The different masks of women
By HeatherO'Brien on September 30, 2012
As women, we wear many masks. I call them masks, not because we hide, but because we must lay one down in order to fully wear another, which is rarely possible. We try to give a hundred percent to every area of our lives, knowing that is physically impossible. Think about trying to put on five different Halloween masks, and how funny, but impossibly inconvenient that would be. We wouldn't be able to breathe, or see. We would get too sweaty, and quite possibly pass out if we tried to wear them all at once. But we do try, don't we? Before we even realize it, we find ourselves in the midst of trying to wear them all.
It doesn't matter if a woman tends to take on more traditional roles, or superceed the normal expectations of gender and take on more modern initiatives that propel them into arenas otherwise thought of as "man's work". One of the best auto mechanics I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, was a woman. She had more experience, and was able to explain to me in a very clear way, exactly what was wrong with my car. I had taken the same car into three different shops trying to figure out what the noise was that had been getting worse for months. I was told there was no noise that was out of place. If had not been for her, I wouldn't have had a car to drive within three months. Not one of the other shops had gone underneath my car. They brushed me off whereas she was able to fully inspect, fix, and explain by showing me the part that was bad. She even told me why. This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but try driving for half a year unable to listen to the radio because of a mysterious noise that, apparently, only you can hear. There is much to be said for validation.
For the past several years, I've been researching into how to become a better gardener, and how to live more sustainably. This past year was especially exciting because I bought my first greenhouse. My next door neighbor, an elderly woman who lives alone, kept eyeing my newly bought plants. Each day she'd make a new face, sort of scrunched up, and displeased - but she never said a word. Finally I asked her, "what am I doing wrong? Nothing will grow." She said, "well, you're burning them to death under all that plastic". What should've been common sense, honestly didn't occur to me. For weeks, I had been starting seeds in my new greenhouse, happily sowing the best heirlooms I could find. I did so without one thought, that it was already eighty degrees outside. Thus began my first real lessons on planting and gardening.
At one time, both of these women would have had trouble claiming their own voice in these occupations. My elderly neighbor grew up on a working farm, but it wasn't until she was an adult that she harvested her own crops, tilled her own land, and raised her livestock. She was more inclined to bake, can, store seeds, and grind feed. My mechanic was young, and had grown up in a different time, a time when it was considered o.k. to study auto mechanics and get full employment in the industry without a second glance.
Different hats, but just as numerous, apply to women working outside the home, single mothers trying their best to be everything, to everyone. School teachers, counselors, community advocates, all people wearing multiple masks while successfully maintaining their individual lives and responsibilities. It's something that often is overlooked, but it shouldn't be. The amount of energy, dedication, love, and passion involved in taking on so many roles is a crazy feat of success that should be reflected on daily. Take pride from that, it's well deserved.
I've learned a lot from women throughout my life. Most gals I've encountered personally, whether friend, family, or even strangers I've seen speaking publically, are strong, busy, and full of information, and influence, on a million different topics. Out of necessity, or desire, they gain experience in many areas due to their many masks that they wear. Would it do me better to learn to take one off before I put on another? You bet. Am I going to do it? Probably not. I'll tell you why.
As a Mom, writer, community advocate, and public speaker, there is no time to set aside the masks that paint me also require me to be a home accountant, cook, pet sitter, and taxi driver. So I add to it the masks that decorate my persona as counselor, friend, guide, and homework expert. Is it hard to breathe sometimes? Yes. It is what I've chosen for myself. These masks allow me to operate a loving home, and be a loving parent. It is my greatest hope that my children will see me as a role model that can handle what life hands me, and that they will be able to use some of my coping mechanisms to do the same. This is exactly why I believe in the strength that every woman possesses. They can make the best out of an uncomfortable situation. Being able to teach others how to comfortably wear different roles and stay sane is a true, hard-earned gift - one I am very proud of.
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