The “Good Girl” Syndrome
By Shannon Nering 02/27/2013
I’ve had a bit of a week, make that a bit of a three weeks. It began with my son’s 8th birthday and 28 kids (25 boys!) in the local village hall, with a post-party sleepover for five. It was “fun” (thank God for helpful mom-friends), but ultimately a lot of work when you toss in home stuff, career stuff and husband stuff that fills every other waking minute.
The next week I had my own birthday to contend with, plus a couple days directing (freelance hours mean could be an 8-hour or a 14-hr day, usually the latter), a screening/premiere party for work (a must attend), a major meeting to get a new show off the ground (a colossal misfire, save for another column), hosting my own b-day party (go big or go home), expectations (and hopefully the wisdom to lower one’s expectations) and a few more expectations (haven’t I learned yet?).
Now let me just say, my girlfriends did not disappoint. In fact, they surprised me with sweet sentiments and gifts when I specifically said, “please don’t” and even my husband tried to let me sleep-in while he clumsily attempted my kids-to-school-morning-sprint-routine and the perfect bedside latte. So far so fine, but I was admittedly tired.
As I made my way into crazy-busy week three, my desk-a-clutter with mail, papers to file, taxes to do, to do lists to do, and four days in the field ahead of me (cue 10-12 hour days out of the house), I decided to take none of that to work with me and showed up ready to deliver another round of brilliant TV-making … until, an over-zealous person proceeded to unwittingly (or maybe wittingly, I’ll never know) badger me into a deep, dark hole.
I will spare you the details, as I really do need to move on, but let’s just say, every once in a blue moon an expert weevil burrows under my skin and lays a few scorpion eggs (never-mind the cross species reference, just go with it – btw, heard a really scary stat about cockroaches crawling into ears while asleep… one more thing to add to my huck-it list (as in opposite of a bucket list). Anyhoo, it worked. She got me. I lost sleep over some seriously ridiculous demands and my fear of not doing as asked, i.e./ not being a GOOD GIRL.
Imagine that, early 40’s and worried about being a good girl! WTF!?
Never-mind that I totally delivered as a director/producer (my expertise for well over a decade, and the job I was hired for). Never-mind the person pulling the strings was probably in grade three when I started my career (so why sweat it?). Never-mind that I vowed long ago to not get mired in petty differences (rise above, I swore). I still got sucked into age-old (as in totally adolescent) ideals of gold star approval from the teacher, no matter how deserving the authority figure may be.
Now this dilemma creates a paradox (read: mind-F*&*#) that makes me rebel. My rational mind says, “Are you bloody serious? This is unnecessary. Walk away.” If only it were that easy. My rebel side says, “This means war. Put that skid in her place!”
And here’s where I digress, but only for a moment.
My husband asked me why I like watching The Real Housewives of Vancouver the other day (with a not so subtle tone of guy’ish repugnance), and my answer surprised me. Especially given I had never considered it before and always thought it, quite simply, a guilty pleasure – plus I was a director on the show, so naturally I’m curious to see how they package our raw footage to make this wonderfully glib and glossy series.
My answer: I like watching it because these women say the things we (sometimes) want to say but would never dream of saying because normal people have a filter, and if we said our dark thoughts, we would have no friends, no job, no life. Yet they get away with it because the very franchise they grace (the “Housewives” franchise), is built on it. It’s not just acceptable, it’s a directive, and there would be no show without it (God forbid this “no filter” style of communicating makes it mainstream, let’s just keep it on the telly where it belongs, and in the lives of over-the-top, uber-rich women). Suffice to say, I (sometimes) LIKE IT (at least a little bit)!
I like it because I get satisfaction in seeing their “war” play out, when I have my own occasional “mini wars” that I “think” I would love to play out. This isn’t schadenfreude, btw, it’s bigger and more basic than that. It’s fight or flight—our most basic instinct, to run or punch. When someone upsets you, the alpha-warrior inside wants to eat them. Okay, maybe not “eat” but at the very least scream from a mountain top and blow off some serious adrenalin in the process – but wouldn’t dare in a civilized society, for fear of no friends, no job, no life… for fear of not being a good girl! The Real Housewives don’t play the good girl game, and like ‘em or leave ‘em, you’ve got to love the shunting of the mores of society (we’re so PC it hurts), or at least, watching someone else do it.
See that? Full circle.
Of course (cue the violins), I know that speaking your unfiltered thoughts can be hurtful and that’s the real reason we don’t do it. Not because of good girl mores, but because it hurts. It doesn’t just hurt the target, because many targets will hit you back just as hard or even harder, it hurts you and it hurts the race (as in the human race – yes, I’m going there) and it creates regret. Because the person on the receiving end is a human, and maybe by most accounts a decent human and you’re just having a good old fashioned misunderstanding – one person may be more wrong than the other (usually the case) but we’re all limited to our own unique paradigm and no ONE paradigm is perfect, except maybe the Dalai Lama’s, but he’s an island and the rest of us are not on it. Lest we forget, misunderstandings have started actual wars, the deadly soldier kind. Very bad.
Is vehemently defending our paradigm really worth it? Usually not. Is the satisfaction of venting that adrenalin really worth it? Uhhhhhh, not really… nope, no it’s not (convincing myself here).
So, aside from the Real Housewives of whatever rich county (God bless ‘em and their painful brutish honesty), most of us are good girls, just trying to make it work, who wouldn’t dream of telling those gnarly mosquito types where to shove it. And if we did, we’d just be apologizing five minutes later anyway, because that’s how we do. The crappy thing is we do lose the satisfaction of a good swat (childish, yes, but there must be some middle ground here). So where to find some satisfaction?
…Truth. Find your truth, reflect on it, make sure you’re sure, then speak it and don’t apologize. There’s no need to be housewife mean about it, but just be straight, and don’t allow yourself to feel guilty, and don’t apologize for being honest when something is wrong. Then, go for a run – get the adrenalin out and flowing so it doesn’t get stopped up in a mammary gland or an artery or your armpit. Just run.
Aaaaaaand scene! Cue end of rant.
So after three crazy busy weeks that were capped with a difficult situation that was like a record skip that skipped for days and just kept skipping, over and over (yes I’m 100 years old, we call it the phonograph deary), that’s just what I did. Emailed my truth. Am I satisfied? No, not lion-catching-cavewoman, scream-it-from-the-mountaintops satisfied, but it’s the best I’ve got whilst remaining mostly civilized. I suspect after a few days of rest and catching up on paperwork, this matter will fall into its rightful place of totally meaningless chatter in the big scheme of things, and I’ll be glad no wars were fought for something so petty.
Carry on good girls of the world! I’m (mostly) one of you. Let’s save the drama for my favorite guilty pleasure, the “housewives”!
Shannon Nering’s the ultimate do-it-all hipster mom who’s juggling screaming children, plummeting career cache, sexy wif’ing and sagging body parts, while trying to be the best parent she can be without turning herself into a pretzel. She’s also a much-in-demand docu-reality producer and director, whose savant-like understanding of the genre, combined with her ability to create intimate bonds with her subjects, pays off in riveting television… and now riveting novels like REALITY JANE. Check out her website: www.shannonnering.com Or drop a note at: email@example.com