Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Assertiveness and Femininity

I spent much of the weekend on a little spa retreat in Wales, alone with my thoughts and really quite in heaven. But that time alone started a train of thought on strength…wondering if perhaps all this independence and time on my own has made me too strong to ever find “him.” Because, of course, the man who can successfully lead me has to be even stronger and wiser than I am. And the stronger I become, the smaller that pool of stronger men becomes.

I’ve been told all my life that I’m stronger and braver than most people, but it’s never really sunk in. Because I tend to think I’m quintessentially feminine and afraid of confrontation and risk…I don’t like vagueness and I like to know that things will work out. But life rarely works that way…and I think I accept that reality more than I think I do.

Though I’m lucky that as an adult, there are few lasting effects and to meet me, you'd hardly notice anything, as a child I had brain surgery twice and I had to learn to walk again as a pre-teen. I lost my father to heart disease when I was a teenager…and, of course, moved across an ocean by myself last summer, with no friends, no home or a job on the other side ;) So, I suppose getting through all of that makes me quite brave and able to accept the unknown. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had more obstacles thrown at me than most people…and I think that overcoming those obstacles is much of what drives my quest for perfection. It isn't enough to just make due with what's easy, I want the best.

I have always been a perfectionist, always setting my sights on the best. When I prepare a meal, I research several different recipes, usually taking a little bit from several different ones for my final product, working exhaustingly in the hopes that my dish will be the best my guests have ever tasted. I make sure I buy the best and freshest ingredients, even if it means visiting several different stores. I make sure that I’m using the best techniques. When I travel, I research my options to an exhaustive degree…ensuring that I’m making the trip as perfect as possible. When I shop for clothes, I’m often frustrated because the garments have one or two small details I don’t like…or they’re missing a detail that I’ve envisioned in my mind. They aren’t at the level of perfection I hope for.

All of that research and planning is all to satisfy my want and need to achieve the best. After all, settling for less may be easier, but it means sacrificing some of my happiness…and maybe others’ happiness, and neither are viable options to me.

I’ve become the same way with relationships. I’d always been picky…choosing to be single rather than date just anyone, but since deciding that I want and need a Taken in Hand relationship, I’ve become much more selective. Because I would rather remain single for now, leaving the hope and opportunity of finding “him” a real possibility, than settle for less – trapping myself forever in a relationship that I don’t really want. The latter wouldn’t be fair to me or to him.

My perfectionism definitely extends into relationships and I love striving for perfection in everything I do for the man I’m with…in going the extra mile to make him happy. But, I’ve never really thought of myself as a risk taker…or as someone who’s all that courageous. But I’m starting to realise that I’m both of those things…and I need a man who is more so, a man strong enough to do the right thing even when it’s difficult. A man who values his own happiness enough to take the bumpier road, in the hopes of finding the pot of gold at the end…even though it means taking the risk of finding an empty pot at the end.

If I am going to entrust my entire well-being and future to a man, I need to know that he makes his decisions with my feelings and needs at the forefront of his mind, ensuring his own happiness but also being mindful and considerate of me. I need to know that he doesn’t make decisions by settling for the easier, less satisfying route. I can’t respect a man who doesn’t strive for perfection, who is afraid to take risks.

Back to the weekend – it was really relaxing and the hotel I’d chosen was quite lovely…but there were a few glitches along the way and I found myself easily sticking up for myself, resolving the issues in a polite yet firm manner. I was doing things that are really best suited to a man and I was doing them mostly effortlessly.

My train tickets had been all manner of messed up, due to a host of mistakes and mishaps by the oh-so-lovely British Rail system…the details of which make a very long story, but due to my insistence that they fix their mistake, they (hopefully) will. In days past, I’d have been very upset and annoyed at the mistake, but I’d have suffered silently, too shy, feminine and afraid of confrontation to do anything about the situation. Or, I’d do that for awhile, eventually coming unglued and yelling at whoever answered the phone. All the while, I’d sulk about how my perfect holiday had been ruined. But this time, I just calmly kept persisting, calling number after number, politely yet firmly explaining the situation until it was finally resolved…reminding myself the whole time that if I wasn’t able to resolve it, the world would not end ;)

When I arrived at my hotel, there had been a computer glitch and I was allotted a room at a quality level below what I had booked. I stood there looking about the mediocre room, pondering my options. I could do as I’ve always done, I thought, and just suffer silently…lamenting in my head about the much nicer room I’d been looking forward to for weeks, the one I had paid for. Or, I could use my newfound courage and stand up for myself, as I did with the train situation.

It only took a few seconds to decide and, grabbing my room key, I dragged myself back to reception to enquire about the problem. After waiting patiently in the queue, smiling sheepishly and apologetically several times at the gentleman behind the desk – because I was obviously there to complain – I prefaced my complaint by apologising for being difficult and explained that there had been a mistake in my booking. At first, he argued that I’d been booked correctly, but after a few more minutes of looking through my reservation, he realised that I was correct. And in that time, I didn’t walk away defeated, but I also didn’t lose my temper or even get annoyed.

It was quite late in the afternoon and they had booked all of the rooms at the level I’d paid for, so were searching for what was available. In an extra bout of bravery that surprised me even as it came out of my mouth, I enquired about being comped an upgrade to the next higher level of room…the best room in the hotel. Those were all booked as well it seemed (and I did know that the hotel was fully booked for the weekend, so I don’t think they were lying! ;) ). But they found a room – the manager referred to it as his favourite room in the whole hotel – and they were refunding the difference in cost to me.

And it turns out that I was being given the nicest room in the hotel, at this lower level of quality…and it was utterly lovely, I didn’t miss my intended room one bit and I was feeling rather lucky, this less costly room was quite private and perfect really. And as the manager left me to unpack and get settled in this lovely room, savouring its incredible view, I realised that the whole interaction had been painless, easy and pleasant. For a few minutes of assertive effort on my part, I’d scored an even better holiday for myself. But I couldn’t help but engage in a wee bit of wishful thinking that there had a man to do all that resolving for me…that I could’ve been sitting gingerly and patiently in the lobby, whilst he fixed the room situation.

Later that evening, arriving for the dinner reservations included in my stay, I had to wait a few minutes because they’d forgotten my reservation. When I was finally seated, service was quite slow and 30 minutes had passed by the time my order was taken. And by then, they were out of the only starter I fancied off the set menu…I again had that momentary “what to do, what to do” dilemma. But, reminding myself that this was my holiday, that I deserved an enjoyable meal, I took a deep breath and, with an apologetic smile to the server, asked to see the manager. When he arrived, I smiled my best feminine and sheepish smile and explained the forgotten reservation, the slow service and requested a starter off the a la carte menu, without incurring extra cost, as compensation. I was a bit dumbfounded and amazed that it was that easy, but it was…he smiled, agreed and apologised. The food was fantastic and I gushed to the staff each chance I had. And each time I saw both the host and the manager throughout the weekend, they seemed to go out of their way to smile and greet me.

In each of those interactions, I managed to maintain my femininity, yet also stand up for myself. I suppose, in a way, my constant apologising was partly an acknowledgement that I, as a lady, am not supposed to be the one resolving these situations. And I have to wonder if my very acknowledgment of that helped my case…if my sheepish smiles and my reluctantly firm tones made these men more likely to want to assist me.

Whilst it did feel good, to some extent, to stand up for myself…I couldn’t help but wish I didn’t have to. I couldn’t help but wish that a man were resolving these issues on my behalf, leaving me to maintain my femininity.

I’m most certainly still quite feminine in some ways...I indulged a bit too much in various ways over the weekend, indulgences that might not have been allowed under the guidance and rules of a man. And though I did very much enjoy those indulgences at the time, I’m now wishing that someone had been keeping me in check!

But, I guess the summary of all of that is that my perfectionism requires that I not settle for less than the best in a relationship. I’m strong enough, I think, to be true to that statement. And I need a strong man, willing to go the extra mile to achieve the best and do the right thing. I may be getting stronger and more assertive as time goes on, but it’s a strength I would happily shelve if it weren’t needed ;)


Wild Girl said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. I felt like I was reading a description of me. I have been told for many years now that I am so strong. Many men have mentioned that I intimidate them with my strength but I know that I am very feminine. I have felt that those men who were intimidated, were not too strong themselves and if I was stronger than them, then they certainly are not what I was looking for.
Keep up what you are doing and never settle for less. That is my plan as well and like you, if the pot of gold at the end is empty well at least I will not have sold a part of myself to grasp only a tiny bit of happiness. I want it all or nothing. You are I are both worth it.
My mother used to say "shoot for the moon and if you fall short, you're still among the stars." Aim high always. If you aim low that is what you'll get.
I admire you, going all the way to England. I have wanted to leave this country many times myself and one day I think I will. Being a strong women is a good thing, not something to hide away like a bad trait. Any man worth his salt will see that and appreciate it because he will be confident in his own strength. Honestly, who actually wants a weak person?
You will find him and so will I.

Egghead said...

I think you did very well. Although I do sometimes find the frailty of women charming, like when my wife needs the support of my arm to descend steps in a tight skirt and high heels, I do not find incompetence sexy or admirable in any way. All the “worthless slut” theatrics of BDSM leaves me cold. My wife is without a question the most important and valuable person in my life and I would be lost without her.

The ideal relationship between a man and a woman is one in which they are a team. He is the leader and she is the assistant, but they work towards mutual goals, and her competence is every bit as important and his is. The mutual goals can be external such as career goals for the man or they can be internal such as submission goals for the woman. In both cases they work together to achieve them, be it through her support of his professional efforts or though his training and encouragement of her submission. When they have successes externally or internally, credit goes to the woman as well as to the man.

Since you are currently lacking the male part of the equation I think that you do well in perfecting your competence in every way including fending for yourself in a polite and dignified manner when you are not treated fairly.

Anonymous said...

I am doing research on DD relationships at and some point I ran across your blog. I will say upfront that I am an active participant in BDSM and am the proud Dominant of an amazingly strong, wonderful man. I started doing this research with a good level of trepidation and a lot of knee-jerk reactions about what women into DD "must be like". I know this will sound condescending and I wish it didn't, but I don't know how else to say it...I'm very impressed by your blog. You write incredibly succinctly and as a woman who has also searched her entire life for a "strong" man to be able to handle her (I'm 32), I can identify with more of your pain than I would have thought. Though I am finding that I don't have much in common with DD women ideologically (I am extremely liberal politically and socially, I do not want children and I am all about having my own career and making my own money and never about letting men tell me how to run my life), I am also finding a kinship with you regarding how you write about your desire to "not settle" for less than what you want. That is an inherently feminist tenet I think, and one can heartily identify with.

Thanks for putting this out there. It's made me think differently about some things on which I had very preconcieved notions.