Last night, I caught part of an episode of Big Bang Theory. It’s not a show I typically watch. In this episode, one character (Leonard) gets irritated with his neurotic roommate (Sheldon) for revealing a big Harry Potter spoiler, which turns into a bigger argument. During the course of it, Sheldon tells Leonard he’s been whiny lately and proceeds to hypothesize it’s because Leonard started drinking soy milk, and soy is estrogenic. In other words, Sheldon tells Leonard he’s being an emotional, whiny girl.
This is probably representative of why I’ve never gotten into the show. But I think it’s also sadly emblematic of how we’ve been socialized to view women & our emotions.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten the idea that it’s somehow inappropriate to be angry or upset. That our responses are overly emotional. That we blow things out of proportion.
We can end up internalizing those perceptions.
“I know I’m probably being overly dramatic.”
“I’m sorry I’m such a basket case.”
“I am such a mess. I need to get myself together.”
We belittle our own reactions. At least I know I have.
But here’s the thing: Sometimes the drama is real. Sometimes our reactions are in perfect proportion. We may be “emotional”, but sometimes we have very damn good reasons to be. Sometimes our anger is well placed, our distress justified. Yet we tell ourselves and others that we shouldn’t be feeling this way.
Fuck that noise.
I spent a while in a relentless cycle of admonishing myself and dictating how I should be feeling. I would get angry or upset. I didn’t like those feelings, so I thought they shouldn’t be there. I’d feel guilty for feeling those things. I’d tell myself I was making more out of it than I should. I isolated myself, because those were things I shouldn’t be feeling and shouldn’t be inflicting on someone else.
Finally someone got through that haze (or maybe it was just my thick skull). I realized that those “bad” feelings didn’t come out of nowhere. Shit had happened. I had good reasons to be angry. To feel hurt. To grieve. These weren’t ridiculous emotions or stupid reactions. They were my responses to difficult things in my life.
I understand it better now. I get to feel what I’m feeling. I try not to assign connotations or apologies or diminutions. I take possession of those emotions. I check them against what I’m experiencing. And then I get to decide what I want to do with it. Maybe I need to just let it go. Maybe I need to allow myself a few hours of “self-pity”. Maybe I need a good cry. May I can use it to somehow take a step forward, to grow, to heal.
Sometimes I am a mess. Sometimes I am an emotional girl. And I’m learning, that sometimes, that’s exactly what I need to be.