Context, context, context!
Duh. What has been subtly nipping at my behind as I read?
There was a family tree, complete with dates, on one page, during a chapter about dissecting family relationships. It hit me then that eight-year-old Billy was born in 1975.
This would put the events of the narrative sometime in 1983 or 1984. I wasn’t even born until 1986.
The expectations of women today are very different from the expectations of women a generation or two behind me. We grew into a different feminism, for one thing: second-wave versus third-wave, and I would not be shocked if there’s a fourth wave in the making. What was radical to my mother’s generation was my girlhood reading–I kid you not, I passed some wonderful hours imbibing feminist lit. And I was never shamed for it. I was actively encouraged to feel my anger and fight for myself and my rights. I suppose being the daughter of an ex-hippie and a socialist also had its impact.
Lerner is talking to women who are battling tradition as much as their own partners and families. I don’t have that. My families are both about as non-traditional as they get. I’m with a man who lent me this book to read; you think he wants anything but equality? And my mother only seems to want me to marry if I’m going to marry rich, while my father believes I ought to be treated like the princess I am pointedly not, regardless of status. They want me to be happy, whatever “happy” means to me, and while we have fought about what that means to me, they’ve been willing to step back and let the proof surface in the ensuing pudding. Hence three and a half years with the most wonderful man I’ve ever met.
And when my dad and I shift into helping-professionals mode (well, he was one and I’m going to be one), somehow we communicate. We find a language we both speak. We have both taken the same Psych 100 course at the same school, albeit several years apart and with different professors. Remembering to use our skills during a conflict is a challenge, I’ll admit, but I can do the Vulcan thing when I need to, whereas Dad is all human, when he’s not outright Klingon.
–Well, I’ll be a hit with my geekier students someday.
I’m not a woman of 1983. I’m a woman of 2011, almost thirty years down the road and an entire movement later. We were taught I-statements, my generation, in health class and later in college. (What did I do with that textbook?) Is that why I’m not seeing my conflicts or, really, myself, in this book? I’m still reading, because I don’t like to give up, and something useful may yet surface. But I do think a serious update is in order, if Dr Lerner is up to it. I mean, she’s perfectly willing to admit that not all women function the way she describes (to include herself) yet the majority of her advice is geared toward what she appears to think is the majority of women. It may have been when she wrote this book, but it’s not now. We’re the daughters of this book. We’re the ones whose mothers may or may not have read it and taken it to heart–and our mothers taught us differently. So what do we do with our own dances of anger?
I mean, I could read Chapter 9 alone and get as much out of this as I have done reading the whole book. Chapter 9 is a useful little summary of everything that’s been discussed and a guide to further action. I didn’t need help recognizing that I was stuck in a pattern, nor did the patterns shown even begin to resemble my own conflicts. I needed a more general guide that would serve everyone involved in these dances, not just one member, the assumed audience. I suppose if I were Dr Lerner, that’s how I’d update this book. I’d acknowledge that we can be any member of these dances and offer advice accordingly.
As it stands, I’m just as confused as I was when I started out.