Yesterday I called The Mother on three separate occasions, only to be unknowingly answered each time by her butt, Douchetooth, or any of the other technological advances we've devised to bi-pass the highly inconvenient human task of answering the phone by pushing a button. At any rate, each time one of these intervening factors connected my phone to her purse or whatever, I became an anonymous ear to her very intense, very uncomfortable, very PUBLIC conversation. A conversation that included such gems as "I don't think that's very appropriate for you to say, do you?" and "I'll let you think about what you just said before I speak again."
IT WAS A FIGHT, GUYS.
I don't often eavesdrop on other people's conversations. Ok, I don't often eavesdrop on other people's boring conversations, especially if they're not about a) me; b) someone I know getting pregnant or; c) a couple breaking up publicly on a Metra train. But I couldn't help it. I wasn't even eavesdropping. I was researching.
The Mother has never been shy around conflict. She used to tell my brother and I to wave to the nice man tailing our car before slowing down enough to let him get a good view of her prized finger. She's not mean. She's not angry. She just don't take no shit.
Which is why, after deciding that it was not my fault that her phone answered THREE DIFFERENT TIMES to the same rolling argument, I continued to listen to the woman from whose womb I sprung verbally pwn two unsuspecting instigators. I sat in awe in front of Starbucks, wondering just how the fuck someone learns to stick to their shit that hard. Wondering if I'd ever have the conviction to tell someone as close but not close enough that, quite frankly, your talk is bullshit. And I'm leaving.
The thing about how The Mother asserts herself is in its effectiveness. Over the years, she has honed the skill of pointing out the complete assholery in which the offending party is engaging -- calmly, assertively, effectively. The problem is it really pisses people off when you go all Ghandi on their asses in an argument. Add some big words and a valid point and you've got me at 15 trying to argue why I just HAVE TO HAVE A CAR THE SECOND I TURN 16. Or, a really pissed off offending party in an argument no one knows is being studied like a college final, from a car 10 miles away.
Ok, let's get real here. Of course my own mother and I didn't always argue like "Molly, I believe the capacity at which you expect what you want to be validated is a little grand;" to which I'd respond "GAAAAAAAHHH!!!! (wall punch)." No. It didn't go like that. We threw chairs at walls and hit our beds with tennis rackets and stuff. We called each other names and I ran away a few times. It's called adolescence, folks. And the [terrifying, at this vantage point] task of parenthood.
But what those arguments, and the ones I witnessed her have with others, taught me about being a woman is the strength it takes. I learned early and I learned quick how to decide my point, articulate it, and not to back down when the going gets going. I'm not a cold-hearted bitch; I learned compassion, too. I learned how to hold my ground but how to communicate effectively enough to find a middle ground. The Mother taught me how to be A Woman and someday how to be A Mother in my own right. I can talk to ComEd with the tongue of a Medusa and woo cops with the eyes of a martyr. I know how shit works. And I owe the model of womanly strength to the one that calls me every single morning to tell me what just happened on It's Always Sunny.
But look, here's the thing. I'm kind of tired of being strong. I'm a little over telling ComEd they can suck their mistaken surcharge in one hand while forking over the cash in the other. I'm tired of telling the man at the gas station that actually yes, I do find your comments horribly sexist and offensive so kindly fuck off. I'm bored of working so hard to show the world hey SHUT UP, I'm here and you better not mess with me motherfucker, because sometimes it's just so damn exhausting. I can understand the woman that wait their whole lives to tell their husbands they'd rather sleep with other women; or the ones that let their 40-year old sons live off their Jewel paycheck; or every single one that's let someone do something to them that they didn't like but never said so. I feel for you. Because sometimes, being strong is just as hard as being weak.
The rub is, being strong always pays off in the end. I may be tired of bringing home the bacon for my table of one, but I'd rather it than a table of four with much larger appetites. I'd rather lose friends that never got the message before the message gets me. And I'd always, always rather speak my own truth than let it be spoken to me. It pays to stick up for your shit, even if you have to make a few uncomfortable along the way. And even if that discomfort happens at your father-in-law's doctor appointment.