I’ve been wanting to talk about this post on The Good Men Project for a while now. But you know – one thing after another, etc etc. It’s called Why Women Aren’t Crazy and when I saw the title I internally rolled my eyes and got ready for some lame list on how “Men are the real crazy ones! Doesn’t it drive you bonkers when they can never remember to put the seat down?! Har har har.” Harty har har. Yuck. But then the intro slayed me. Right there on the spot. Slayed.
You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!
Even re-reading it I feel instantly defensive, instantly ashamed, instantly silenced.
In relationships and in my life I am not a player of games. I am very straightforward. If I have hurt feelings, I make it clear. Usually by saying, “Hey, that really hurt my feelings.” It’s that blunt. But I am also very straightforward about all of the good things as well. If my partner crosses a line, I make sure it is clear that there was a line and it was crossed and I’m not a fan.
When Kamel and I were first married we had to adjust our arguing techniques. Communication when we are both pissed is always a work in progress, but at the very beginning nothing productive was happening when we fought and things were just escalating. It was super not pretty and it was really dramatic and there was a lot of crying. Sometimes things were thrown. Like keys or a bag of graham crackers. Doors were slammed. It was puberty all over again, except not at all. Yay.
So I adjusted my approach. Instead of exploding in a fiery ball of rage, I worked hard to stay calm and straightforward. I mean, it didn’t always work, but I think even Kamel will admit that we both have absolutely come along way in the way we disagree. And I think he’ll even agree that I’ve come a few steps farther than he has. (Just ask him about his desire to win arguments for the sake of winning… yeah, productive.)
But something we still struggle with is my need to feel validated and his desire to brush aside the issue. His brushing aside comes in the form of, “Oh whatever, Lauren. You just need to get over it.” “Well I only responded like that because you’re crazy!” “Stop making a big deal out of nothing! You’re always doing this!” “Here we go again with you always focusing on the negative.”
It’s a problem, I’m not going to pretend like it isn’t. A lot of the time our disagreements dissolve into a disagreement about how we’re handling the first disagreement. I just want to be heard, Kamel doesn’t want to hear it …. or he wants to hear it for 30 seconds or less and move on. That doesn’t work for me because I’m not feeling like he GETS IT and this annoys him. He argues back because he wants to win, even if it is something really small that could be fixed with a hug and I get confused on why he is being such a jerk which deepens my need for him to get me and therefore increases his need for me to stop talking and lo and behold we are off and running.
And then I read this:
And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.
Because it’s not like Kamel is so very strange. I mean, I’ve pretty much been told I’m over sensitive, over reacting, crazy, crazy bitch, just need to get over it, emotional, pmsing, on and on and on and on and on from every romantic relationship (and even some of my friendships) from the beginning of time. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a boyfriend who didn’t at some point try to push me down because my opinions and feelings were really inconvenient for him.
And the worst part. We believe it. As women we talk badly about ourselves, and badly about other women in general.
Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, “Oh, about how crazy we are?”
Why Women Aren’t Crazy made me want to print it out and pass it around to everyone I knew, staple it to light posts and bulletin boards. And of course I emailed it to Kamel who read it and said, “Wow. I totally do that. I am really, really sorry.”
It is exhausting to have to constantly fight for the validity of my feelings, not just in my relationship with Kamel but out there in the world as well. Just because I think about things differently, just because my communication style is different, doesn’t make it less. It doesn’t make mine an optional voice, something that can be muted when inconvenient.
How many times have you been called crazy? Did you know it was something that happened to more than just a handful of women? How do we stop the cycle of emotional manipulation in our sons? How do we teach our daughters to continue to push to be heard even in the face of, “You’re so crazy, you should really just get over it.” It kills me that this is an actual thing we are talking about.