September 9, 2013 by phicks2012
When I was a child and was asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up, I can recall stating proudly (though at different times, of course) that I wanted to be a cowgirl, a ballerina, an artist, a singer, an actress, and an author. Even when I was told by my well-meaning paternal grandmother that if I didn’t snag a husband by the time I finished college my remaining options were to be 1) a school teacher, 2) a secretary, or 3) a beautician I never included those noble occupations on my short list — or even on my really long list — because somehow I couldn’t envision “settling” for a future I didn’t dream up.
In Granny’s defense, she belonged to a different generation, and in her heyday she would very probably have been correct. Women were housewives, teachers, secretaries or beauticians, and there were very few other acceptable occupations for the female rank and file back then. The average woman didn’t generally aspire, at least with any realistic expectation of fulfillment, to be a president, a scientist, a world-class chef, a fashion designer, or a professional athlete. A few women managed to follow such unrealistic dreams, but for most women finding a husband was “The American Dream”. If they couldn’t have Mr. Right, well then, sometimes they just had to “settle” for what they could get.
Marriage wasn’t always the answer to “happily ever after”, mind you, but even if it wasn’t “the answer” women pretty much adhered to the “til death do you part” thing because divorce really wasn’t a socially acceptable solution back then. Not for a woman anyway. So my grandmother meant well, and really thought she was giving me good advice, as she saw it, but somehow I just never wanted to “settle”.
My mother was a delightful, funny, and loving person, but she was also die-hard conventional at heart. Like Caesar’s wife, she wanted me to be above reproach and to live a conventional life — probably so that her nosier, more opinionated friends wouldn’t have anything negative to say about me — and back then she honestly saw very few other future career options open to me than my grandmother did. Even then little girls were not encouraged to “Dream Large”, and the fact that most of my talents and interests didn’t translate well to helping me fill a traditional feminine occupational niche (See Above) frequently led her to discourage me, like my grandmother did, meaning well, from following my natural inclinations. When I wrote stories or poetry or songs, or drew pictures, she complimented them, of course. She was, after all, a mother, but still she felt called upon to point out that I was unlikely to be able to make a living doing those things — and to her credit she really believed that. If I’d had more faith in myself and less doubt in my abilities I might have proven her wrong, and she’d have been happy if I had done so. As it was though, I’m afraid I spent far too many years trying to fit into expected vocational patterns. The proverbial square peg. Trying to force myself to “settle”.
My father was brilliant in business, had his own quirky nature and off-beat sense of humor, loved me dearly, and could be very creative in a lot of ways, but he didn’t think my natural talents would translate well to real life either, and he never taught me business skills because he believed that wouldn’t be necessary. He thought I was going meet a man who would take care of me. That was, after all, the way it was supposed to work, and he, too, really believed it. Too bad that so many of the men who came into my life wanted a free ride rather than any sort of responsibility, because otherwise I might have accepted one of the marriage proposals I got over the years. I didn’t though. The wrong men always asked, the right one never did. My mother had advised me that it was better to be alone than to be in a miserable relationship, and I still didn’t want to “settle”.
So, when I grow up, if I ever do, I no longer want to be a cowgirl, or a ballerina, a singer or an actress, but I’d still like to be an artist and an author! I refuse to tie myself, even now, to any man I can’t love and respect — who doesn’t love me — and who can’t or won’t meet me halfway as far as accepting responsibilities taking on challenges! But miracles can happen! I could still become successful following my various dreams, and (Guess What!) I still refuse to “settle”.