June 15, 2016
Last night I listened to a romantic rendition of the wedding waltz, and cried. Gentle happy memories of being a tiny girl held securely in my father’s arms as we danced around our large Beverly Hills living room. Happiness.
As I grew older, memories with my father dancing the waltz actually faded.
My father and I danced when the occasion came up, but it’s the wedding waltz that feels strongest in my kinesthetic memory. With it, the deeply embedded taken-for-granted message that the fulfillment of my life was to be married. To marry the right man and create a remarkable family like my mother had done.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married twice and have 7 children and 5 grandchildren. To marry is not a wrong or bad expectation in itself. Indeed, what is life without relationship, and the capacity to feel and think deeply.
Thinking and feeling in synergy are crucial capacity ingredients for brilliant mediators, compassionate doctors, and adaptive leaders not only of mothers and wives (and husbands and fathers for that matter). The combined impact of emotional wisdom, gentleness, finesse and discipline is the glue of relationships. And of motherhood. And of being in an intimate love relationship with a partner or spouse.
But it was the subtext that so painfully confused me as a child of the sixties. It fueled my anger….. but not my love. Many are familiar with the subtext here in Germany. In German it is the 3 K’s: Kirche, Küche, Kinder (Church, Kitchen and Children). American culture, where I grew up, was the same, supporting girls to grow up and succeed at home. And if that failed the girl turned woman would never inspire the same pride as other men in the world….or brothers….
The confusion is a subtext that says several things:
- 1. Your priority is relationship, not skill or mastery in a field. Not life with public responsibility. But in the home, where you can find your love and happiness.
2. That to gain pride in the eyes of the collective and for me, my father, we often need to cut off parts of ourselves. Perhaps it’s ‘thinking like a girl’, i.e., irrational or illogical. Perhaps it’s being too sensual, when men can’t handle a woman’s physicality. Perhaps it’s being too forthright and forceful with her opinion, needs or objectives, when she is thought to become masculine, a ‘bitch,’ or a ‘ball crusher.’
Imagine the message for a girl with 3 older brothers seeing TV shows like Father Knows Best or My Three Sons or Bonanza. We girls had no heroic figures celebrated in expressing their/our fire, passion and intelligence – who embodied proud sensual and professional female bodies as women, wives and mothers….and as leaders. What does power look like in a woman – and in women?
Our bodies our selves, written in the 60s helped empower me with a different way of thinking and being in the world. But the wedding waltz still brings deep tears to my eyes.
Each woman must have the freedom to choose the direction of her heart, mind and hands. These are tough choices. It takes slowing down to listen, creating and claiming the time and space to drop into oneself, step up to learn, and move forward to dare greatly. We need friends, teachers and mentors to help us on this journey. We also need finding our bodies as a resource – a home where we can open and close doors and windows when we decide. We need to embrace all of ourselves and not shut ourselves down from the neck down in order to be taken seriously.
Practice listening deeply and moving not only to the music or even to the man supposedly leading the dance. Listen to yourself, to your own phrasing, to the fallen branch and the impulses and passions it stirs within and around you, so that you can move both in relationship and alone shifting and adapting flexible and fluid boundaries so that your core essence can shine.