Perhaps once a year, a phrase comes flying out of my subconscious that tickles me so much, I giggle about it for weeks. That happened the other day when I PMed a friend.
“Hurrah for the micro-rebellions
of our middle-aged years,” I typed…
…and haven’t stopped laughing about it ever since. Neither has she.
Rebellion is what I believe the British refer to as a “sticky wicket.” Over here that equates to, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Certainly rebellion was considered a very wrong, disobedient and unwise thing to be avoided at all costs by my parents and probably your parents as well, especially if they were narcissists and definitely if you were raised in a cult. Before I got to my teenage years, I understood that rebellion was something unGodly, unwise and pain-and-regret inducing I was never, ever to attempt.
But now, in retrospect, I wonder if a little rebellion might actually be a very good thing indeed. In the words of Willy Wonka, “A little footling about will keep you from going up the spout”…whatever that means. It just seems to fit.
Take my mother, for example. She never rebelled. And so she found her middle-aged self in the basement screaming her head off…not knowing why. Maybe a little rebellion would’ve saved her from a life of codependent, flying monkeydom surrounded by narcissists.
Like Golden Children everywhere, I never rebelled either. Well, almost never rebelled. When I was twenty-three I began secretly micro-rebelling by listening to country music in my car (horrors!) and actually looked at the cover of a book about sex in a bookstore. (I didn’t have the courage to actually open the book. My parents had been adamant that my sex education was to come from them and only them…boy has that come back to bite me on the ass, pun not intended.)
That season of “rebellion” was headlined by my taking ballroom dance lessons (or “paying for sex” as my mother called it) which ended swiftly and painfully with shame, tears, repentance. My parents magnanimously forgave me and gave me a second chance but not before Dad had successfully destroyed my faith and damned me to Hell by saying, “Good Christian girls don’t behave like that.”
Pathetic, I know. But narcissists have no tool more powerful for Control than False Guilt.
So it was another decade until I finally got to rebel. Pathetic, middle-aged “micro-rebellions” that most people would cock an eyebrow at and say, “But that’s just…normal.”
My husband, poor love, helped me through my middle-aged rebellion. He knew how badly I needed to rebel and made it safe.
For example, I’d never imbibed a drop of alcohol (which made my parents so, so proud) but my heart wasn’t in it. As a foodie, I was smitten by curiosity about wine. So Michael organized a little wine-and-cheese tasting for me in the privacy of our own home.
As much as I thought drinking alcohol would finally make me feel grown up, I kind-of hate it. The elbows are the first to go. Two swallows of alcohol and my elbow joints start to itch inside. Then I get dizzy and I hate dizziness. The result of my foray into alcohol was that both myself and my bichon, Delly, are pretty much teetotalers to this day. (She got one drop of wine on her nose and hated it so much, the smell of alcohol makes her run for her crate!)
So that micro-rebellion was a bust.
Then I tried cigarettes, figuring that someone as high strung as me could use some calming nicotine. But I coughed so hard, I wet myself.
So that was a bust.
Finally, I found a micro-rebellion that fit! Christmas of 2012. “Michael, can I get my ears pierced?” I asked.
“Iduntcare” he snorted. It was very obvious he thought I was weird just for asking.
But his reaction seemed very odd to me! Why wasn’t he giving my serious question more thought, more consideration? Wasn’t he the Head of my Home? Wasn’t I supposed to be Submissive to him? Didn’t my body belong to him??? I wanted to know his honest thoughts. Have an in-depth discussion or debate.
Like so many girls raised in cults, 1) I’d always wanted to get my ears pierced and 2) I’d never been allowed to. Ever since I was tiny, one of my greatest joys was taking out my Grandma’s earrings and putting them back in her ears. I drooled over the earrings in her jewelry box. When I got older, I started buying 1950s screw-on rhinestone earrings just so I could bask in the swish of them against my cheeks.
But I still really, really, really wanted to get my ears pierced. It never occurred to me not to ask my parents’ permission. But when I asked, their answer was always “no.” Even when I broached the subject again in my twenties, Dad sat me down at the kitchen table and explained that according to the Old Testament, piercing ears was a pagan practice the Bible forbade as “mutilation of the flesh.” He also waxed eloquent about infections, etc.
Mother also disapproved because one of her greatest joys was “nibbling” my earlobes, against my express wishes. Yuck! She didn’t want a mouthful of metal and hinted my future husband might be a nibbler too and not want a mouthful of metal either.
As always, I demurred to their wishes. Gave up. Went back to screw-on earrings.
Which brings us to 2012. As far as Michael was concerned, what I did with my body was none of his business. Controlling me was something to be avoided, not gloried in. The decision to pierce or not to pierce, was not up to him. And, best of all, he’s not a nibbler!!
So off we went to Claire’s and out I came, pierced and ecstatic. I couldn’t collect earrings fast enough. Couldn’t keep my hands off my ears. Yes, of course I got infections. So what!?
A pathetic micro-rebellion?
Yes, I know. So is the black nail polish I adore wearing.
But I needed to rebel. To take control of my life and my body. Piercing was the micro-rebellion that gave me to myself.
It felt so good, I did it again. That’s right! More piercings…and this had nothing to do with fashion. It was purely for the joy of rebellion.
On my 34th birthday, Michael and I found ourselves in a mall in Rochester, MN. And there was Claire’s. Again, I first asked Michael’s permission and again, he demurred.
So off I toddled to Claire’s and had a second pair of holes pierced in my ears. But the “high” wasn’t quite as high as that first delightful rebellion and that second piercing was done much more slowly and hurt a lot more. And, best of all, I was already No Contact so this is the first time my parents will find out about it.
But very, very necessary. I needed to try all the normal “adult” things to normalize myself, to kick the cult to the curb. To own myself — body and soul.
My parents wanted me to be so strong-minded that I felt like an adult without trying or experimenting with all the things that go with adulthood. Things they tried as young adults (or some of them). Goodness knows I tried really, really hard to be bloody strong-minded. Even when alcohol was available and free and everyone around me was three sheets to the wind, I avoided it as well as all the other things that adults use to relax. I went through life white-knuckled, burned-out but so, so superior. I’d never even seen porn.
But it just doesn’t work. At some point, your humanity triumphs over the cult-version of religiosity. You can’t sit in your Ivory Castle forever. At some point, you’ve got to become human and try all the normal things that normal people do. You’ve got to rebel or you’ll go through life as miserably as I did.
A little rebellion is good for the soul…but please, rebel responsibly. Be safe. Be legal. Be responsible. Don’t get addicted. But get that tattoo you’ve always wanted!