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I hate it when reality comes to kick me in the ass.

My mom came for a visit a couple of weeks ago. She had a conference in town and decided to bookend it with a stay at Disney, and because I now live so close, that also meant more than one trip to my apartment.

Now, I know you don’t know my mom. She is polite, gracious, smart, funny, and the mother of all perfectionists. And she has definite ideas about who I should be.

She’s willing to support me trying to follow the Paleo diet, but not a pole dance class.

She’s willing to support me going to yoga, but when she sees my bracelets that read STRONG and FEARLESS, she cocks a brow and asks why I would wear them.

She encourages me to continue working at a job where I can already see the writing on the wall. Why? Because it’s a steady paycheck and health insurance.

She shops with me for t-shirts and jeans, but not strappy high heels. Because, naturally, the only place I would wear those is in my pole class, which makes them stripper shoes.

My mom is supportive of the rule-following, head-down-and-nose-to-the-grindstone girl I was when I lived in Michigan.

I am not that person any longer. And it seems the more I share the woman I am becoming, the less I seem to fit the mold of “acceptable daughter”.

Last December, I got a tattoo on my left wrist. It’s the symbol for om–yes, as in chanted meditation om–which, among other things, signifies the belief that everything happens in this moment. I got it for a multitude of personal reasons, but at the front of my mind was the realization that I need to live in the present.

The tattoo did not go over well with Mom. Why? Because now she was one of “those” moms: the ones with kids who have piercings and tattoos. Because at 27, I had made a decision that clearly signified that I was going to head down a path of stupid decisions.

Me, the one with the masters’ degree.

Me, the one who doesn’t drink.

Me, the one who spent 4 months making sure it was something I truly wanted before I committing to the ink.

None of this mattered. I was now casting her parenting skills in a bad light.

My confession about pole classes was met with silence at first. And then a line of questioning into my motives which actually ended with me having to confirm that I had no intention of becoming a stripper.

She didn’t ask about why I wanted to study pole.

I would have had her watch a video of Natasha Wang or Jenyne Butterfly; ladies who truly make pole dance look like art.

I would have told her that I wanted to actually connect to my body and what it meant to be feminine.

Sensing another fight and another instance of disappointment, I gave up trying to explain myself. So when the day came to pick my mom up from the airport, I packed up my grip aid, my meditation supplies, my sage, and my 7″ platform heels.

I packed away me, and I’m at war with myself because of it.

Part of me believes that there is no shame in trying to avoid conflict, especially if I can see it coming a mile away. The other part of me says that I’m not being honest.

Because you know what else I discovered? It’s not about me becoming the woman I was always meant to be.

It’s about her. It’s about my mom, and the fact that I’m making choices she never would have made. It’s about not supporting actions that do not fit in her world and with her perception of her family’s roles.

It’s not about me. And for the first time, I can truly see that.

(Image credit: epSos.de)

When I graduated from Davidson and started that ever-so-fun job search, my mother read my cover letters, used and abused her contacts, reminded me to write thank you notes and was generally my one-woman cheerleader.

My mom has always been an out-of-the-box kind of thinker. Don’t just send a resume, if you’re applying for a publicity position (which I was at the time), send them a PR plan. If there’s something you want and you fail the first time, just look at it from a different angle.

A few years ago the family dog, Dillon, ran away while at doggy camp (yes, doggy camp). My family was on vacation and couldn’t do a hell of a lot about the situation. Long story short, my mother was a whirlwind of activity. She put up posters, called newspapers and community centers, even made a poster of Dillon’s face that the family put on the back of our car. My dad and her plotted where Dillon had been seen on a map and because of this she eventually found Dillon, despite her being lost for two weeks and had apparently been hit by a car. Twice.

And just this year I was held in British customs for two days and sent to a detention facility. Very scary stuff and not a ton I could have done to get out of the situation. I was being deported and that was that. Except my mom stepped in. I got a very powerful  media man to speak on my behalf. She organized all the things immigration said I was lacking and got them to reevaluate my case. Unfortunately, I was still denied entry. But then mommy called the Big Bad Immigration Officer directly and 20 minutes later I was free.

This is the kind of woman my mother is. She’s like a dog with a freaking bone – she just doesn’t give up.

She’s also pretty interesting. She graduated high school at 16, ended up as a radio DJ and eventually a reporter on CNN. She’s published a book. Went to the Sahara to dig up some plane. Lived in Syria for a month so she could improve her Arabic. Is in Iceland at the moment speaking at some conference or another. She’s basically exactly who I want to be.

Out of all the things my mom has instilled in me, it’s that sense of determination is what she really passed on. She recently asked me after I accomplished something awesome (can’t even remember what it was now), “How did you get to be such a go-getter?” Um…. Where do you think, woman?!

That said, we disagree on almost everything (mostly just to disagree), religion being the big one. I definitely disappointed her in that department, but I believe what I believe and hopefully that never becomes a huge issue between us.

Our relationship has definitely not been easy. I went through a phase in high school where I wanted nothing to do with her, but I guess that’s teenagers, right? We definitely get along better when I’m not living in her house. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss her like crazy.

And as for the rest of my family – I love them to bits. My three brothers are pretty awesome, my dad is hilarious. Meaning home was always crazy. Back when the two older boys (I’m the oldest) were in high school, their friends would come over every Friday to have Nerf gun fights and eat all the food in the house. Anytime I’d bake you could be damn sure it would be gone within in hour. They’d play video games loud or run around outside acting like crazy people. Now they play beer pong on the kitchen island and have girlfriends.

My family is completely incapable of having a normal meal. The conversation gets progressively louder as dinner goes on until we’re all screaming at each other – but in a totally loving way. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of this.

We don’t sing kumbaya or talk about our feelings but I’d consider my family to be pretty tight. I do adore them. I just can’t live with them. Partly because I feel like a child in that house, partly because it’s too freaking loud and I can’t think, partly because we drive each other crazy, but I did grow up in an environment that was 99% Awesome.

My family doesn’t particularly know or care about my QLC and that’s okay. I think my parents are just waiting for me to get a real job and start being an Adult, but I know they’re proud of me and want me to be happy and do things and have adventures. Hopefully I can follow through.

When I graduated from Davidson and started that ever-so-fun job search, my mother read my cover letters, used and abused her contacts, reminded me to write thank you notes and was generally my one-woman cheerleader.

My mom has always been an out-of-the-box kind of thinker. Don’t just send a resume, if you’re applying for a publicity position (which I was at the time), send them a PR plan. If there’s something you want and you fail the first time, just look at it from a different angle.

A few years ago the family dog, Dillon, ran away while at doggy camp (yes, doggy camp). My family was on vacation and couldn’t do a hell of a lot about the situation. Long story short, my mother was a whirlwind of activity. She put up posters, called newspapers and community centers, even made a poster of Dillon’s face that the family put on the back of our car. My dad and her plotted where Dillon had been seen on a map and because of this she eventually found Dillon, despite her being lost for two weeks and had apparently been hit by a car. Twice.

And just this year I was held in British customs for two days and sent to a detention facility. Very scary stuff and not a ton I could have done to get out of the situation. I was being deported and that was that. Except my mom stepped in. I got a very powerful  media man to speak on my behalf. She organized all the things immigration said I was lacking and got them to reevaluate my case. Unfortunately, I was still denied entry. But then mommy called the Big Bad Immigration Officer directly and 20 minutes later I was free.

This is the kind of woman my mother is. She’s like a dog with a freaking bone – she just doesn’t give up.

She’s also pretty interesting. She graduated high school at 16, ended up as a radio DJ and eventually a reporter on CNN. She’s published a book. Went to the Sahara to dig up some plane. Lived in Syria for a month so she could improve her Arabic. Is in Iceland at the moment speaking at some conference or another. She’s basically exactly who I want to be.

Out of all the things my mom has instilled in me, it’s that sense of determination is what she really passed on. She recently asked me after I accomplished something awesome (can’t even remember what it was now), “How did you get to be such a go-getter?” Um…. Where do you think, woman?!

That said, we disagree on almost everything (mostly just to disagree), religion being the big one. I definitely disappointed her in that department, but I believe what I believe and hopefully that never becomes a huge issue between us.

Our relationship has definitely not been easy. I went through a phase in high school where I wanted nothing to do with her, but I guess that’s teenagers, right? We definitely get along better when I’m not living in her house. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss her like crazy.

And as for the rest of my family – I love them to bits. My three brothers are pretty awesome, my dad is hilarious. Meaning home was always crazy. Back when the two older boys (I’m the oldest) were in high school, their friends would come over every Friday to have Nerf gun fights and eat all the food in the house. Anytime I’d bake you could be damn sure it would be gone within in hour. They’d play video games loud or run around outside acting like crazy people. Now they play beer pong on the kitchen island and have girlfriends.

My family is completely incapable of having a normal meal. The conversation gets progressively louder as dinner goes on until we’re all screaming at each other – but in a totally loving way. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of this.

We don’t sing kumbaya or talk about our feelings but I’d consider my family to be pretty tight. I do adore them. I just can’t live with them. Partly because I feel like a child in that house, partly because it’s too freaking loud and I can’t think, partly because we drive each other crazy, but I did grow up in an environment that was 99% Awesome.

My family doesn’t particularly know or care about my QLC and that’s okay. I think my parents are just waiting for me to get a real job and start being an Adult, but I know they’re proud of me and want me to be happy and do things and have adventures. Hopefully I can follow through.

Typically, the people who make you feel most appreciated are your mom, best friend and significant others. These people have played a significant part in my life, and it was through their mistakes and mine that I have learned how to have more self-respect.

THE FIRST TIME

When I was 15, my parents got a divorce and I chose to live with my mom. She was always the disciplinarian and the one who seemed to have my best interest at heart. I wasn’t old enough to realize how great of a decision that was, but looking back, I know it was a great decision that didn’t last as long as it should have.

As do most people when they go through a breakup or an unhappy marriage, once they’re “free”, they make every attempt that they can to fill the void by dating a group of men. My mom was no different, and took the first steps into the world of “serial dating”.

I fell in love with her first boyfriend, who convinced her to buy me my first Nike brand jacket that I wanted. They broke up, and I was miserable. That was my first experience with a broken heart.They rekindled briefly, but nothing came of it.  My mom would then date a half dozen or so men who, even at age 15, I knew weren’t good enough for her.  She made them a priority when she was only an option to them.

I remember one night when I was 15, my mom was going to pick me up from dance class, but she was late. Very late. It was dark out, and cold out, and I remember waiting, wondering when she’d show up.  She was never known to be late, and she was never late again, but in that moment – I felt alone. When she picked me up, she had told me that her then boyfriend was installing a shower head. There was a bland apology, but the damage was done.

I felt number 2 to her, and understood that her need for validation from a man was number 1. Self-Respect?  Hmmm.

THE SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH, AND SO ON:

That first time would be followed by many other instances when I felt I was number 2 to something more important.

I dated someone with I was 18 who was a drug addict. Though I never tried any sort of illegal substance, his love was heroin. He would steal money, my car, my everything if it meant he could get one line. He’d tell me whatever I needed to hear to feel loved, but in the next breath, he’d ask for money, or a ride to the local drug sets. Eventually I got tired of being #2, cheated on, stolen from, and being treated like a literal piece of #2.

I dated a man after than who was a million times better than the last. He was a college student, frugal, successful, and everything I ever thought I could want in a significant other. On Valentine’s Day 2 years ago, we made plans to hang out and have a romantic evening at my apartment.  He came over, and we settled in for some dinner. He got a phone call from his mother who was feeling sick. He rushed home to her. On Valentine’s Day.

Though some might argue that being respectful to the mother is something they look for in a man, there were a series of events involving his mother that would leave me feeling like a number 2. This resentment that I had for him on not only this situation, but many other would lead to our eventual demise.

THE LAST TIME

My best friend is dating a friend of mine that I introduced her to with that exact hope. When they first met, we all went out to a local bar for a few drinks. That night, a really disturbing gentleman sat beside me at the bar and started talking to me and my friend. My male friend was on the other side of my best friend. When the guy started asking questions about me and my girlfriend, my male friend stepped in, put his arm around her, said “We’re together” and they proceeded to walk outside together. I was left with Creepy Creeperson alone.

After we arrived back at my apartment, my best friend and guy friend proceeded to sleep together in my office. I was sitting on my sofa curled in a ball feeling violated, disregarded, number 2.

In that moment I realized that I never wanted to feel that way again.

SO NOW WHAT?

I was tired of being everyone’s number 2, and mostly my own number 2. For so long, I would much rather see others happy and content than allowing myself to be.

In that moment I vowed to always remember myself and what I want in every situation.  I would respect myself enough to consider my own feelings. I’d learn how listen to gut feelings and realize that that’s my heart trying to give me a hint on where to go. I would never ever again allow someone to disrespect, neglect, or make me feel inferior.

The point of this post was surely not to rag on those who have made me feel inferior, or Number 2. I had a firm hand in all of it. Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”,  and she’s right. I had the power to ensure that I did not feel second best, but I had not yet realized where that power lied nor how to use it.

If nothing else, I want to thank each and every one of these people for helping me to find self- respect – something so many search for for years, and rarely find.

Many people say “Treat others how you want to be treated”.  While this is surely true on some levels, I prefer to say “Treat yourself how you want others to treat you.” If you respect yourself, people won’t have a choice but to treat you with respect. If they don’t, you’ll make the appropriate changes to avoid that from happening again.

Bottom line: Be your own number one, and accept nothing less. Ever.

photo credit: duncan