Thursday, April 1, 2010
Piece of Advice #15: Soften
Soft hair, soft skin, soft curves, soft voice, soft words, soft manner. Tactile, touchable, comforting, nurturing. Imagine a mother, the ideal mother. Your ideal mother. She may look a little more respectable, a little less boudoir-ish than Thisbe on the left there, but she would be soft, wouldn't she? She would kiss you, her child, and rumple your hair, and she wouldn't fret over the smudgy fingerprints you get on her shirt. You would touch her and it would feel nice, comfortable. You would lean into her and she would not pull away. She would soften against you.
Ultimately what is feminine is maternal - either there already or meant to get there soon. A girl's body develops into a woman's body with an express biological purpose, to bear children and perpetuate the race. Pregnancy, nursing, caring for small children, caring for a husband - the adult female's job is to blunt the harshness of the world so her children, temporarily cushioned, can survive and flourish. And yet today women are are not encouraged to be soft or develop the nurturing parts of their personality.
Women are told to "strive" and "break through the glass ceiling" and ignore or deny the limitations of the female body entirely. Softness is for weaklings and doormats. Hands-on mothering is for losers who can't hack it in the real world or who are too stupid for useful work. Marriage is mutual striving toward common goals, and not for complementing each others' natural gifts and vulnerabilities. Real men shouldn't need soft women. A man with a quiet wife or a solicitous wife is a man with obvious inadequacies, one who can't hack keeping up with a real woman. Do we really believe this?
Women, the world has enough hardness, enough challenge from men. Domestic discourse doesn't need another strident voice. We need to soften, to show there is value and import in caring and caretaking. If every adult is out fighting the war, the village falls apart from neglect. If the battle should be won, there will be nothing to return triumphant to, only abandoned children and ashes.