When it comes to my living situation and my love life, I’m easily the happiest I’ve ever been.
I like my job. I love my home. And I adore the person (and animals) I share my home with.
By a lot of metrics, I’m very successful. I’ve built a very stable life that makes me happy.
But according to how I was raised, I am a failure. A total abject failure.
Because this was not the life I was supposed to lead. None of this is how I was raised.
The goal, I was told early on, was to find a “nice Catholic boy,” marry him, have a bunch of kids, and let him take care of me while I took care of the kids.
It was never get married, divorce, get remarried, switch careers three or four times, and move cross-country twice, never having kids. The goal was never to have an open marriage for any length of time.
The goal was never to travel and see the world. To learn who I really was, when tradition and what other people dreamt for me were set to the side, excluded from the picture.
The goal was never to conquer my demons in therapy. To learn not only how to move past them personally but how to help others through theirs.
I should have known I never would have met the old goal. I showed troubling signs early on, had to constantly be redirected by my mother. “Try not to come off too smart, honey. Men don’t like that. They want to feel like they’re smarter than you.”
A woman was a subset of a man, I was told growing up so many times. She should shrink into the background, be subsumed by him, his life, and his legacy until she was practically invisible.
The way that you did this was by staying quiet. Fawning over him, telling him that he was so smart — even if he wasn’t, not really. For extra credit, you could say things you knew were incorrect on purpose, giving him the opportunity to feel smart when he corrected you.
And you should starve yourself so that you were as small as possible.
Be invisible. Not threatening. Fit into him. Hide in him.
It was like an acting gig, the old goal. One that I never quite got the hang of.
I suppose it didn’t help that I thought that girls were generally better looking and I also bonded more easily with them than boys.
Anyway, I failed. It’s something I don’t like to look squarely in the face, but as happy as my life is these days — grander than I ever imagined when I was a little girl feeling lost in a large family in the Maine woods — a small part of me never quite forgets that I couldn’t do what was asked of me. That I was failure.
Because I am not that girl. Not the one I was supposed to be.
It confuses my mother sometimes that I’m so happy.
I consider myself very successful for a failure.
Like my essays? You’ll love my books. I’ve authored many of them, including 3 nonfiction books on polyamory and the Psychic State series, murder mysteries with strong female leads that feature a large ensemble cast of polyamorous characters.