We agreed to meet at Denny’s near the freeway for our first ride. I’d been feeling resentment towards my husband for not wanting to ride motorcycles anymore. Another story for another day. In this story I’m resentful. Yesterday I said to a friend “if you’re feeling resentful it means you need to change something”. That’s what I was doing at the Denny’s, changing something.
The woman across from me joined the meetup group I started for women motorcycle riders with time during the week to ride. We were getting to know each other over coffee and eggs before “kickstands up”. I asked her what she “did” that allowed her time to ride during the week. I should have known she’d ask me back.
I’m overly curious these days about what people do for a living. It’s a kind of vicarious thrill. She said “I’m a nurse in the ICU unit”. There’s that quick twinge of envy I get when someone has an interesting job. She tells me she works 12 hour shifts and has several days off at a time. I make jokes about how nice it is to have an ICU nurse on a motorcycle ride. Hoping the subject will change quickly. “What do you do that allows you to ride during the week?” she asks. My face feels a bit flushed and I say “I’m a loser. My husband makes the money”. I pause and include “It’s kind of embarrassing, but it is what it is”. She does the laugh people do when they’re a little uncomfortable and makes statements about how it shouldn’t be embarrassing. I think she meant it. She’s a really nice woman with sad eyes.
“I’m a loser”. I’ve said it several times since quitting grad school. It’s sort of like the fat kid making fat jokes. Say it out loud first. But don’t feel sorry for me. I know it’s not true. I say it because I think that’s what other people think when they find out I don’t work. I say it because in my prior life I had disdain for women like me who didn’t work. There is some psychological hold over from that. And I say it because the things I “do” that contribute are truly difficult to explain and undervalued even if I could.
I take care of my marriage. It’s important to me. I manage relationships with my friends and family because I have the time to do it. I’m the person everyone goes to for support. I spend hours on the phone listening to people’s lives. I make sure that so and so knows how to hook up with this person or that person. I open my home for days or even weeks at a time. I share what I have with people who need it or would benefit from it. I love seeing other people thrive. I love helping them thrive. I used to make money doing it, now I don’t have to. The downside being; now I don’t have a “job title”.
There’s an entire human behavior theory called “Relational Cultural Theory” that talks about how important this kind of work is and how undervalued it is and how it’s primarily women who do it. The original theory was published in a book called “The New Psychology of Women”. I learned that in grad school right before I quit. I recognized myself.
None the less, it’s embarrassing to say I don’t work. It’s even more embarrassing to say that I don’t want to anymore. That I’d rather be available for my grandkids or my husband or my in laws than be admired by a boss. It’s even more embarrassing than THAT to say I don’t have to work (at this time). It’s embarrassing to not be valued for anything other than my support of other people.
I’m not sure where this is going. I’m not truly content being in only this role. I want to do more.
But I’m not a loser.