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The Best Advice For Every Woman

I cannot recall any person ever giving me this advice. I have not read it although it is probably written in lots of books. Even my grandmother didn't tell me this and I thought she knew everything.

I have degrees in education and psychology but have not heard this in a classroom. I must say I have observed other women living out this idea in their lives but I never associated it with a skill that I needed.

I wish now that I could have learned this truth when I was very young. It would have saved me 18 years of misery. But alas, I bought into the philosophies of my mother and most other women around me.

In my opinion, most women do not possess this character trait. There is a learning curve to acquire it. Each person is different as far as the time she takes to "get it." For me, it took 6 months.

Maybe this is something we do not learn independently unless it is forced upon us. Hundred of different scenarios can lead us to the place where we close our front door and the house is silent. Parents gone. Lover gone. Kids gone. Roommate gone. friend gone. Brother gone. Sister gone.

Funny how we are born into this world one complete person. Small and fragile, yes and needing help from an adult caregiver for awhile. But eventually we can function on our own. Yet as girls we are conditioned to believe that we need another human being for fulfillment and total happiness. Like we are only .5 of a person and we must seek our other half somewhere in the world. In most cases, we are trained that a male is the missing puzzle piece. Our soulmate.

I struggle to write this as I don't want anyone to misunderstand that I dislike the male gender. I have had and still have good relationships with lot of members of the opposite Sex. It is common for me to hang out with guys since I enjoy sports and am somewhat of a tomboy. I never got into sharing recipes but would rather talk football stats.

Traditionally young girls in America are guided to prepare themselves for the ultimate goal - finding a male mate. Music, movies, television, magazines, teen celebrities, and even our own mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers lead us down this path. Girls in elementary school are learning to act the part of a female who is "desired" and "sexy". Sweet innocent girls are obsessing about their clothes, hair, make-up, and weight. Recently I offered a food item to a 6 year old who asked me about the fat grams in the product. Which is good if she was focused on health but she was watching her waistline and wanted to look "hot".

I do NOT want to undermine the woman who is in a healthy relationship with a man for all the right reasons. I DO want to eradicate the notion that ANY man is better than NO man. This belief is archaic and patriarchal.

I understand that we are naturally drawn to the opposite Sex (unless you are gay, which is a discussion for another day.) I understand the drive to procreate and replenish the earth with people. It is a basic instinct much like survival. Each species procreates and becomes a permanent member of the complex web of life around the globe. The food chain, as it is sometimes called. I get that.

What I have learned that no one ever explained to me is that it is just fine not to procreate. It is just fine to live as a single, complete woman who is confident on her own and not living off the feedback from a man. In the majority of male/female relationships, the man becomes the mirror that the woman looks to seeing if she is attractive, valuable, and wanted. Somehow the guys cast the final vote whether we are worthy of existence. They even have a scale of one to ten. What woman doesn't want to be a TEN? And if a man should reject us it becomes grounds for suicide. How many thousands of girls and women have taken their own lives thinking they were no longer wanted by a man?

I realize that there are tens of thousands of woman around the world who live strong, confident, independent lives. I am not talking Sex in the City, either. (Again, like the gay issue this is for another day.) Somehow their families promoted healthy individuality. Maybe I am in the minority but I know scads of women who rushed into marriage with the wrong guy just to have "someone." Then 10, 20, 30 years later they are still just surviving and not really living. They have become Mrs. John Doe.

The idea of romance is compelling and our culture propels the vision of the loving couple where the man is strong and will protect the woman and care for her the rest of his days till death do they part. Some women still promise to honor and obey their husbands on the marriage altar.

I know, because I did. I imagine that there are thousands of woman just like me that grew up post WWII with our mothers living the "Leave It To Beaver" lifestyle.

My own mother was married at the age of 19. My father always worked and she was a full-time homemaker. She did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child-rearing. My dad came home from his blue-collar job and ate supper then retired to the living room to watch TV until he went to bed to get up and do it all over again.

My mother seemed happy, most of the time. She cried a lot too. And sometimes would go to live with her sister for a couple days. My dad controlled everything and my mother's purpose in life was to serve him. But this was the great American dream. A strapping young man will sweep you off your feet and you will have a fairytale wedding and move to a small cottage with a white picket fence and you will spend cool evenings among the flowers in your garden just laughing and holding hands. Your darling children will come along in time and be the greatest joy of your life and your family will live, love, work, and play under rainbows and sunshine.

If that scenario has happened to you then good for you. GOOD. SPECTACULAR! I take nothing away from it. I do not discount it in any way.

I am trying to reach the other 10, 25, 80, 400, even tens of thousands of women out there who were brainwashed to feel incomplete without a relationship with a man.

Maybe you have heard statements such as: Where is your boyfriend? When are you going to get married? The clock is ticking. You are not getting any younger.

If those words were never verbalized in your presence you still have the onslaught of media, movies, Hollywood, celebrities, television, and glamour magazines promoting sex and beauty for the sake of attracting someone with a penis. Again, penises are not a bad thing. They serve many purposes, not the least of which is to preserve our species. And yes, I do believe there can be true, natural, healthy, life-long love between a man and woman that defies explanation or understanding but is real. For some this will happen. It will be as easy as falling off a log. For others there will be a different time-table. It will take much longer. Some may never have this kind of experience.

So here is the truth that all girls and women need to understand - YOU ARE A COMPLETE PERSON WHO CAN BE PERFECTLY HAPPY ON YOUR OWN. Your life, happiness, or success is not measured by a man's opinion.

My journey to this understanding has been a long one. After being raised in a very traditional patriarchal family, (meaning the man is king of the family) I chose to attend an ultra conservative Christian college and church out of state that only perpetuated the myth that "to be a failure as a wife is to be a failure in life." Strict obedience to the man was taught and demanded. We were taught to honor, respect, and even revere men as our salvation. Marriage was the ultimate goal and if we found ourselves still unmarried and ready to graduate from the college we had a big problem. Something did not go right. We were not sweet and submissive enough so the men passed us over. It was our fault.

The majority of girls married under peer pressure. I bought into the lifestyle without hesitation since it was an extension of my life as a child. Dad was always right. Husbands were always right. This college taught the women that a man was an umbrella to hide beneath from the hardships of life. Those men would pay the bills; provide housing, food, clothing, and all the necessities of life. Our only requirement was to submit. It sounded so good. And easy.

Thousands of people attended this college and from all appearances, it was working. Dating couples were doting upon each other and gazing into each other's eyes although not touching since that would lead to expulsion. We could only feed the flame of desire but never act upon it. Seven inch separation rule during courtship. We could only touch each other AFTER marriage and some couples had their first kiss at the marriage altar.

There were scores of fairytale weddings every spring and summer when classes were over. Everyone rushed to get married so they could morally act upon their desires without condemnation from God and man.

All seemed magical. We were the Christian version of Stepford Wives. Yet there were dark secrets all around. Men and women who didn't have the perfect marriage. There was adultery, mental and physical abuse and unimaginable things going on in families. It was all hushed. I only knew about it because the man I married was the nephew of the President of the college. I was a part of the innermost circle and heard things discussed behind closed doors that most never knew.

A strange thing happens when a subculture of men know they have the upper hand on the women and girls. They feed off of this control and even obsess over it. I had one new bride tell me how her husband would check every morning to see if she had made the bed properly. If not, he would make her take the bedding off and do it over until it met his approval. She was actually very proud of this fact and thought her husband was the king of the world.

Unfortunately these subculture groups attract men who are abusive and/or controlling and women who have had little guidance in their lives. The church that was associated with our Christian college had an attendance of 20, 000 on Sunday mornings.

Every once in a while a secret would leak out. Like an affair. Damage control would swing into action. There would be "special meetings" with the members to squelch rumors.

Some sessions were for girls only and consisted of older women telling us that if our husbands had faults or had made mistakes it was because of something we did or didn't do. For example, a young bride who has had a quick courtship with a co-ed finds herself after the honeymoon trying to get her husband out of bed to go to work. Problem! Her new protector and provider turns out is not a" morning person". Women professors at the college explained that this is the wife's fault. When her loving husband awakes she is probably in a ratty bathrobe with messy hair and morning breath. No hot breakfast has been prepared and what husband wants to awake to that? We were commanded to get up extra early before our husbands did. During this pre-dawn ritual we should shower, dress attractively, smell good, smile, and cook our hubby's favorite breakfast. This would encourage him to get up on time and go to work .For some men, that didn't even work. Now what? You just didn't talk about it. If you had one of those husbands you just acted like he was the greatest and had the character of a disciplined Marine. People noticed he changed jobs a lot.

If your husband should ever stray or have a wondering eye, again, your fault. Not pretty, not smiling, not obedient, not cooking favorite foods, and not providing enough Sex. We were taught to be prepared for sex every day. 365 days a year. Never say NO and ANYTHING goes. "The marriage bed is undefiled, " they would say, meaning however kinky it gets-- you roll with it.

The number of men with sexual addictions was startling. Again, kept under wraps. However, if any strange news leaked out people would just disappear from the college. Teachers and students. One day they were in class and overnight they were gone. All their belongings gone. Even their name tag taken off their office door, in the case of a teacher. I am not implying they were murdered. Just banned from the college and church property. Put on the next bus out of town. We were not to speak of this person ever again.

One of my favorite male teachers was Mr. C. He taught Bible and leadership classes with such power and authority. Everyone admired him and during his lectures we sat on the edge of our seats. Students clung to every word he uttered. Mr. C. would always end class with a challenge to us that was like a burning knife that cut deep into our souls. There were sometimes tears and deafening silence as we tried to absorb the profundity.

He spoke of his dear wife and children. His wife was not able to bear children so they adopted which was all the more endearing. He fondly spoke of his oldest adopted daughter, Esther. She seemed like the apple of his eye.

Years later after I had graduated, married, and moved back to St. Louis, I got a phone call to turn on the television. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Mr. C and his daughter Esther were the subject of the program. In her later teen years she finally broke her silence and reached out to local authorities to say that she had been locked in a closet much of her life and was forced to have sex with her father since she was a child. Mr. C. and his wife are now in prison. The saddest thing is that the mother went along with the incest because "father knows best."

My own marriage was a sham. From all outward appearances we were the Ken and Barbie of the Christian world. My single girlfriends would tell me how they wanted to meet and marry someone just like my husband. It was flattering and sickening at the same time. My husband became a minister and we moved to St. Louis to start a new church. He was a gifted speaker and talented musician. He was "movie-star" handsome. My parents thought my life was perfect.

Once again, please remember our college never allowed couples to ever be alone. Separate dorms. Chaperones on every date. The rules even followed us home for summer vacation. Any hint of a couple getting intimate and they were expelled without question even if it was based on a rumor. Even if the incident happened 500 miles from the school. Again, people just disappeared overnight.

So not having lived with my future husband during our engagement I never really got to know him. We enjoyed a big lavish wedding and took off for the honeymoon. We didn't have much money so we chose to stay at a lakeside resort just a few hours south of St. Louis. As the days unfolded, I knew I had made a huge mistake. He told me of family secrets, the real truth about the lives of some of the college teachers, and experiences he had that were strange and alarming. I knew this would play out in life and in our marriage. I felt like I had just jumped out of a plane without a parachute.

But what could I do? My parents had just spent thousands of dollars on this elaborate wedding. Everyone back at the college thought of us as Ken and Barbie. My girlfriends wanted to marry someone just like my new groom. He even sang a love song to me at our wedding that made all the women swoon. I decided to make this work through sheer determination. I would figure out a way.

But why did I feel so compelled to marry someone I hardly knew? It all started when my mother planted the first seed in my young mind during kindergarten. She simply said one day, "You don't have a boyfriend? What is wrong with you?" I didn't know what was wrong. I was just trying to get used to going to school since I never went to preschool. Now I have to find a boyfriend? But I wanted to please her so from first grade on I always had a boyfriend. She would ask me what my boyfriend's name was and I always had a name for her. It was the priority. Little did I know this philosophy would lead me to rush into marriage with a someone I hardly knew for the sake of getting married. The end result was 18 years of unhappiness and misery.

I had been married 17 years and my husband's cousin wrote a book about marriage. She was married the year before me and my first flight in an airplane was to Chicago to attend her wedding. She was the daughter of the president of the Christian college, highly respected, and asked to speak to women's groups all over the country. This was her first book on marriage. I dove into it with a hunger for truth, still trying to figure out what went wrong with my marriage. In her book she made a simple statement that if your husband hits you or uses physical force it is because you were not submissive. I closed the book on that page. I sat stunned and sick to my stomach. This was all so wrong. The insanity had to stop.

I felt for my parachute and I had one after all! I pulled the rip cord. I started the process of my divorce. I left the church and denounced the teachings of this religious subculture. I lost all my friends. My family did not believe my husband was abusive because I always acted like my marriage was perfect. I went to church with long sleeves to cover the bruises. When he broke all the living room furniture in a fit of rage he told everyone we had been burglarized. He was a pastor of a church. Everyone believed him. Even my parents.

So when I tried to tell the truth of the past 18 years my circle of friends dismissed it since my husband conveniently announced I was having an affair. There are still many who believe I had an affair and that is what broke up the marriage.

My divorce was 9 years ago. I have come full circle. I am healed mentally and physically. I have 2 amazing children whom I am so proud of. After the divorce both of the kids lived with me. Then my elderly parents moved in with me.

Following my divorce I always had family living with me. Kids, elderly parents, 5 dogs. I was busy. Six months ago, everyone was gone. The kids grew up. My father passed away. My mother went to live with my brother. I sold my big 5 bedroom house and moved 20 miles away to a tiny French cottage built in 1830 in the old city neighborhood where my parents first met as teenagers.

When I closed the front door for the first time and stood in the empty house with boxes in disarray, the silence was deafening. I was alone. I had divorced my husband of 18 years and raised my kids and took care of my parents and now something was terribly wrong. I was alone.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. To be alone. I was scared. Really, really scared. I had no regrets about my divorce. And I was proud of my children who were like fledgling birds jumping out of the nest. I had fulfilled all my obligations to my Mom and Dad. I did my best to spoil them like a King and Queen while they were with me. My children learned so much from living with their grandparents. The last day my father was alive he spent the entire day out in the garage helping my son build a utility trailer. My father had suffered a stroke 3 years prior and could barely speak and was paralyzed on the right side. He also was in Stage 5 of Alzheimer's. So the man who had built the large home I grew up in could now only hand my son a hammer. But they enjoyed each other's company on that spring day.

So much to be thankful for but what was wrong with me that I didn't have a man in my life? If my dad were alive he would think I was a failure. My mother thought it but didn't say it.

It was Christmas when I moved to my little cottage. The world outside was dark, bleak, and cold. I was too disorganized to decorate the house. I pulled a 2 foot Christmas tree out of a box and plugged it in. That was the best I could do. I had plenty of time on my hands. No people to look after and my advertising business had slowed to a crawl because of the economy. Everything in my life had been stripped away and I was left with ME. All the good and all the bad. I began preparing myself for a bleak future. After all, it wasn't feasible to be happy and complete and be a SINGLE woman. So I thought 6 months ago. Old faulty ideas are like tall weeds with strong roots. You rank with both hands to pull them out and they pull right back. Sometimes you have to get a sharp instrument and cut them down. I have been hacking away since December. It is now July.

Slowly I have rediscovered a joy that I hadn't felt since I was a child. I was often alone when I was a child and was lucky enough to have a rambling backyard with huge overgrown trees. I build my own tree house and had a tree swing. I spent hours by myself and was never bored. Somehow I got older and became consumed with being "sexy" and attracting men. I grew up and forgot how to live.

Life is about immersing yourself in every moment of every day. Absorbing all the sights, sounds, fragrances, feelings, and sensory stimuli whether you are with someone else or not. It doesn't matter. You only have this moment and it will evaporate.

Being alone again I began to remember the fun of my childhood. The purity of life. At first it felt weird to observe everything around me as a child. Shouldn't I be making dinner for someone or running to get someone's dry-cleaning?

Determined I began chopping away at the untruths I believed for so many years that my worth was based upon whether someone else needed me. Especially those who have whiskers in the morning and carry the family jewels.

Now I sit in the grass and look for four leaf clovers. I float in my pool and look up at the clouds figuring out what the shapes look like. I spend time studying the new blooms on my African violet in the kitchen window. I take time to leisurely brush my hair. I watch the birds and squirrels. I play with my dogs. I photograph flowers in the garden. I grow vegetables and just enjoyed my first tomato. I volunteer at the local animal rescue. I try offbeat restaurants. I cook new foods. I enjoy my morning coffee on my front porch. I make lists of books I want to read. I plan the next 30 years of my life. There is so much I want to do.

My mother still asks me when I am going to get married again. She thinks I need a man to take care of me and buy me a big house. (Her words exactly)

I have given up on her ever understanding that I am and feel very successful and complete living the life I have. I have my own little spot on this planet that includes a charming colonial cottage with all the furnishings I need, a perfect sized yard with clover, wildlife, and flowers, two canine companions who make me laugh everyday, amazing students I am privileged to teach and learn from, and business challenges as I run my ad agency.

It is OK just to be Beverly Nation, a single person. It is how I was born. A single person. I had no one else attached to me. And I am totally fine with not running around trying to "attach" myself to someone for the sake of just "being attached." When I look in the mirror I see a beautiful smart woman who is strong and independent. I do not need someone with different body parts than mine to tell me I am attractive. I dress how I want. I wear my hair as I choose. I can even hold the remote. (Big plus)

Now in the future if a guy comes into my life that enjoys doing what I like to do and the relationship flows easily and it seems worth the give and take, I may consider sharing my space with someone. I am not opposed to it for the right reasons.

So my wish is that every female reading this will come to a place in her life where she enjoys being alone with herself and not be compelled to throw herself into a relationship with a guy just so she "has someone." You already have someone. YOURSELF. You are complete. Now live.

By Beverly Nation - Writer, student, mother, vegan, animal lover, & gardener. I believe in the power of words.  

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