Archives for posts with tag: Polly Young-Eisendrath

“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”

― Anaïs Nin


When a culture defines the ideal woman in relation to how men react in her presence, it leaves a woman more interested in her reflection than her heart’s desire.

This thought has been formulating for months as I wrestled with the history of my interactions with men. I’ve rewritten today’s post several times, as I struggled to uncover and then articulate some very embedded notions to which I have adhered, concerning females and their perceived success. This discussion necessitates an examination of the interplay between power and beauty, between being desirable rather than being known and loved.


I have observed in myself and most women that I know, a disparity between how we appear to others and how we feel about our selves, deep inside. When I look back at photos of myself, whether I’m in my 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, I see an attractive woman…but in those decades I never, ever feel pretty enough, thin enough or demure enough. In sharp contrast,  I always felt intelligent enough and successful enough. I had a very realistic grasp of my intellectual strengths and weaknesses and made career choices based on this knowledge. Why did I have intense self-consciousness and NO objectivity around my appearance? How is it that the feminist movement did not result in giving women freedom from obsessive attention to their looks? Women now have 3 areas to master…career, family and being thin.


I know the media plays a part by bombarding our senses with the anorexic woman-child, but I willingly participated. I remember making the conscious choice, as a ‘liberated woman’ to compliment my daughters on their intelligence and achievements, rather than their looks. This should have created young girls who found power in their own actions, but they observed me, their primary role model, spending significant time and money going to the gym, Weight Watchers, hair salons, beauty spas and cosmetic counters. Obviously children internalize the unspoken, the unwritten …the unconscious! I may have said “Follow your dreams. You can be anything you desire,” but the unspoken message was… as long as you are thin…because real feminine power resides in mastering your image…in controlling yourself so you will be desirable. Sure we have some examples of successful women who are not razor thin, like Oprah, but to be put on magazine covers, ad infinitum, you have to be thin. No wonder Oprah published her ‘O’wn magazine! Mirrors and cameras create an insidious, pervasive obsession with thinness, which leaves women less able to recognize their own desires.


When I went on a raw food diet, in 2007, to alkalize my acidic body, I lost 50 pounds. Each time people saw me, their first words always were… “Oh, you’ve lost weight!” followed quickly by “How did you do it?”…from both men and women!  And no, I did not feel thin or pretty. One can only imagine then, me being a woman who is perpetually up and down the weight ladder, that when I had gained weight, their inner comments must have been, “Oh my God, she’s put on a few!” Our adherence to this societal ideal is so unconscious that we never question its ludicrousness. I paid lip service to the adage that being healthy is best, and all body types were equally beautiful, but in a politically correct world, what we think we should say is often not what we truly believe.


I’ve spent the past 6 months in The Other Woman Blog, acknowledging a lifetime of insecurities, weaknesses and mis-steps, in hopes that I might uncover the part I played in having less than fulfilling relationships with men. I never realized the imprisoning consequences of desiring to be desired. In my 20’s, I was quite comfortable in the role of muse with men. I perfected the muse’s attributes in my first long term relationship. I was self-effacing, demure and attentive, while being oblivious to my own needs as a young woman. My desire to be desired was totally satisfied by the older, wealthy man with whom I was involved. But then I spent the next several years becoming educated and more comfortable in the world. This feminine passivity began to conflict with my need to be more self-determining. Unable though, to untangle this feminine issue, I ignored it while continuing to believe my unhappiness and lack of fulfilment were somehow connected to my less than perfect body. As though to make a cosmic point, my body became more and more disfigured with arthritis, eventually forcing me to unravel the Beauty Myth, and accept that I must become self-determining.



As I begin to live my life from an authentic place, I feel quite confident and certain of my desires until I am out with a man. My role as muse is no longer an attractive option, but having only ever known how to relate to men from this vantage point, I sometimes find myself acting awkward and stilted. I navigated these waters successfully as a passive, self-effacing woman, but I’m at a loss in this new terrain. I’ve been watching French Movies to observe women being strong in the expression of their needs, wants and desires, as they interact with men.

So for Week 29 of 52, and the rest of the year, I will voice my desires, having faith that in doing so, I am not being pushy or demanding.

Sharing My Heart's Desires

Sharing My Heart’s Desires



A month of productivity and joy and then yesterday, Saturday, was a day on the couch watching yet another British Mystery Series. At 7:30pm I drank 2 glasses of Malbec, ‘fell asleep’ and missed the 7.7 earthquake off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Sunday morning is now upon me, and I pause to ask ‘Why?’ and not to the reason for earthquakes, but the reason for my melancholic state. I know I will not evolve into The Other Woman, if I say to myself, “One day of laying around, eating poorly, having a couple drinks, is nothing, you deserve a break, some down time.” I am aware that I have a super charged work ethic when it comes to ‘Personal Growth’ and relaxation and fun are therefore, valuable experiences for me. But what I did yesterday was not fun or relaxing. The feeling I had throughout the day was one of disquiet and self loathing. This is the feeling I have whenever I try to burrow my consciousness into the bowels of the earth. The season of blooming is finished and I am descending into the dark. What lies beneath the surface? What faulty belief have I internalized, that begs to be revealed and subsequently released, allowing me to live closer to my heart?

I was then startled from this reverie by the ‘ping’ of my iPhone, alerting me to a new message…and here is the miracle of the Universe’s guiding hand! Below is the poem delivered via GoodReads….

The day misspent,

the love misplaced,

has inside it

the seed of redemption,

Nothing is exempt

from resurrection.

             -Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan, the American Poet Laurteate, reminds me that there is nothing more exquisite than the feeling of having the burden of oneself borne off by a poem…not the self, just the burden…just for a moment. She writes in her PJs too!

Creating in PJs

What am I to redeem from that misspent day? that misplaced love?

First I will reflect on my week’s virtual chats with men. A mere 7 days ago, I had not spoken to any man other than my husband and male friends, for 20 years. Thanks to Plenty of Fish, that has changed. Boldly, honestly and clearly, I have spoken from my heart. Amazingly, only one man out of the 11, has stopped writing to me. I have promised nothing, use only my pen name Between2Marys, and decline requests for my name, email address, phone number or coffee dates. I am creating a new me vis a vis men. I have liked the positive, ‘low-key’ attention from men. So why then did I collapse into a tiny ball of angst? Heavy sigh, deep breath….preparing to be honest…my life long lament…I’m not attractive enough for a man to love me for who I am, so I must transmogrify, from the Loathly Lady, into the lovely princess. Only then will I be loved. What this means for me, is, that I must subjugate my desires and attend to ‘his’, as a compensation for my physical lack. Sadly, I have believed this behaviour necessary, even when I was young.

Naturally this perception of the price I must pay for love was born out of my relationship with my father. I loved yet felt intimidated by him. He was unpredictable. I believed I had the power to lessen the parental tension in our home, by being desirable in my father’s eye. I believed that my father’s behaviour towards my mother and my brothers might improve, if he felt pride over his creation of me. I tried to be any and everything I thought he might value. My father was a man’s man, a good looking ‘bad boy’. My mother married him against the advice of her more refined family. He was not a philandering husband, except for his Irish lass, during the Second World War. But, he made no effort to stifle his ‘appreciation’ of a women’s exterior. His entire life, he whistled  with reverential glee at women who epitomized the 1940’s ideal; a thin hipped, well endowed, blond haired bombshell…as I remember him saying…again and again…oblivious to me standing before him with dark hair, average cleavage and above average hips.

Bad Boy Stan, My Dad

I could never have achieved his idea of physical perfection. My physical appearance, demoralized me from age 12, when he counselled me with the following bit of unsolicited, soul crushing, fatherly ‘advice’. “My dear, no man likes a woman with hips as big as 2 battleships.” Being a Navy Officer, he liked to use nautical terms, to drive a point home!

Me around 12 with my Brother

I never again looked at my strong, muscled thighs with any feeling but betrayal or derision. So began my efforts to compensate for my looks. I became attentive to the whims and desires of men, at the expense of my own.

This painful, yet liberating insight, is what I have redeemed from my misspent day, my misplaced love.

 I went into a funk, because I faced a dilemma. Can I continue to speak of my desires as boldly and freely as I have written them?  Or will I continue to compensate for my hips, by cloaking my desires in niceties and placations? Or more likely, will I avoid the issue entirely by burying myself in another British Mystery Series?



 In the Fairy Tale, ‘Sir Gawain and The Lady Ragnell, the loathsome Lady Ragnell, bargained with King Arthur. She agreed to tell him the answer to the riddle, “What do women desire above all else?” in order to lift the spell over his life. In exchange, she desired to be married to his nephew, Sir Gawain. He was known as the most handsome, skilled and compassionate knight at the Round Table. Sir Gawain willingly chose to marry the Hag Ragnell, so that his King’s life would be spared. The spell cast over Ragnell, had turned her into a loathsome Hag for half of each day, but left her as a lovely princess for the other half. When Ragnell asked her husband, Sir Gawain, if he would rather she be beautiful by day or by night, when she is alone with him in bed, he wisely gave her the right to choose, having learned that above all else, women desire the right to have sovereignty over their choices. Sir Gawain understood the greatest dilemma of any woman’s life. In giving the Hag Ragnell the right to decide when she would be beautiful, the spell was lifted, and she was beautiful all day long.

So now, in Week 17 of 52, I must have the courage of Lady Ragnell. She was transformed, not by the kiss of a handsome Prince, but by the pursuit of her own needs and desires. Ragnell symbolizes the journey all women must make to achieve a self-determined and therefore, fulfilling life. To this end, I will talk(on the phone) with a man, as myself, hips and all, maintaining the confidence I feel in a virtual conversation.

I want to acknowledge the wisdom of the Analyst, Polly Young-Eisendrath. For a more comprehensive elucidation of this topic, read, ‘Women and Desire, Beyond Wanting to be Wanted.

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