They say that love makes the world go round, but I think they’re wrong. I think the majority of the things women do are motivated by guilt.
We women feel guilty about everything. In fact, they say that the most common emotion women feel is guilt, and if you’re a woman, and you’re not feeling particularly guilty right now, just think about it. I’m sure you could talk yourself into plenty of guilt in two minutes flat.
Do you have laundry waiting to be folded? Laundry still in the washing machine, after three days? (Note to self: I’ll get to it, but I’ve got a column deadline, okay?). And don’t even mention the ironing. Then there are those thank you notes that we forgot to send after our wedding twenty-six and a half years ago, which guarantee that at every family reunion since we have avoided Aunt Peggy, because we know she remembers our transgression.
And what about parenting? Motherhood, of course, is the guilt that keeps on giving. We feel guilty for locking ourselves in the bathroom, just to get some breathing space. We feel guilty for not serving vegetables for dinner. We feel guilty when we yell at our kids.
We feel guilty for relaxing, for reading a novel and leaving the housework behind, for spending money on a manicure instead of on paying down debt, and for feeding everyone cereal for dinner.
Those of us who are older feel guilty for all the missed opportunities we had when we were younger. We feel guilty for not saving more, not loving more, not giving more. We feel guilty for letting our parents down. We feel guilty for letting ourselves down, our kids down, or our friends down. We feel guilty for our health deteriorating, and not being able to do all that we used to.
We feel guilty for folding our towels in half and then half again, instead of in thirds like our mothers taught us. We feel guilty for rolling the fitted sheets up into a ball and then throwing them in the linen closet instead of folding them properly.
And most of all, the number one thing that women feel guilty about is our weight. We feel guilty that we like food, that we eat food, and that we want food.
What does all this guilt do to us? We have three possible responses: the first is that we examine the guilt, take the legitimate to heart, and then change our lives for the better. That one’s pretty rare.
The second is that we feel so guilty that we deflect that guilt by getting mad at everyone else to ensure that the grumpiness is spread around evenly. That one’s pretty common.
And then there’s the most common of all: we run around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to do the impossible, with the hope that if we just keep it up, the guilt will stop. But it won’t, because what we’re demanding of ourselves is superhuman. And there really isn’t such a thing as SuperWoman. There is only Exhausted Woman, and I don’t particularly like her.
Men find it easier to shrug guilt off. They don’t tend to bother themselves with silly things like housework standards, menu standards, or etiquette. And they don’t even have to go through labour! They’ve got it easy. So maybe, while we’re still in summer mode, we should try, just for one day, to be a man and not to feel guilt about stupid things. I doubt it will work, but it’s worth the effort. If only someone else would fold the laundry while I tried.