Anyone who has survived raising teenagers is well acquainted with drama. The more traditional belief is that it relates to girls more than boys, but I think this may reflect the view that what females express is “dramatic” and what males express is daring, courageous, going out into the world and achieving success, or just taking charge in a manly fashion.
Calling someone’s feelings or behavior dramatic is often a way of trying to lessen its power or indicating that it is somehow not valid. “Don’t be so dramatic!” we may tell a sobbing girl who has just found out that her best friends went to the mall without her.
I am pretty sure that most women my age grew up with the message that we are “too sensitive” or “too emotional” to make it in the “real” world. In the 1940’s and 50’s, it was very clear that no woman could ever serve in the armed forces, run a company, compete in sports, or become president. Even worse would be that “time of the month” when she would be incapable of making a rational decision because of her out-of-control hormonal imbalance! I have to confess that this idea did turn out to be useful to me since we were allowed to skip physical education classes if during roll call we answered “regular.” (No proper young lady would have spoken the word menstruating out loud at that time. Even saying “I have my period” would have been scandalous. But for someone who always felt like a complete klutz in gym class, it was a handy way out.)
Not that I am knocking the power of hormones. Ask anyone who had to live with me while I was adjusting to menopause. I am truly grateful it happened at a time before everyone had an iPhone readily available. I would be subject to serious blackmail if any of my worst episodes had been recorded for posterity and would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere apologies to anyone who still suffers nightmares resulting from any of them.
However, one of those screens that still lingers in my window on the world is the one that tells me that ladies don’t make a fuss. When we encounter something unappealing, or even downright dangerous, we certainly do not scream, swear or counter attack. We do not even politely and calmly express our displeasure. Instead, we figure out ways to adapt our own lives to the situation and work to make everyone else feel comfortable and accepted.
Unfortunately, this approach has not served me well. I suspect it ultimately didn’t even serve those who seemed on the surface to benefit from it. Lately I have been studying people who are clear about what they want in life, but who are also generally kind and compassionate toward others. I realize that it isn’t necessary to be obnoxious or overly dramatic about what I want. But it is necessary for me to be clear on my own boundaries and make conscious and good decisions about my own life. I’m not so sure about this approach yet, because even though it’s late in the day, I’m just beginning to feel like a grownup. But a word of warning–if it doesn’t work, I will revert to being a drama queen.