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Friday, February 21, 2014

Killing June Cleaver

It sounds like an awful thing to do: kill June Cleaver. But I had to do it.
At least the persona, the "role" that I had adopted for myself, "the forever mother", the "perfect wife", the "tight and tidy good girl". I thought as a teenager that "June Cleaver" was who I was supposed to be. So, I adopted that role as my own. I tried to become everything June idealized:
- wife
- sedate
- calm
- homemaker
- mother
- well dressed
- caregiver
- cook
- housekeeper

None of the above roles or job titles are wrong. Please understand that I am not out to bash motherhood or wifery or good home cooking. I'm not. I actually think I'm quite good at all of those things. Somehow though, for me a lot of these things got warped and I tried with supreme effort to be this make-believe ideal and it nearly crushed the life force out of me.

You see, I am many things, but being some ideal is not me. I'm me. Unique and varied. And you are you. You can't be me and I can't be you. And some fictional character from TV-land surely is impossible to be.

So, I killed her.
Went and did something so profoundly un-June and so "unclassy" that it freed me from the role of being "Mrs. Cleaver".

I got a tattoo.
Are you gasping?
Eye rolling?
Laughing?
I know. A friend laughed when I told him, "Oh, that's so typical early recovery." It made me smile, for I am in early recovery. I am recovering my personhood. My authenticity. So, I'm comfortable with "typical" in that sense of the word.

But understand, Dear Friend, that tattoo came to being with a great deal of soul-searching and agonizing. You see, my spouse was dead set against it. Furiously against it. To quote, "I just wanted you to lose weight, not change!" I also knew for certain that others in my circle would be none-to-pleased either. "I mean, really Erica, a tattoo? They are so low-class and tacky." Even well-meaning church friends wondered if it was against my religion. And my boss tried to talk me out of it as something that you do in your 20s, not 40s. To be honest, I do not know why my freeing myself from that role had to take the form of a tattoo, but it did. And to be free I was (and am) determined to be!

There was, it seemed, a very real possibility of rejection from my spouse. Being true to myself meant that whether he accepted me or not, I was going to be me. No matter who accepted me or rejected me. I am done with people pleasing. This doesn't mean I have no more regard for society and being a civilized person. It rather means, you have a right not to like me, and that's o.k.: I don't have to try to be something that I'm not to try and make you like me. And that included my Beloved.
Free to be my true self, whatever that may be.

Happily, there was a voluntary change of heart before my spouse even realized that I had gotten a tattoo. And, I think, if you would asked, they'd say that they are very glad for what that tattoo had done for me. For us. As my friend, H, said, "You've already changed. The act of weighing and measuring your food for more than a year, in and of itself, has changed you. If you go back to hiding and sneaking in your behavior (about non-food things), it's no different than hiding in a corner eating." She was right. I'm through with shaming myself or being shamed and acting out in compulsive overeating to deal with that overwhelming shame and grief and rejection. Rejection of myself because I was afraid.

And I have learned, when I am afraid, I will do two things: pray and be brave. You can do that, too. Push past the fear and be yourself.
Be free.

Erica Robinson