As women, we are always taught to compromise, to give in, to adjust. And we do that so well. We give in to our parents, we give in to our husbands, we give in to our kids. We compromise and adjust so well, that at times we forget who we were to begin with.
And that has been happening with me too. But recently I’ve started becoming aware of the fact that the life I’ve been living has to a large extent been to please others, or at least to make sure that others were not uncomfortable around me, even it meant masking who I really am. A lot of the time I did this just to keep the peace or because I was too tired to fight anymore.
But now there seems to be a restlessness to find the real me again. I thought it would be easy. But old habits die hard and it’s not easy to rock the boat. In this series of posts I will be writing about my attempts in my journey to try and be myself again. It called “The courage to be me” and the first in the post is “Mamma Mia” which talks about how as mothers we allow our kids to dictate our lives.
A couple of months ago, I watched the movie Mamma Mia for the first time. I was alone at home with a bottle of beer for company. It was one of those occasions when I was completely at ease with myself and my aloneness. What a perfect night to watch a movie like Mamma Mia!
And I loved it! I hooted, and yelled and drooled and sighed all through it!
I could so relate to the kind of friendship that Donna (Meryl Streep) has with her friends Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski). Today when I meet my gang of girls, the conversation flows pretty much in the same way. We all let our hair down and the talk does get centered around our sex life or the lack of it. That is part and parcel of being friends for ever so long. You are so comfortable talking about stuff like this with them.
And the songs! Abba! Oh I grew up on them! They were around when I had my first crush; they were around when I fell in love; they were playing the night Jerry and I first kissed! I learnt to dance to their numbers and I’ve sung their songs to my kids when they were babes. So when Pierce Brosnan aka Sam Carmichael sings to Donna, I almost swooned!
That night I was not a mother. I was just a woman. Just me! Just Sunita!
A couple of weeks ago, they aired the movie once more, and I was prepared to enjoy it all over again. Only this time my daughter was at home and she said, “What a crappy movie! How can you enjoy this stuff!” And instinctively I started wondering if I was wrong and if the movie was indeed not as good as I thought it was. I started questioning my judgement.
This is something I have noticed myself doing a lot as I’ve started getting older. I’ve started losing faith in myself. I’ve started relying more and more on the judgement of my daughters. I want to be like them. I want to like what they like. Maybe it has something to do with the oft heard exclamation, “Mom! Don’t embarrass me!”
How many of us do this? As mothers we give in to our kids in so many ways. We give up cooking dishes that we like if our kids don’t like them. As our kids grow older, we give into their ideas of how the house should be done up and even what we should wear. (Mom! Are you really going to wear that!)
I actually started telling her what I liked about the movie and then… Pierce Brosnan started singing SOS. (Yes, he actually sings the song himself) And the utter sexiness of the man and his voice was too much! How could anything like that ever be crap! If it was, it was crap I loved! I suddenly realised I didn’t have to justify my likes or dislikes to anybody, certainly not to my children!
I was an adult and had my own life which was made up of so many experiences of which they had no idea at all. And they have no right to judge me or to shame me on trivial things like this. More importantly, “I” do not need to be ashamed of my choices. If I choose to salivate over Pierce Brosnan singing Abba songs, that is my choice. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the least bit. I don’t need to be ashamed of it.
If I want to eat lady fingers or pineapple raita, I will make it once in a while. If the kids don’t like it, it’s okay. (I will deliberately not hear that, “why did you make pineapple raita? You know I don’t like it!”) They can eat the other stuff that is there. If I want pink curtains in my room, I will have them. If you don’t like them, don’t enter my room. I have decided that I am no longer living my life to please others. It’s my life, not theirs!
Strangely, life has actually become easier after this. The other day my daughter started to say something about a book I was reading and then said, “But I suppose you like to read different stuff. So it’s okay” Yes. It takes a bit getting used to but it is definitely worth taking the courage to be myself!