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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Strong Women-Strong Men

The other day, I received an article in my e-mail in-box. As this came from my employer’s  health insurance carrier, I determined my best interest would be served to take a few minutes and read it.

Boy was I wrong.

The title of the piece was:

In Showdown Between Sexes, Male Ego Bruises Easily
When wives or girlfriends succeed, men's self-esteem sags, study contends©

Really.
Are our male psyches so delicate?
Intrigued, I read further. The study claims men feel insecure when their wives or girlfriends succeed in any endeavor, even if the two are not competing.

I began to question the breadth and scope of the study subjects. I began to wonder about where the men of today and the future are heading. I wondered how many men of my generation were interviewed.

You see; all my life I have been around strong women.

My Mother, Charlotte, faced the specter of cancer in the late 1950s with dignity and grace.  She had beauty, grace, and intelligence well above the norm. Descending from Swedish and German pioneer stock, she was the solid bedrock foundation of our family.  Then, at the young age of 38, she was stricken with cancer. She faced a brain surgery, cutting edge at the time, primitive by our standards. She endured constant pain and blinding headaches. She dealt with the humiliation of having all her thick, luxurious hair shorn to facilitate the surgery. She faced all with dignity, grace, and with a good dash of humor.
She didn’t see her fortieth birthday.  
Did I feel less of a male by having such a Mother?
Not that I can tell.

My Step-Mother, Phyllis, (known ever after as “Mom”) was a farm-girl from Northwest Ohio. She was a descendant of a Revolutionary War soldier, and early settler to the Firelands of Ohio.  Growing up on a farm in the early part of the Twentieth Century was not an easy life. There was no electricity until the 1930s. She did everything imaginable, gather eggs, feed livestock, milk cows, herd hogs, help with planting, help with harvest, as well as learn the genteel skills every young lady would need. Cooking (boy…could she cook!), sewing, and home making.  She was always a lady, always well dressed, always neat as a pin. But… don’t get her mad! More than once I discovered she still possessed the  speed and skills necessary to wrangle hogs, move cattle and the strength to pitch bales of hay when she grabbed hold of my misbehaving skinny self.  She was a well regarded manager within the charitable health organization she was employed by for many years.
Did my self esteem falter due to Mom’s solid influence?
I don’t think it did.

My sister Elaine is something else. We are primarily Irish and German. Yeah, I know two warm, calm, introspective people groups. Neither is prone to rash decisions or actions. Elaine got a good dose of both, (although I believe I got the majority of the Irish traits. Sometime, we will sit down over a couple of pints, and I will tell you why.) She is about 6 years older than I am. She is a retired teacher (many decades of teaching socially and emotionally troubled middle school students), who got bored less than a year into retirement and began teaching gifted students. A good example of being a strong person is an incident which occurred when we were children.

I have told you a bit about growing up in Mayfield Village in the ‘50s and so on.  Our home was across a 2 lane blacktop from a cemetery. One time, while in elementary school, Elaine was having a sleepover with several of her girlfriends. Our Dad conceived a brilliant idea of waiting until dark, then approaching our home from the cemetery wearing a white sheet, all the while wailing like a ghost.
Of course, the little girls took off screaming. Dad thought this was a great prank to pull. Until, he suddenly saw stars and feeling  a splitting pain in the back of his head. Elaine, rather than running, grabbed a baseball bat, sneaked up behind “the ghost”, and clobbered him over the head! Dad snatched the sheet off, yelling “Sissy! Sissy! (her childhood name). It’s me!” She was getting set to let him have another one.

She has exhibited this strength and resoluteness her entire life. I mean, how many people do you know who vacation to Galapagos Island,  break a leg with no medical care within hundreds of miles, tolerate a 3 day journey back home, have surgery, months of re-habilitation and makes jokes about it?
That’s my sister.
Did having a strong, achieving female sibling mess me up? I don’t see how.

Now, I have a Lovely Bride of 40 years. She is beyond a shadow of doubt the strongest, most steadfast, consistent person I know. In her own right, she has been very successful. Whether in sales, commercial voice over work, charitable work and on into the political arena she is recognized as a leader.  Recently, she had another accomplishment, coming in second in our local paper’s weight loss contest. And, she is still dropping the pounds!
Am I at a low point with my self esteem?
Pull-ease… I am infinitely proud of her.

From a strong Mother comes strong children; we have 3 daughters (Charlotte, Shannon, Aubrey), and a son (Gabe). All are strong, dependable, solid adults. Our girls are like their Mother, lady-like, gentle, but strong as iron when needed. Our son married a true Southern Belle; sweet as honey, gentle as a butterfly, but tougher than rawhide underneath.  We were so thrilled to meet Teri Lynn. She is more than an equal match for our gregarious, strong-willed son.

A  strong woman is NOT a demanding, whining, nit-picking, self-centered female. A strong woman is self-reliant, self-confident; her sense of being is not predicated upon who or what her male partner is. For, that matter, I know several strong women who are single and very happy in that state.

In fact, the men I trust most, whom I would call upon if I had to go into battle whether spiritual or physical, are ALL married to strong, lovely women. 

In retrospect, after more than sixty years of being around strong willed females, do I feel as if my self-esteem, my male ego, my sense of who I am has been diminished? 

Not by a long shot. 

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