Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Women Need to Stop Worrying About “Looking Bad”

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I’ve been seeing a lot of letters lately from women who are concerned about “looking bad,” most recently in this column and this forum post.

When they talk about “looking bad,” they don’t mean aesthetically-speaking, the way some of us might be concerned about our appearance (which is a whole other conversation about the way we women put unhealthy expectations on ourselves in a way men don’t seem to do); they’re talking about “looking bad” for behaving in a way they fear may alienate or offend someone else (usually, another woman or women). Specifically, women seem to talk about “looking bad” most frequently when they’re debating between prioritizing their — or their immediate family’s — own needs and wants over someone else’s (often unreasonable) requests or demands. “I don’t want to rush my kids through opening their presents on Christmas morning so we can get to their grandmother’s by 8 AM… but I don’t want to ‘look bad’ by showing up later.” Women, can we stop with this nonsense? Can we stop worrying about “looking bad,” and instead start creating healthy boundaries, protecting our own traditions and personal space, and honoring our budget and time limitations? Rather than seeing such assertive behavior as “looking bad,” let’s re-frame the idea. Let’s call it “being a damn adult.”

The wonderful thing about being a damn adult is that you get to make most of your decisions for yourself. Instead of waiting for your parents (or anyone else) to tell you what you can or cannot do, YOU decide. But, of course, no decision is without consequences, and sometimes the consequences of making decisions that conflict with what other people want are often hurt feelings and anger. But the alternative — making a decision based on what is best for someone else rather than prioritizing your own needs and wants — is often resentment, discomfort, frustration, and even financial stress. And yet, people — women, often — continue choosing resentment, discomfort, frustration, and financial stress over “looking bad.”

Please, let’s stop the madness. Let’s all grow up and start making decisions based on what makes the most sense for us (and our immediate families), rather than on what we think will make everyone else happiest. Let’s start taking care of our own needs and honoring our own traditions and limitations and desires. Let’s teach our daughters and other young girls in our lives that it’s OK to have self-interest — that it’s OK to think about what we want even if it’s in direct opposition to what someone we care about wants (and especially if it’s in direct opposition to what someone we don’t care about wants). Let’s continue teaching compassion and kindness and generosity, but let’s balance it with messages that tout the importance, rather than the arrogance, of self-advocacy. Let’s reframe what “ladylike” behavior is so that “looking bad” is a result of being weak-willed and not the result of being assertive and independent and strong.

64 comments… add one
  • juliecatharine

    Juliecatharine December 17, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Amen sister.

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    LANY December 17, 2015, 2:29 pm

    THIS. SO MUCH this.

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    Ange December 17, 2015, 2:50 pm

    Well said! I struggle with this at times because I don’t want to let people down eg. I was cold called for a job interview at a place I really didn’t want to work for. I said yes to the interview because I felt bad for wasting their time (even though they approached me) but then of course it becomes a whole bigger mess if they want to hire you and you have to say no…. My husband on the other hand most decidedly does not struggle with this and I have to say I admire the bald faced confidence.

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    RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:00 pm

    I don’t disagree with you, and I think we should act the way you’ve described. But I just wanted to point out, that it isn’t our individual faults that we tend to automatically react this way. Women are expected to carry the family’s social calendars, and so we’re the ones who get the “blame” for not attending something that someone else thinks we should. Like this year, we were debating skipping my MIL’s Christmas. My husband’s like, let’s just skip. It’s easy for him to say, because his mom won’t blame him, she’ll blame me. I’ll be the bad guy. I’m not someone who lets that stop me from doing what I need to, but still, it’s there, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I either have to do what she wants or get blamed, while my husband is totally free from that. It would be the same on my own mom’s side, if my mom wasn’t completely sweet and accomodating and just happy to have me there. If she was more of a “command performance” type like my MIL, I would also be the one to blame there. It’s never the husband, always the wife, who gets it from both sides.
    .
    And it’s actually the same thing for more than just social events. I feel the same way when his mom wants to drop by and the house is a mess. He doesn’t care, but I know I’m the one who will be thought badly of, so I care. His mom will assume it’s my fault the house isn’t shipshape. So does my mom, which is fair because she knows I’m a total slob, lol. But in general, clean houses are also considered the responsibility of the woman still. As is childcare. If your kid ends up at school without a jacket or a lunch or something, it’s the woman’s fault. Or if it’s clearly the man’s fault, he gets a pass because it’s sooo hard for men to do parenting already, that just bringing the kid in as a huge accomplishment.
    .
    Jeez, between this and the pink monopoly game, I’m getting my feminist anger up on this site. 🙂 But it’s true. The expectations are different for us, which is why we have these struggles and men don’t. It’s bullshit. But it’s there.

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      K December 17, 2015, 3:03 pm

      I’m not married, but this is so true – I see it in my extended family.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 3:16 pm

      But… so what if your MIL blames you for something that your husband is equally responsible for? So what? YOU know you aren’t to blame any more than your husband. Your husband knows you aren’t any more responsible than he is. So, what difference does it make? Does it affect how your MIL treats you? Then, if so, you (and/or your husband) need to speak up about the unfair what she treats you. If it doesn’t affect the way she treats you and you’re only concerned about what she thinks about you, let it go.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyInPurpleNotRed December 17, 2015, 3:22 pm

        Thank you Wendy for saying what I was thinking. I don’t understand how this is an issue. If they blame you, that’s THEIR problem, not yours. It’s the same problem the article is about, being worried that you look bad.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:23 pm

        Yeah, I do let it go and I do what is right for my family. I agree with that part of it. I’m just saying the pressure on us is so different than it is for men, which is why you see women struggling with this while men don’t worry about it at all.
        .
        Plus, obviously, most people want their MIL to like them. Skipping Christmas and other things that are important to your MIL and that they think you should attend, doesn’t tend to lead to a great relationship. So we, as women, have to always balance how much of a pain in the ass it is to go, vs how much we want our relationship to not be affected. I’m just saying, it’s not always as easy as just doing what we want. Especially if there are kids involved who you want to make sure have a relationship with their grandparents.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyInPurpleNotRed December 17, 2015, 3:25 pm

        If your MIL doesn’t like you because your house is lived in or whatever other stupid thing, then I feel like that’s okay. She doesn’t sound like that great of a person and that’s HER issue, not yours.

        For the larger things, they tend to be involving the whole family. If she wants to think you’ve browbeaten your husband into not doing something, there’s not much you can do to change her mind. It sucks, but it’s not worth all the extra stress and worry. Unreasonable people do not get to dictate things unless you let them.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:32 pm

        Just to be clear, my MIL is not the kind of person who would ever say anything to me about the state of my house, but it’s still embarrassing for me because I know that the expectation is that I’m the one who should keep it clean. She’s also accepting (although unhappy) when we skip family events. But I know that it reflects on me, and not my husband, and I know that if I did it too often it would start to affect our relationship. Just like if I skipped a friend’s events all the time, it would affect us. My point is that it’s only women who have to worry about this, it’s not a concern for men because it’s never considered their fault.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyInPurpleNotRed December 17, 2015, 3:36 pm

        I disagree…it’s just a different set of expectations…like if it’s car related or lawn maintenance type things, those are often the man’s responsibility, it’s just something different. And you are choosing to feel embarrassed. That’s your feelings about it. It doesn’t mean it’s hers (or someone else’s).

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 3:28 pm

        When think about a relationship between a woman and her MIL, why is it on the DIL’s shoulders to make the relationship great? If the MIL is making unreasonable demands/requests — like “show up at my place christmas morning at 8 AM” — isn’t SHE the one who is creating problems in the relationship?

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:36 pm

        I totally agree, like I said before. My point was that this isn’t something that men have to really deal with the fallout from, unless their MIL or mother is totally off the rails. Generally only the wife has to deal with the consequences. Which is why women are the ones who worry about it so much, while men don’t.
        .
        I’m not trying to say anything you’ve said in your post is wrong; I’m trying to add background for WHY women tend to feel this way while men don’t worry about it.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 3:42 pm

        Oh, well, I know WHY women behave the way they do (I am one, after all, and a pretty self-aware one, to boot); I’m simply saying that it’s time for us to change our behavior. If all of us stopped giving a flying fuck about what everything thinks all the time and started practicing better self-advocacy AND if we started roping out husbands into taking on some of the responsibilities that have largely fallen on women’s shoulders, then in a generation or two, things would be much different (better, I think) in women’s social/ personal lives and within their various relationships.

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      • mylaray

        Mylaray December 17, 2015, 3:52 pm

        I completely agree with this. And I very much see a difference with sharing the burden among couples my age and my husband’s age versus older coworkers and friends. And I see a difference between them and my parents’ generation. It continues to get better, but I think Wendy’s overall point of not giving a fuck and stop taking fault for anything goes a long way toward making this happen.

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      SasLinna December 17, 2015, 3:17 pm

      I agree entirely that expectations are different for women. However, in many cases the ‘sanctions’ for not fulfilling other people’s expectations are just not that severe. It’s stuff like your MIL will think you don’t clean the house enough. The only way to do deal with that is basically to try to care less about what others will think. I don’t think it’s women’s fault that we’ve been taught to put ourselves last, but we can still make a choice to sometimes ignore those expectations, and often other people will simply accept it.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:25 pm

        Yeah, that’s what I do, I just try to not care what she thinks. But in the end, you do tend to want your husband’s family to like you, you know? I’m lucky, she does like me and I like her and so for us, the “sanctions” as you put it aren’t very bad. But I can see with some of my friends and my sister and especially some of the commenters here that it’s a much tougher battle depending on your relationship.

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        SasLinna December 17, 2015, 3:46 pm

        Of course it depends a lot on who you’re dealing with, and I acknowledge that many women absolutely feel pressured to ‘look good’. It’s just that, in my personal experience, when you start ignoring the expectations usually people don’t dare saying anything. And over time, if you never fulfill them, the expectations decrease.

        For example, the MIL who wanted everyone at her house at 8 a.m. is likely not going to do anything if they get there at 10 a.m. In these cases I think it’s literally a matter of having the courage of saying no. Yet many women don’t manage to do that.

        I also see this a lot at work. Many of my female colleagues never speak up when they have concerns about something our boss is requesting. They complain to each other and to me, but don’t even attempt to influence his decisions. I’ve pushed back against some of the boss’s ideas and it was fairly successful. We’re all women and all learned the same gender roles (more or less) but I actively try to stand up for myself and it makes a real difference. I don’t blame my colleagues for feeling the pressure to always say yes, but I do sometimes think that they could push back harder and improve their situation at least a bit.

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        Sketchee December 18, 2015, 12:03 am

        I don’t want people to like me if it means acting in a way that isn’t true to my values. If my sister married someone and I didn’t like him, I don’t like him. This kind of behavior wouldn’t change my mind. I don’t see how it would convince anyone to like you.

        Of course we want others to like us, we just have to accept we have very little power over that. As my own therapist says, it’s up to me to be myself. If they say something, I find a response that helps me be authentic. =)

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        keyblade December 18, 2015, 12:06 am

        Be A Damn Adult- I like it. @ Sketchee, I like hearing from someone who has addressed this in therapy. I’m thinking boundaries have to do with self-mastery that some people never get. I knew a therapist who insisted that the concepts of autonomy and boundaries have always been around in healthy families. I still question whether this is actually true. From what I can tell the ability to assert boundaries depends on having enough privilege to feel safe doing so. Some people are born into social conditions and or governments with a lot of privilege to safely express themselves. So much privilege that it seems to shed its skin and become a right or entitlement. Some are born to parents who value autonomy and self-determination enough to encourage independence. Some have natural intelligence, beauty, or perhaps skill or talent they can use to gain privilege. Some marry into it. Some are born into privilege but don’t utilize it to assert boundaries because the potential rejection that might come is too much for them. It’s difficult for me to accept that autonomy and boundaries have always been the social norm. But whether it’s true or not, it does seem that women have enough power to draw lines and self-determine in ways that might have disrupted social order at high personal jeopardy in the past. For those who are new at it, it seems to require some practice to really feel confident flexing those muscles which haven’t been used much. Has that been your experience? Did you reject the idea of autonomy the first time you heard it? I did… I’m still no master but the consequences are not nearly as dramatic or catastrophic as I would convince myself. Being confident enough to assert boundaries with ease actually seems to make other people feel comfortable. People sometimes struggle with change but once they realize a line is firm they often peacefully accept it.

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      Kate December 17, 2015, 3:38 pm

      Maybe so, but the point is why should you care?

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        Kate December 17, 2015, 3:40 pm

        Oh, this was supposed to be a reply to RedRover’s comment, but I see that was already covered.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:46 pm

        Because I want to keep a good relationship with her? I mean, both my husband and I would be fine with skipping every single one of his family’s events. Not because we dislike his family, we don’t, but because we’re introverts and that kind of thing is a slog for us. But then our relationship with his mom would be totally in the crapper, right? I guess we could just cut her out of our life because we don’t like attending events, but that seems a bit extreme. So we go to the ones that we can reasonably attend, and skip any that are too difficult schedule-wise. Is this not normal? I feel like people are jumping down my throat for wanting a relationship with my in-laws.

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        jlyfsh December 17, 2015, 3:50 pm

        It seems like what Wendy is saying and what you’re saying specifically here are two different things. It’s one thing to at times do things we don’t want to for people we love and care about. Because, we do love and care about them. But, it’s another to give in to demands like for example the MILs in the forums just for the sake of not ‘looking bad’. Those cases are examples of times when people are bending over backwards to please people, when they probably won’t be pleased anyway.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:57 pm

        Maybe I should have been clearer that I wasn’t talking about extreme cases like some of those forum posts. I’ve never experienced anything that bad in my life, luckily. I just mean the normal family interactions, where your mother or MIL expects you to show up, and it’s a pain, but you go because you want to maintain the relationship. Not for insane requests, or for situations where the relationship is already so damaged that it’s not worth maintaining.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 4:04 pm

        I’m interested in the idea of “normal family interactions” vs. extreme cases and what you consider “a pain.” Is every normal family interaction a pain (because you’re an introvert and so interacting at all outside your home and with anyone other than your husband requires a lot of your energy?)? Or are only some family interactions a pain? And what makes them a pain? If there are logistical changes that would make things more convenient for you, thereby reducing the pain involved in the interaction, have you ever suggested making those changes (moving the time, location, duration, etc.)? These are examples of practicing self-advocacy and not worrying so much about “looking bad,” while also making an effort to meet loved ones halfway.

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        Tippytoo December 17, 2015, 4:15 pm

        Reading the comment thread I do see why you (RedRover) feel like people are jumping down your throat. RedRover, I see your point. You are pointing out that it is not just some personal failing that women don’t self-advocate, but it is part of a larger social context in which women are socialized to worry about “looking bad”. You aren’t arguing that Wendy isn’t right, but that it isn’t always as black and white as just “start standing up for yourself”.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 4:27 pm

        Why isn’t it?

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      • call-me-hobo

        call-me-hobo December 17, 2015, 4:32 pm

        Because standing up for yourself is uncomfortable and scary, and if you cave in to unreasonable demands, you not only avoid making waves, you get to act like you’re the victim! Win, win!

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        Tippytoo December 18, 2015, 2:22 pm

        Why isn’t it a personal failing? Because there are real external and internal social pressures on people to be concerned with what others thinks. I absolutely think that women and men should establish healthy boundaries. I am not disagreeing with your message, merely adding to the conversation. Also, I think that a separate message to go along with self-advocating is for people to not be so quick to judge and to extend understanding and grace when someone puts up a boundary. The stakes may be low, but they are there.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 6:06 pm

        Exactly, thank you Tippytoo. If I’d realized it was going to be so controversial, I wouldn’t have bothered saying it.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 3:54 pm

        If you’re saying no to stuff that’s unreasonable or difficult for you, then you’re already advocating for yourself and creating boundaries that you’re comfortable with. My argument is directed at people for whom creating such boundaries remain difficult because they’re afraid of “looking bad.” I don’t see where anyone is jumping down anyone’s throat. Of course, most people would want healthy relationships with their in-laws, but if in-laws are putting unreasonable expectations on you (the general you here), and you start saying no to those unreasonable expectations and the relationship declines as a result, that isn’t YOUR fault (general you, again); it’s the fault of the person making the unreasonable expectations and being inflexible when a grown-ass adult says “that doesn’t work for me.”

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        Kate December 17, 2015, 3:57 pm

        No ones jumping down your throat. Personally I figure my husband had a certain type of relationship with his parents for 40 years before I came on the scene, and they’re not gonna think it’s because of me that we don’t visit. Truly I don’t give a fuck.

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        SpaceySteph December 17, 2015, 4:35 pm

        Heh you’re lucky that your husband set all that up before you showed up. My husband literally did go home for every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first 26 years of his life. Then I come into the picture, and that was the first time he ever started splitting or skipping holidays. So I really am the evil daughter in law that took away her baby boy.
        I still don’t give a fuck, but at least she’s not totally wrong to blame me for it 🙂

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        Ange December 17, 2015, 6:36 pm

        Oh god my husband is like the family enforcer. I’ve never seen anything like it, he controls his interactions with his family with a machine like precision and his parents know they have to toe the line or he’ll happily walk away. Nobody demands an 8am Christmas breakfast in our house lol.

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        Sketchee December 18, 2015, 12:09 am

        Yes she is. Your husband choosing as an independent being to do whatever he wants with his time. And she is totally wrong to blame you for it.

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        SpaceySteph December 18, 2015, 10:00 am

        Eh, he’s a real “don’t make waves type” who would keep going every year even though its inconvenient and SO EXPENSIVE, just to avoid a conflict about it. (he’d make every MIL’s perfect DIL!) We don’t go to my parents for the other holiday, either. We stay home, because that’s what I want to do.
        I don’t actually know if she blames me, she’s never said so to me if she does. But it is absolutely my “travel for one holiday only” rule that is the culprit. But that’s ok, because it is a totally reasonable boundary that I made from day one of our marriage (actually about 2 months before our wedding was the first christmas he didn’t go home for) and I don’t feel bad for coming up with it or enforcing it.

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        SpaceySteph December 17, 2015, 4:29 pm

        I don’t think it’s wrong to want a relationship with your in-laws. But I do think that as you say, the burden is always on the daughter-in-law to make that happen. If it were acceptable/normal for a DIL to say “Sorry, MIL, but that time doesn’t work for us” without it being a “but we’re faaaamily” power play/guilt trip, then you could still have that good relationship but on your terms.
        It’s true that in the short term, enforcing boundaries will probably result in relationship issues, but over time the hope is that the power balance would equalize such that it would be ok to say “sorry, no” and have it NOT affect the relationship.
        For instance, take this part of your post:
        “but because we’re introverts and that kind of thing is a slog for us. But then our relationship with his mom would be totally in the crapper, right?”
        What about with friends? Presumably, if you are just introverts and it’s nothing personal towards your in-laws, then sometimes you feel like meeting up with friends or having friends over is just a little too much. What do you do then? Cancel/reschedule/decide not to go probably. And probably, if you did that every time, your relationship would suffer. But also, probably, some amount of this is accepted because you are adults where the power balance is different and they don’t hold it against you or guilt trip you over it.
        I guess my thought would be to treat your relationship with your MIL more like a friend– by pretending/believing she is a reasonable person and reasonable boundaries are acceptable, rather than feeling like as the DIL you have some specific requirement to bend over backwards for her. You still make an effort, but a normal friend-sized effort not a herculean must-be-perfect-DIL effort.

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        Sketchee December 18, 2015, 12:06 am

        Isn’t there a middle ground between cutting someone out of your life and doing everything they would want? =)

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      Anonymousse December 17, 2015, 9:07 pm

      I definitely agree previous generations (and probably meninist women) do judge and blame women for all that stuff. It is socially inherited pressure. I almost wrote into one of the posts about the shit I’ve overheard my my MIL say about my failures as a mother for various offenses, to calm my son when he was cryng, in the car, etc…all times my husband was there (and also trying to soothe him.) It’s like….WTF. I don’t really care what she thinks of me, of course I’d like it if she liked me, but it still hurts to be attacked for something you are jointly responsible for.

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    • Cassie

      Cassie December 18, 2015, 2:33 pm

      I think you brought up a really interesting point about the contexts in which this occurs. I think things can (and perhaps already are) starting to change–but it will definitely take time for it to be seen as the norm on a larger social scale and for it to stop being such an expectation put upon women. That’s why conversations like these are so valuable. If individual women become aware of their behavior and start learning how to say no (or, saying yes to only the things they really want to say yes to), then hopefully it will start to make a larger impact.
      .
      I definitely fill that role of social calendar organizer in my marriage. And I understand what you’re saying about feeling the pressure to have a clean home when someone is going to visit (and how it would be looked at as my fault versus my husband’s). I think the biggest thing for me was learning how to feel the pressure, but still ignore it. I thankfully learned how to say no, say I’ll have to think about it before committing, have boundaries, etc. from a younger age. It’s been one of the best things I have learned. And generally, even if people are disappointed I don’t say yes, it ends up not being a big deal.

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    HmC December 17, 2015, 4:46 pm

    Love this Wendy, thank you for writing it! I want to send it to every woman work colleague and professional woman I know!

    The crazy thing is that it is a double edged sword because when women do assert themselves, they are still seen as “pushy”. Especially at work. And listen being nice is obviously a good thing, I’m no Sheryl Sandburg who basically thinks the onus is on women to act like men instead of on the workplace to evolve or men to adjust to women. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with asserting boundaries and being forthright about your needs!!!

    Honestly the people that “look bad” in the columns you linked to are the people these ladies are trying to impress. Guilting your family into an 8am Christmas gathering? GTFO

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      Kate December 17, 2015, 4:58 pm

      “I’m no Sheryl Sandburg who basically thinks the onus is on women to act like men instead of on the workplace to evolve or men to adjust to women.”

      Curious – have you read the book? In full? Because that’s not what she’s saying.

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        Kate December 17, 2015, 5:00 pm

        In fact I think in the very first chapter she talks about walking into her male boss’s office and demanding parking for pregnant women near the door. That’s asking the workplace to adjust to women.

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        HmC December 17, 2015, 5:12 pm

        Yes I have read it, in full. I realize she does mention that she’s not saying that workplace change is mutually exclusive to her main point. But it isn’t her main point. Her main point is that women should Lean In, hence the title. Why not write a book about how men need to lean the f*ck out sometimes, like when they don’t know what they’re talking about or are actually unqualified for a job?

        I think some of her advice is useful, from her own experience, and I did take some of it to heart. However I think that her heavy emphasis on women’s behavior and not on how f*cked up things are in the workplace is unfortunate. She is an incredibly powerful woman. And when the vast majority of the message she is putting out there addresses women’s behavior, it implies that women are at fault for inequality in the workplace.

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        Kate December 17, 2015, 5:16 pm

        And what’s wrong with giving women advice like, hey, call attention to your achievements, ask for a promotion, and hold your man accountable for sharing the load with you at home? Women can certainly control their own behavior, and by influencing their spouses to share the burden they can change men’s behavior too.

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        HmC December 17, 2015, 5:27 pm

        In a vacuum there is nothing wrong with advice for women to empower themselves. But hers was a little too victim-blamey, occasionally contradictory and narrowly targeted for my taste. I am far from the first to criticize her for this. I’m glad she started the conversation and like I said, she has some valuable things to say. But for women to treat Lean In like some feminist manifesto I think would be a huge mistake.

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        Kate December 17, 2015, 5:31 pm

        Well your original point was that she tells women to act like men and that that’s somehow bad. Not when it’s tips like “speak up for yourself and express your ideas.” And she’s got a whole chapter in there about how men need to take on more of a woman’s role. Feminist manifesto, I don’t know, but there’s solid advice in there.

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    laurahope December 17, 2015, 6:36 pm

    Oh, ladies, come hang out with me for a few days. You’ll learn how to say no. In fact, always say no (to everything) because then when you actually process the request, you can easily turn it into a yes, but once you say yes, it’s a commitment.

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      HmC December 17, 2015, 8:01 pm

      Hahaha. You should write the book “Year of No”. You know, counter to Shonda Rhimes’ “Year of Yes”.

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        SpaceySteph December 18, 2015, 9:44 am

        This is a great point. Your first answer should always be no, or at least “I’ll have to see.” It’s much easier to opt in than opt out.

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    Rava December 18, 2015, 6:25 am

    Oww thanks Wendy, and thank you guys for the whole discussion here, this is so freaking necessary.

    My bf just said no to a family invitation, he’s been very busy with work and needs some time to himself and us. Now his family called me (me!) to ask why I didn’t reschedule for him. While I completely understood their disappointment, I didn’t understand how this was suddenly also about me (Me!). But then I thought: if they call my bf, he’ll be nice of course, but he’ll still say ‘no’. But if they’ll call me, maybe I will see how this is all reflecting badly on me. (MEEE!)

    I surprised myself by how I handled this situation. I was able to redirect their problem back to their side of the phone cord within half a minute and steer the conversation into something positive, we hung up and I didn’t feel guilty. And then I realised this was all because I had just read this column and comment section.

    Yes! I did it! I feel like such a bad ass now.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 18, 2015, 9:12 am

      Yes!!

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    • Lianne

      Lianne December 18, 2015, 9:48 am

      I was super busy yesterday and didn’t get to read this thread in real-time, but just read it all today. And I think THIS is the exact point Wendy was making. You can lead the conversation to the outcome you want.
      .
      Fuck societal pressure. Fuck familial pressure. Fuck feeling embarrassed. It’s about taking care of you and your immediate family’s needs first and foremost. If that means you can’t make every extended family dinner or if your house wasn’t vacuumed in time for company, well then fuck it! Sure we all do things we don’t want to, mostly out of a feeling of obligation, but that doesn’t have to be the golden standard of family relations. If you feel “blamed” or like “it’s your responsibility” for dissenting, that’s on you. If we want to make a societal/cultural change, WE need to start making the shift. Stop waiting for someone else to take the lead and take it your own damn self. Otherwise it just sounds like whining.

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        Kate December 18, 2015, 11:03 am

        Yes. I do not understand this concept of waiting for society to change rather than taking action now. The onus is NOT on society but on the individual.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne December 18, 2015, 11:29 am

        And, if each individual starts making these changes in attitude, won’t it start to become the norm?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 18, 2015, 12:18 pm

        I guess for some women it’s easier to put your hands over your ears and say “Wah, you don’t understand and you’re being MEAN!”

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        RedRoverRedRover December 18, 2015, 12:32 pm

        If these comments are meant to be directed at me, then that’s not what I was saying at all.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy December 18, 2015, 1:41 pm

        I don’t know about other people’s comments, but mine aren’t directed at or about anyone in particular.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne December 18, 2015, 2:32 pm

        Neither are mine. I just think a lot of women are waiting for societal changes rather than doing what’s right for them.

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        Kate December 18, 2015, 2:47 pm

        I was referring to you and HmC in particular, yes.

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        RedRoverRedRover December 18, 2015, 3:47 pm

        Then you completely misunderstood what I was saying. I said that I agreed with Wendy. My point was that women have to deal with this and men don’t, and that women are trained by society to act this way. I didn’t EVER say “so we should wait for society to change and not do anything about it individually”, but apparently that’s all anyone saw even though it wasn’t even there. And then it was a giant pile-on after that.
        .
        And it’s crazy because I’m NOT one of the people who don’t draw boundaries. My parents and my husband’s parents are all Catholic, but we’re atheists and we didn’t baptize our son. We got a lot of pressure to do it, but that’s fine, it’s not worth it just to make them happy. I do exactly what Wendy is suggesting. So I’m not sure how I became the whipping boy on this thread.

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        SpaceySteph December 18, 2015, 2:54 pm

        I think the area I’m worst at is the vacuuming thing. Our dog sheds and in the rainy season tracks in mud and leaves and whatnot. I am always embarassed at the idea that someone is gonna notice my dirty, hairy floors and think I’m gross. But its not like when I go to anyone’s house I even look at the floors…so where did this fear come from?
        Glad you mentioned it, definitely something for me to work on. My house does NOT have to be spotless for every visitor.

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  • Portia

    Portia December 19, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Well said, Wendy. I’ve been practicing this way of being for a while (because as a woman in America, you’re going to get/feel this pressure, no question) and at this point its very freeing to not give in to it. There were a lot of things related to our wedding where I felt a pressure to give in to what other people wanted and didn’t. Didn’t want flowers, we didn’t have flowers. Didn’t want lots of people, said no to family who asked/demanded I invite extra people. Maybe some of it made me look bad and it wasn’t easy (and of course it reflected on me and not Bassanio) but in the end I had faith that we made good decisions for us.
    .
    I saw my SIL struggle with this with her parents when she had kids (and still does) and it only reinforces my resolve to continue acting in my/our best interest first and be flexible when it’s not in conflict with that.

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