter wouldn’t be born on her grandmothers birthday. She was going to pick her own day. It wasn’t I didn’t want her to be born on a family members birthday. If my daughter had any ounce of my blood in me and the generations of women on my side of the family….she was going to be born when she damn well felt like it. A week later and a week over due; told y’all. For some reason people think I pull words out my arse and say things willy nilly.

Mom was coming down to help with our son. Second babies come early so she would come two days after the due date. Boy was she surprised when I greeted her at the bus stop. “We stopping at the hosptial?” I grabbed her suitcases and laughed, “Nope, I’m gonna be pregnant forever.”

Jack had announced to everyone…marines, friends, family. Not to come to the hospital until the baby is born. This was also told to his parents. Finally we are going to be having a baby. Jack calls his parents they will be up…Oh yeah they moved again 2 hours from us.

Jack and I are chilling out in the birthing room. I am doing a crossword puzzle. We are laughing and joking and the nurse says “you have visitors” Jack looked at me “I’m gonna kill those marines I told them.” and he stopped and saw his mother’s head peek in. Oh how are you kids doing? We just thought we would stop in before we went to the house to see if you guys need anything. The kindness and sweetness made me want to throw up. I didn’t say anything…I bit my tongue. Jack and her go get something to eat and bring it back to the hospital room. I was thinking what both of them could do with their whoppers or whatever the hell they were eating as I asked my father in law to “pass the ice chips please.’ I thought about throwing the cup of ice chips at Jack….I controlled myself. The lack of respect this woman had for OUR wishes was mind blowing. Finally Jack pulled his dad aside and said to get her out of here and he couldn’t believe he let her do this. Jack’s dad did apologize. He had no control over it. She offered to drive the last leg of the trip and he told her they shouldn’t come here but she insisted.

Beatrice kept hounding me. Did she want me to go get my mom? She could drop Jack’s dad off and be back in an instant. Nope. I had all ready talked to my mother. I had asked her if she wanted to come into the delivery room. She said no because I would have to invite Jack’s mother and she didn’t want Jack’s mother near me when I was delivering.

The baby was here…finally. Jack’s parents and mom brought big brother to see his sister. We had set rules, big brother gets to be introduced and see the baby first, before anyone else. If I recall correctly his parents only stayed two days. When they said they were going home, we all looked at them like they were crazy. When they left, mom said Beatrice tried so hard to get her to come back to the hospital with her. Mom flat out told her that the kids have said they do not want anyone at the hospital and we are going to respect that. Mom wasn’t stupid she knew what Beatrice was up to. If she got mom to go to the hospital I wouldn’t say no and the two of them would see their grandchild born. We all thought she got her nose out of joint because of that and that’s why they left. She didn’t get what she wanted so she was going to go sulk…maybe write another letter.

In 2003 another death in the family. I will never forget the phone call as long as I live. Jack was not at home. I answered the phone and it as his sister. I could tell something was wrong. She was asking for Jack and I told her he wasn’t home. I knew something was wrong by her voice. I loved her I thought of her like a sister. Again I didn’t always agree with her but I loved her. Her husband died that day. My heart sunk for her. There was no thinking , it was “we’ll be there as soon as we can.” I’m blowing up Jack’s phone. And we leave as quickly as we can.

Once we are back in Jack’s home town the entire family is there for his sister and her son. I didn’t know what to do for her. I felt helpless. How do you help or console someone who just lost someone they love? We were out on the back deck and his sister was talking to the pastor. I had gone inside and Jack’s mother was all ready in there and out of my mother in laws mouth came “she will be better off now. This is for the best” I looked at her I couldn’t believe what she just said. Her daughters husband had not been gone but not even a day and this is what her mother says. Are you kidding me? Then you wonder….of all the people she could have said this to, that are around in this house…why did she just say it to me? You just let it go like the rest of the BS she’s be dishing…whatever.

2006 my mother becomes sick. I had all ready been home once and I was getting ready to go back again this time I had told Jack I am going home until the end. He dreaded asking his mother for help. But he did. She came up and that very night my mother took a turn for the worse…that I had been telling everyone was happening. The kids, jack and I left at midnight and told her to lock up.

2007 our son went to his grandparents for a week. I am working, going to school, taking care of our daughter, dealing with bills because we were financially strapped before mom got sick and me not working for 2 months put us behind. Doing this…doing that…go go go. I get a phone call at 10 pm at night and this time it was Jack’s dad. Pissed at me. Who packed the suitcase? My son. I had gone over and gone over…and questioned our son. Did he have underwear, this many t-shirts, socks, this that and the other..yes mom I do. But I didn’t check it. Our son had done this several times. Jack didn’t check the suitcase. Then…his dad starts in about how he knows about me and I have been able to pull the wool over peoples eyes and he knew exactly what I was. Umm what are you talking about? I was a user a manipulator a this that and the other. And guess why we left as abruptly as we did when our granddaughter was born? Really people that was 2003…it’s now 2007. “We read your journal” Oh really?

I have kept a journal since I was a teenager. That was my venting. That’s how I released my anger at situations, how I thought things through. It had happy moments in there, it had angry moments in there. “you left it out we figured you wanted us to read it.” hmmm… “don’t recall either one of your names on the mortgage bill, which means if you aren’t Jack, me or our two kids…you’re a guest.” It explained a lot because all the sudden his sister started getting hateful. Turns out I had been venting about her husband. I don’t’ even know what I said.. I don’t re read my journals. It was raw emotion…at that moment. They wanted to condemn me for what I wrote in a journal that really was written and done with, put away when I ran out of paper. Point out the fact of what they have said when someone walks out of the room, out of ear shot or the CRAP pulled by them…his wife, who ever; just ignore that. I was done.

I told my husband to go get our son. While his dad was yelling and screaming at me and I yelling and screaming right back…I heard my son crying in the background. This is not happening anymore. I told Jack I wasn’t going to make him choose. I didn’t want it to be like this, I tried, and if that means I don’t go around them anymore this is how it is going to have to be. I loved him too much; I love my son too much to make either of them choose between me or them. If him and our son wanted to go there for thanksgiving fine; I was not going anymore. I was no longer subjecting myself to this.

What they were doing; had been doing was totally wrong. Sure Jack got pissed at them. But when it came right down to do, they are who they are just accept it. No I don’t have to accept it when your mother is treating me like crap. Then she would wonder why I didn’t talk to her much or want to go shopping with her or do anything with her. Why?

It was her way or no way. Guess what. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree on that one. As much as Jack would complain about her and dislike what she did; he would do the same crap to people; including me.

I am glad I am done with the whole brood. That wasn’t life; that wasn’t living; that wasn’t family. I don’t wish them any ill. They can all go on being unhappy, judging people, being racist, making the gay jokes, whatever they want to do.

What have a learned from all of this. I learned I don’t want to be that mother or that mother in law when it comes time. I saved the letter she wrote. It might be hanging on to bitter memories. I feel I owe it to my children to keep it for when they start relationships. I know there will be girlfriends/boyfriends I am not going to like. We all make our opinions known; but doing what was done to me, to my husband will not take place on my watch. When I feel that way–I’m going to pull out the letter and read it. I want to remember how it felt to be on the receiving end. I also know what I will not tolerate anymore if I ever get into a relationship again. From my partner or from his family.