By Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW, MSW
Today I’m writing about my mother. Specifically a recent interaction. First, the back-story: my beautiful mother is a former model who became a fashion journalist and personal shopper so she is exactly five thousand times more fashionable than I.
She also is my mother, which is to say I both want and want to stay independent of her opinions. This push-pull is pretty much the stuff of all intimate relationships: two people negotiating their cravings for connection and independence at varying moments in time and space.
I’m going on vacation next week and asked for my mother’s advice on packing. As I tried on the various outfits she gave me her thumbs up or down and I threw things in or out of the suitcase accordingly.
All was going well…until I put on The Skirt. The Skirt is a gorgeous impulse buy that cost more than my wedding dress. I love the skirt because it is a beautiful, ethereal design in one of my favorite colors but also because it represents something important to me. It represents getting to a place in life and career that I can occasionally throw caution to the wind and get something extravagant. The Skirt means there is no wolf at my door.
She looked it and wrinkled her nose.
“I love this one,” I said.
“You would need just the right hat and just the right bag and just the right shoes.”
“No one wears hats,” I said.
“They do in London,” she said.
“This is two thousand fifteen.”
“If you didn’t want my opinion you shouldn’t have asked for it,” she said.
“I asked for your opinion, not your instructions.” I said.
I put my skirt in the suitcase. I will wear my skirt even though I do not have the exact perfect accessories for it. I feel beautiful and abundant every time I look down and that is more important to me than how I look to others.
In every important relationship we are trying to learn how to share power, how to receive and transmit influence without domination or passivity or blind resistance. This requires learning how to filter suggestions through our own beliefs as opposed to swallowing them whole or chucking them away as alien invaders. It also requires transmitting suggestions in a spacious, generous way.
I’m still learning how to be less bossy (my kids would give me low marks) as well as how to be less passive. But I have at least one awesome skirt to wear on the journey of growing my skills.