Settle Down


She came home from work with a story to share.  She was animated and expressive.  Her emotions were out in full force.  She was starring in her own one-act play about an event from her day.  She couldn’t wait to share it with him.

She’d always loved when he shared his stories.  She knew he would give her his full attention.

She never could talk without moving her hands, and as she got wound up with the telling of the details, she was gesturing and demonstrating and waving and pointing and gasping for breaths.

He looked up from the newspaper and said,”Whoa, girl, settle down!”

She stopped in mid-sentence.  “Did you just tell me to settle down?”

“Yeah, your getting all crazy and worked-up.  What’s the big deal?  Settle down.”

She didn’t finish the story.  The wind had left her sails.

She walked out of the room as he continued reading the newspaper.  She thought of all the times she’d been shut down, and the ways the words were put together to shut her down.

  • “Oh, she’s in a tiz.”
  • “Not another one of those mood swings.”
  • “Can’t you take a pill for that?”
  • “That’s just stupid!”
  • “I suppose it’s that time of the month.”
  • “Geez, do you have to take everything personally?”
  • “Don’t be so sensitive.”


It started when she was eight years old.  Giggling on the playground under the jungle gym with a circle of friends, she had mentioned that she thought butterflies had magic dust on their wings, and that if you touched them, they wouldn’t be able to fly anymore.  One of the boys looked at her and said, “That’s stupid.  Nobody believes in magic butterfly dust.”

The playground aide was busily hunting down band aids and wiping noses.  If she’d heard Johnny’s comment, she could have explained that everyone has an opinion.  Johnny is entitled to his opinion, just as she was entitled to her own.

(Then the aide could have whispered to Johnny that he might want to work on his delivery a bit.)

The sting from Johnny’s comment was her first clue that she ought to keep her opinions to herself.

Later, in high school math, even though she knew the answer, she didn’t dare raise her hand.  She was too gangly to be a cheerleader and too uncoordinated to be on the basketball team.  If she let anyone find out that she was smart, she might as well plan on walking to school by herself – every day.

Trivial Pursuit was tedious.  She could be labeled a “Know It All” for raising her hand with the answers, or she could have her teammates mad at her for not raising her hand when they didn’t know the answer.

She had seen the eye-rolling and heard the exaggerated sighs coming from male family members if she ever discussed anything that wasn’t on the approved list of topics for males and females to discuss.

She wondered, at an early age, why it was okay to talk ad nauseam about football, but it wasn’t okay to talk about flower arranging.

Why could they talk about catching fish, but not cooking fish.

As she got older, she wondered why guys could tell off-color jokes about sex, but gals couldn’t.

Guys could talk about conquests.  Gals couldn’t.

She learned to never discuss dreams, anything about flowers, feelings or cute puppies.

Most anything having to do with what guys deemed the female domain was off limits.

Her ex had no problem announcing that anything having to do with kids was her domain.  Baths, diapers, clothing, toys, playing, tucking in, reading bedtime stories, and later, anything having to do with their education and school – all that was woman’s work.

She noticed that he could ask her to do stuff, and it wasn’t considered nagging.  He was entitled to suggest/ask/require things.  But if she asked him to do anything, she was a nag.

If she was frustrated or disheartened or discouraged, she’d try to tell him.  He’d answer with, “Are you having your period?  Didn’t you just have your period?”

She’d tell him what she needed and he’d say, “God, are you going to lecture me again?”  She would plead with him and say, “Honey, this isn’t a lecture.  I’m telling you how I feel.”  He’d say, “You take everything personally.  I was teasing when I called this a lecture.”

And so she quit telling him how she felt.

She quit asking for help.

She moved farther away from him on the bed.

He said she was cold.

He said she was better in bed before they had kids, now she was like a cold fish in his bed.

She moved farther away.

She don’t show her emotions.  She didn’t express her opinions.  She kept the peace, but there was no peace inside her.  The resentment built.  The anger grew.  She could hear the anger ringing in her ears.  She knew she would have to release it some how.

If she vented, he would tell her to settle down.

If she cried, he would leave the room.

If she refused to get out of bed, he’d call her lazy.

She didn’t settle down.

She left.


This post was inspired by some recent comments on this blog; a fabulous post by Yashar Ali on Gaslighting; and a thought-provoking book by Stephanie Staal, entitled, Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life.

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  1. My life…..

  2. Zaira,

    As I was reading the Staal book I kept wondering… there’s something here that ties to the propensity for some females to end up in relationships with Ns. There is something about our culture or the male/female thing that puts those females who are raised to be accommodating, to be quiet, to be nice, to be compliant…

    I’m still thinking on all of this.

    And then I read the Ali piece on gaslighting.

    There’s a pattern there. I can’t put words to it, but I feel it.

  3. It was my religion. Certainly not my parents. My mom had me and my sister marching around the dining room table singing “I Am Woman” as early as I can remember! ( (we still do it! Lol!). But my religion was very conservative. Women were to be obedient to their husbands, as we were to be obedient to our male pastor. God first (male figure, of course), then husband. The husband is SECOND to God??? What about ourselves? What about our value as women? What do we have to bring to the table? They said…children, domestication, obedience…not in that order. Even though I denounced that affiliation, the order is there, somewhere down inside, unable to unleash it….

  4. Zaira,

    And the weight of that order – on my chest, on my soul – is stifling.

    I don’t have a problem with serving my spouse, as long as he is as busy serving me, and we both serve our kids.

    I always cringe when I hear that God should come first. Someone tell me why God would even want it that way.

    I hate the hierarchy.

    A long time ago I remember someone – a woman – saying, “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

    That’s always stuck with me. I don’t think men should come before women, and I don’t think women should come before men.

  5. Wow!
    To think now it just makes us a little angry we dealt with it for so long. We believed that what we had to say wasn’t important. Feeling as if we were not worthy of being treated equal. Being told if we ever thought of leaving to remember no one else would ever want us or put up with us. I am always surprised that I believed I wasn’t important, it was simply my job to cook, clean, take care of the kids and most importantly make everyone think it was the perfect marriage and he was the perfect, kindest most thoughtful husband. Makes me ill to realize I let this happen to me for many years.

  6. Kath,

    Bless the day you decided you’d had enough.

    I knew I’d hear from you on this one.

    Not only did they tell us no one would want us, they told us we’d come crawling back.

  7. It’s really nice to have proved them wrong! It feels even better to have shown them that we were stronger than they ever thought. No matter how many struggles there are, I have proven to the one person, that I needed to, that I am strong and can make it on my own. FYI that one person was ME!! Almost 3 years of freedom and it has been an uphill battle but I have never regretted my decision to be on my own.

  8. Kath,

    You go girl! For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. ;)

  9. It’s worth a lot! You are a blessing in my life and an inspiration!

  10. Kath,

    We’ve been through a lot together. Our paths crossed for a reason.

    Love you. ;)

  11. Currently, I have been engrossed in conversations about marriage and the horrific realities of marriage in other cultures. Specifically, female children being married at as early as 6 years old per custom, religion, hierarchy in the present time. And on the flip side, adults marrying for the specific reasons of children, domestication, and obedience. When one of those fails, it is assumed that the woman will be shamed and divorced. It shocks me every time. But, I know where it comes from…the same origination as the internal order. The shock comes from who I really am and what I believe now.

    I heard this phrase once…”I am a pounder”. It means that all humans are born worth a pound. No pound weighs greater than the other. Even in the end, despite our accomplishments and disappointments, we are all pounders. We are born and then die with the same weight in the world. I carry that phrase in my heart and do my best to live by it every day. When I don’t, I know my worth has not faultered.

  12. Zaira,

    I’ve never heard that expression – “I am a pounder.”

    And it wasn’t until this morning, that I understand your last sentence.

    That’s freeing. I like it.

  13. I felt the same way when I heard it. Free to be me…
    Thank you for all the references you put in your writing. I am continually inspired to expand my horizons and can’t wait to pick up Staal’s book in it’s entirety. (She lives where I do!)

  14. Z,

    I hope you like the book.

    There were parts that frustrated me; parts I identified with; and parts I didn’t understand.

    For me, that’s the mark of a good book. I got so much out of it.

    p.s. A run-in with Mark tonight. I thought of you when I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

    I’m taking the next plane to an island void of narcissists. Wait…. where is that island?

  15. It has to exist somewhere! How do we find it? Hawaii has many uninhabited islands in it’s chain….

    I still don’t leave it alone. I am fighting back, but it has affected me less now that I realized it is necessary. He is trying to bully me and I won’t have it. If it was a comment here and there, maybe I could leave it, but bullying me to get what he wants will bring out the Aries in me.

  16. Z,

    Yes, it really is bullying, isn’t it. That’s what Mark was doing yesterday.

    I see a pattern that goes something like this… Three months go by, maybe things aren’t where he wants them to be in his current relationship; things with us have been our version of peaceful, however he isn’t getting his required amount of attention, so he does something to get attention even if he has to bully us to do it.

    I like how you referred to your sign. Mine is Taurus. I am stubborn. I am NOT going to address the letter he gave me. I am NOT going to back down.

    Bullying doesn’t work. Not with me.

    Not anymore.

  17. Bullying…then whining and temper tantrums. Sounds like a pre-teen if you ask me. LOL!

    My good guy is a Taurus. I have to say that I love that sign! They are terrific friends with us Pisces/Aries (I am on the cusp and do swing regularly) :)

    I just had to write a response to an inflammatory email. I wrote what I really wanted to say, moved those statements around a little, then deleted them before I sent it. At least I got it out! I deleted because I am the REASONABLE person. I am not going to stoop to his level, but I won’t give in. It’s the fine art of balance….

  18. Jesse,

    This post is remarkable. I can relate to so much of it. I think the worst part of living with a N is that you lose yourself before you even know what you have walked into. Then it takes years to sort out what happened to ME and why I could not solve an unsolvable puzzle. I spent well over a decade–almost two–trying to make what was a legal marriage work. It was not a marriage. It was an arrangement that met one person’s needs but never satisfied his anger.

    Oh–instead of us escaping to an island, I have often thought there should be an island for the Ns–to spare the rest of society from having to deal with them.

    Keep going . . . and thriving as best as we can!

  19. Z,

    I’m on the cusp, too. Taurus/Gemini. I know what you mean about the swinging.

    Yes, we had an almost 4 hour meeting with our pre-teen yesterday, and I don’t mean Will.

    I was calm. I didn’t cry. I didn’t yell. I didn’t slam my fist on the counter.

    And yet… as much as I tried to explain … as much as Will worked up his courage and attempted to explain…

    The end result is that clearly, we were speaking completely different languages. It is beyond my comprehension that I could have ever thought that he and I ever spoke the same language. Or maybe, it’s just that now I’m finally speaking.

    Go on you for NOT STOOPING! That’s always my goal.

  20. Lynn,

    You are SO right. I never looked at it that way, but mine was an arrangement, too, never a marriage.

    I love the idea of sending them to an island, but who’d be left to run government, star in tv shows and movies, or make lots of money playing sports and cheating on their wives.

    Apologies if I sound negative today. I’ve had it with the whole lot of ’em.

  21. There is so much frustration in trying to talk rational to a N. They certainly have NO rationale, only their needs and agenda.

    I am sorry that Will had to go through that, but I am proud of him for stating his position. He is so lucky to have you as his mom and know that you are behind him 100%. Otherwise, he may fall into thinking his dad is always right.

    Oh boy is it a different language! We can’t speak or understand N as it is not how we process the world. We have to see it through our lense then translate it to theirs. Even after the translation, there is no logic there. It’s like using the Google translator for Turkish. There are no formulated sentences, just a bunch of translated words run together. It is up to you to sort it out and get the main message. However, there is still a lot lost in the translation and you can hardly blame the program for not getting the point!

    Keep your chin up. You are doing the best you can. Maybe we were never meant to get it. I mean, if we were, we wouldn’t be tortured by the confusion and word salads, now would we?

    (P.S….I use a different translator now! lol!)

  22. Z,

    My translator is a piece of crap. Either that or he does contradict himself as much as it sounds like he does.

  23. I am sure he contradicts himself as much as he says he does. If the stats are true, then only 1% of the population (other NPDs) would think he doesn’t contradict himself at all.

    Hope you get away from it all and have a lovely weekend. As for me, I am going to party like a rock star tonight and ignore all other emails until Monday (mainly because I will be sleeping! Lol!). xxx

  24. Z,

    We did have a lovely weekend.

    How was your weekend, Rock Star? Were you celebrating anything in particular?

  25. Glad you had a good weekend! I was celebrating freedom to have my own life…as always. :)

  26. Z,

    That’s always worth celebrating! ;)

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