When R&B artist Aretha Franklin first sang Respect back in the late 60’s it became her signature song. Not to mention it became an anthem world wide for the changes in how society viewed women and their place in the world. Even now close to 50 years later the words of that historic song resonate. Surprisingly, some of you might not realize said song was written and originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. That did not stop Franklin from turning what was a melodramatic plea from a man to his woman to give him his due respect to a step in the right direction for the feminist movement.
Having been raised during the 70’s and 80’s I saw changes in how the world viewed women. My mother Goddess rest her soul though never quite escaped from the mentality in which she had been raised. A stay at home mother of three children of which I am the oldest (and the only female) and the sole caregiver for my father (who retired at 40 due to mental illness) she sent out mixed signals my entire childhood. One moment she would be telling me to never rely on a man and the next she was insisting I needed to get married and start popping the babies out. As a matter of fact I still remember the sex talk if you could call it that. And I quote…
Sex is something a married man and woman do to make babies. It’s not meant to be fun.
Yeah, not really what a sex talk is supposed to be. I get talking about sex with your kids can be awkward, but…well I have no words for that poor excuse. Oh, yes and then there was the sex=love thing. That part fucked my brain up until I was close to 30 if I’m honest. You’d think a mother would want to be as straight forward and honest with their only daughter as possible. In my life that was as far from the case as possible. I had no other close female roll models in my life so I spent most of my childhood years simply trying to sort the truth from the bullshit my mom felt the need to spoon feed me.
I was an early bloomer that might be why she dropped the ball (my period started when I was 10 if you believe that). Then again. Maybe she was just freaking out like a lot of parents do about the entire sex thing. There is one thing I know for sure though. There was no respect in our relationship.
My mother was as stubborn as a mule and her ideas where somewhere between biblical and cracktastic. Had I not known better I would have thought my mom was on crack, but I was a smart kid. It drove my mother nuts that I never stopped asking questions about the messy crap she continued to toss in my direction. At numerous points I heard everything from the infamous Because I said so to You know what curiosity did to the cat.
I was a shy quiet kid, an outcast from the other children, in part because my mother had us all (especially me) on a tight leash. We were not allowed to do an extracurricular activities. If it happened during normal school hours that was fine. If not it was never allowed. She controlled everything in my life. How I dressed, what I ate, and more than once I was told to stop wasting time with the art I loved because that would never happen. Girls weren’t artists. Girls were wives and mothers. What she hoped to accomplish with her actions I have no idea. What she did do was drive a wedge so far between us splinters of it still existed (despite my best efforts as an adult) until she passed from this world almost a decade ago.
What I learned about being a woman I learned from the hallowed halls of middle and high school. I lurked in the shadows, invisible to the other girls, and listened to their conversations. Not the most viable solution, but the only option I had because of that damn wedge. I read as well. Goddess did I read. I was voracious. My teachers were the closest I came to having any type of relationship with an adult. They encouraged me in the things I loved, yet eventually I shut them out as well in my later teen years. I came to know that if I wanted respect I would have to earn it. I also learned no matter what I did, what I might accomplish in this world, it would never be good enough for my mother.
Don’t get me wrong…I loved my mother. It seemed though she didn’t love me. It seemed until the day she died I would always be a singular disappointment because I never married and I chose not to have children. For her I was undeserving of respect simply because I did not follow in her footsteps.
I still struggle everyday with the emotional scars of my childhood. Still struggle to understand why she pushed me away. I do believe she thought she was doing the right thing, but an explanation for that is an entirely different blog all together. I do hope she discovered the error of her ways when she crossed to the other side.
On a positive note though I’ve grown close to and earned the respect of a few choice women over my adult life. Sometimes they might show signs of jealousy, but they also let me know I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be.