Sunday, August 22, 2010

Damsel in Distress

I spent the evening with my friend who is a life coach and she at some stage trotted out this platitude that all men need a damsel in distress to rescue, and all women need a knight in shining armor.

I think the former is true in my experience, if you are a little bit tough or successful (or tougher or more successful than them) many men will seek to weaken you or put you down so they can fulfill that role.

If Neil could hear my internal dialogue now or read my postings about new found independence, and squeamishness about wanting a man in my life at all, he would tell me this is just typical of me because I have to be right. Having lost him, I now seek to justify it, to prove to the world, come what may, that I can survive without him. But he would be gaslighting me.

I feel no sadness about having lost him, only relief. My heart has been broken before, and this is not it. But he would need for me to be sad, to not be coping so he could feel validated, needed..

So I don't doubt that men need to be the knight in shining armor and don't get me wrong I think it can be a beautiful thing. I even think women who play on it and work it to their advantage are quite smart. "Poor silly me, I can't change a car tire!" after all their men want and need to feel strong and dependable, why not let them? I just couldn't do it myself.

So what of the damsel in distress? you're waiting for me to say NO NOT ME NEVER. Following my last post, this wouldn't be a surprise. But I can imagine circumstances where I would love to be swept up, supported, and made to feel safe. When other humans use or abuse me, when I'm in shock after an accident, sick, overburdened or suffering loss. But to expect to have men do work I can perfectly well do myself is, to me, contrived. On the other hand if they don't help in these fundamental situations, but instead replace it with meaningless groping or minimize it that is not good enough. The difference to me is very clear, but for all the men I have met so far this distinction would smack of game-playing.

But in reading back the second paragraph there is a very ugly underbelly to the knight in shining armor and the damsel in learned distress scenario. Namely it fosters learned dependence and if everything or anything should ever go wrong, who is left de-skilled? Not the knight.


Bernadine said...

Oh that's genius: "Who is left de-skilled? Not the knight."

I'm hoping your friend is wrong. In fact, I don't want that to be true, for me. My therapist is always saying that only 20% of people are actually mentally/emotionally healthy, at least naturally, without therapy, etc. So I would say-- yeah, maybe for a good majority of people, that's what they want. I would say I probably wanted that before, too. (Or was drawn to that idea, without knowing it.) Now that I've been bitch-slapped awake, I don't intend to be 'de-skilled' again. 'Cause I certainly have been.

thanks for writing this.

Bernadine said...

Hey Fiona, where'd you go? Hope all is well.