I know an imperfect woman who makes lots of mistakes, fails to live up to traditional models of what a good woman would be like, and insists upon doing many things people think she shouldn’t do.
Let’s take housekeeping, for starters. She lives in a beautiful home but she’s really a slob. She sort of plunders and strews her way around the house, leaving socks and stray papers and empty tea cups in her wake. The children scatter marbles. There are wet towels on the floor. The dishes are mostly clean – mostly – but not always. Except for the hour after the housekeeper comes, her house is always in a sort of happy chaos (read “pigsty.”)
But she’s brilliant in the kitchen. She feeds her family divine meals, concocted from organic produce hand-picked at the farmer’s market and lovingly crafted without recipes. The down side is that this only makes more dishes, which her husband washes, right after he picks up her towel, cleans up the marbles, and straightens the stray papers.
She has exquisite taste in interior decorating, and the house is peppered with fine art, fresh flowers, and gorgeous Italian furniture, underneath the stacks of magazines and the tennis balls the dog tosses about.
Never one of those women who must be a mother, she was on the fence about having children – she could have gone either way – until her husband decided he must be a father. And she happily lent her uterus to the cause, but only after he agreed to do at least 50% of the parenting.
After gestating and birthing her daughter, she had to go back to work only five weeks postpartum, while she was still breast-feeding and before her stay-home daddy husband quite knew what to do without her. She wanted to stay home longer. She wanted nothing more than to snuggle her child for months more – but she pays the bills and her job wouldn’t give her more time.
So she pumped and the Daddy raised the baby, and she cherishes her time in the evenings with her daughter, when she reads stories and teaches her about life and love and fairy magic. She had to skip Mommy and Me classes. She never reads parenting books. She misses watching her daughter at gymnastics class.
Sometimes her job takes her on the road, and she has to be away for a week at a time. Sometimes she can’t even call home when she wants to. But her daughter is happy and loved and all her needs are met. When she asks her daughter if she’s mad that Mommy’s job makes her go to New York, she says, “I understand, Mommy. I miss you when you’re gone, but the people of New York need you too.”
She doesn’t throw fancy birthday parties, though the Nana does. She doesn’t bake cupcakes from scratch. She doesn’t always know the right thing to say to children or plan the most creative playdates ever. She doesn’t even try to be cool with the other moms at school. She often looks like a basket case - and is. The other moms are actually a little mystified by her because she’s not usually the one delivering her daughter to school – the Daddy is. So the moms sort of keep their distance and marvel at what kind of woman doesn’t drop off her child and pick her up every day.
She’s not the world’s best Mommy, but she makes a righteous good Daddy.
She used to have a stable job – with a fancy six figure income and a cushy retirement account and job security for life. It would have paid for her daughter’s college fund and fancy cars and vacations in Hawaii. But it made her unhappy – so she quit, even though she didn’t have a back up plan. This led her to spend her family’s savings so she could take a job chasing butterflies. It wasn’t the safe choice, and she doesn’t regret it for a second.
She loves her work. I mean LOVES her work, and she gets to mostly do it from home, which is part of why she’s such a slob. If she had an office, she’d plunder and strew there instead. She feels truly called to do the work she does, and it fills her with great fulfillment and purpose. But it keeps her busy, too busy most times to straighten the house or attend every school function.
Sometimes she starts work at 5am. Sometimes she finishes work past midnight. Sometimes she has to whisper “Shh…Mommy’s working” when her daughter wants to tell her a story. And sometimes she says no when her husband wants to chat because she’s on a deadline.
She used to be skinny and super fit and wrinkle-free – you know, the way fashion magazines encourage women to be. But times have changed, she got older, she gained a little pooch around the middle, and those who don’t know her well tell her she should get Botox if she wants to keep her husband happy. She chooses not to. It’s not that she doesn’t care about her appearance – she loves pretty clothes and would love to lose the pooch and she liked her face better before the wrinkles – but she doesn’t want to be one of those women forever chasing the beauty of her youth. She wants to accept that her value lies deeper than her skin or her figure or her new grey hairs. So she skips the Botox and the plastic surgery some others her age are using to stay youthful in their appearance.
She loves nice clothes, but because she works from home, she sometimes doesn’t get out of her PJ’s until it’s time to take her afternoon hike. She sometimes doesn’t brush her hair either. She might even forget to brush her teeth because she’s so caught up in what she’s doing. She wears makeup about once a week and wears mismatched socks not infrequently. When she does dress up, she’s very likely to wear something you might find inappropriate for a woman of her age. In her mind, she’s still 21. Sometimes she still dresses that way.
She doesn’t always play by the rules. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. She can be very in-your-face about stuff, especially if you push her buttons. She has a tendency to rant. She doesn’t really care what you think that much. She lets her freak flag fly. She marches to the beat of a mixture of steel drums and the sound of hail hitting the metal of your car roof.
She cusses. She listens to rap. She sings out loud, in public, when others are watching and when they’re not. Sometimes she has too much to drink. Sometimes she strips naked and hangs out in hippie hot springs with strangers. She refuses to make small talk or try to “work a room.” She says “no” often. She says “yes” often.
She’s not concerned with trying to impress you. She only wants to be around those who won’t judge her, so if you don’t like the way she lives her life, she pretty much doesn’t give a flip – because it’s her life.
She can be bossy. She likes to get her way. She has her diva moments. But deep down, she always means well and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.
She loves deeply, lives passionately, and nurtures warmly, even if it’s in her own quirky way. She’s a good and loyal friend, she’s guaranteed to make you feel inspired, and she makes a mean raw chocolate, but she may not return your phone call or remember your birthday.
She feels a little sexually restless from time to time, so she tries to spice it up in the bedroom. She pole dances. She watches tasteful girl-on-girl porn. She and her husband are experimenting with Orgasmic Meditation. They still have the hots for each other after all these years, and they want to have sex more often than they do, but when they do get it on, it’s increasingly satisfying. She asks for what she wants in bed. She’s not shy about going first. She encourages her husband to share his fantasies, and he does. She’s not demure – or proper. She doesn’t do stuff in bed she doesn’t want to do. She says “no” often. She says “yes” often.
While he knows she’s far from perfect – and isn’t trying to be so – her husband accepts – even loves – her idiosyncrasies, though some think he shouldn’t. He knows she’s not a traditional wife, but he’s not a traditional husband either, so it works for him. He’d like it if she straightened up more, but he’s resigned to trying to keep the chaos at bay without striving for perfection himself.
He doesn’t really want to work, so he’s pretty happy to let her pay the bills. In fact, with multiple degrees from Ivy League schools, he may be the most over-educated, un-ambitious stay-at-home Dad you’ve ever met. And he’s cool with that. He pretty much doesn’t care what you think about that. He’s not interested in some 9-to-5 grind in a suit, and he doesn’t want to feel pressured to bring home a paycheck, although he works his patooty off cleaning up after his wife and daughter, tending to the household needs, and pursuing his painting and novel-writing dreams.
He picks up her socks, makes her green juice, cleans the dishes, and carts the daughter off to school, not because she makes him, but because he chooses to. He loves his life, and he doesn’t want anyone judging his choices any more than she wants people judging hers.
Their marriage is a good one, a loving one, even though it doesn’t much resemble most marriages. Their mutual brand of quirkiness works – oddly enough.
She doesn’t fit the stereotype of how most people think a “good woman” should live or behave. She considers herself a feminista. She chooses how she lives her life. She refuses to be put in boxes or to be limited by the expectations of others. She’s not interested in wearing masks. She knows she’s not perfect, but she also knows nobody is – and that anybody who looks like they are is just faking it. She no longer even tries to be perfect, and she doesn’t want you to hold yourself to impossible standards either.
She values authenticity more than impossible standards of perfection or outdated models of feminine virtue.
She wants you to love her just the way she is – but if you don’t, that’s okay too. She cares more that you love YOU just the way you are.
In case you hadn’t figured it out already, she is ME. Just in case you had some misguided notion of who you think I might be.
I’d ask you what you think of this woman – or even better, what you might have thought of this woman before you found out it was me. But honestly, I don’t care – so no need to tell me.
I care more about whether you can give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect and truly authentic.
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.