Relationships? Zounds! Where should I begin?As a Daughter, Mother, Stepmother, Grandmother, Friend, Author, and Spiritual Soul, my life has been packed to the rafters with relationships. Some wonderful, some meh. I’ve loved and hated in my time. (Don’t tell Matt I said that. He hates the word hate.) I’ve been a passionate protector and a passionate lover. I’ve been jealous and yet supportive of competitors, not because I felt like being supportive, but because that was the smart approach – the one that would benefit me.
If I sound like a nasty bitch, that’s exactly how I am – sometimes. Fortunately, not often any more. Sadly, I believe a woman in today’s business and political culture needs a bit of nasty bitch in her repertoire to survive. But that isn’t how I was brought up. I was reared to be ‘nice.’
I was taught that all I needed to be as a woman was pretty and popular. Because that’s how my mom felt about life. So, when I got fat in college, my life as a daughter became somewhat angst ridden. Dorothy Jean Gibson Hackett was an original nasty bitch in house-dress camouflage. My clash with her started the moment I determined that I was separate from but equal to her – That I was entitled to a life different than hers – less safe, less homebound, less predicated on male dependence – Less pretty: Less popular.
As the first in my Irish-Catholic family to divorce, the excrement really hit the proverbial blades. My mother told me it was foolish to expect communication in a marriage. I understand why she felt that way. It was the sentiment of her time. Men worked and women stayed home with children. At the end of the day, there wasn’t a whole lot for them to talk about, except his problems on the job. Women didn’t complain. After all, they were being supported by a husband, so how dare they kvetch?
Now don’t think I believe a woman can get all her needs met by a man. For talking, we need girlfriends. But basic communication should be possible with a mate – male or otherwise.
So, as a daughter, I was a flop. And as a wife, too, actually. The first time.
Redemption! As a Mother, I was pretty good. Not perfect, God knows. Sometimes, I wonder how my four daughters ended up with minimum neuroses. But they did! They’re all loving and productive contributors to their families and communities. When I think of them, my buttons bust right off my shirt. Good job, Jeannie!
I could be a better grandma, however. Part of that is because my 15 grandkids (second marriage, you know) are scattered from New York to Virginia to Colorado to California. I wish I were closer to them like I was to some when they were little, but beyond Christmas and birthday gifts, I can only do so much. I do love them, though, and am proud of how they’re all turning out.
As a Stepmom, I’d give myself a C-. But Matt’s kids were pretty much grown when we got married, and I did the best I could. I’m proud they think of me as a friend today. So, with two husbands and one toxic fatal attraction to my name, guess I’m lucky I got this second marriage right. Funny, isn’t it how I grovel for redemption?
Sometimes, relationships must end. Even relationships with friends. I’ve had to “break up” with two female friends; and, frankly, those breakups were almost harder than getting that divorce. Because I felt really guilty. You know, we women must stick together – thick and thin – girlfriends forever. Right? And most times, we do. But when a friendship becomes toxic or a chore, it’s time to say so long. And there’s no way to explain that to someone who considers you her best friend.
Today, I am blessed with three wonderful women friends. Each of them enhances my life in a different way. Marie is my wise-owl friend. Though she is now bedridden, I can count on her to offer advice on the most intimate aspects of my life with deep insight and compassion. Sometimes, though, she’s less compassionate than others. Marie has a bit of nasty bitch in her, too.
Liz is my gentle friend. We share faith, intelligence, and fun. I don’t think Liz has an iota of nasty bitch in her, though I’ve never challenged her in a way to make that emerge in her. Hmmmm.
Finally, my greatest blessing is Suzy. She’s smart in a different and sometimes better way than I am. She’s the yin to my yang. I can design a heartfelt poster to find a home for a dog. Suzy’s the one who remembers to bring tape and stickpins to put it up.
I love these women. I love my kids and grandkids. And I love my man. How lucky can I get?
Jeanne Charters is a New Yorker blissfully relocated to Asheville. She lives with her husband and their dog. Her novel, Shanty Gold, is available at Malaprops and Mountain Made in Asheville, at Highland Books in Brevard, at Blue Ridge Books and News in Waynesville, at The Book Shelf in Tryon, and of course, Amazon. Jeanne blogs on Irish historical tidbits and the process of writing and publishing a book. (http://www.jeannecharters.com) Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.