The Unambiguous Woman
Carolyn Heilbrun, in her book, Writing a Woman’s Life defines the unambiguous wife as a woman who puts a man at the center of her life, allowing only to occur what honors his paramount position. Her desires, dreams and wishes are forever secondary.
I risked nothing to become such, for I’d spent my first seventeen years learning the godly role of a sanitized, unambiguous woman. A short step that, to wife—yea, preacher’s wife.
For the sleep dust sprinkled in my eyes by my mother, the ultimate example of the “unambiguous woman,” had anesthetized my spirit.
From the very beginning, my world was a wild combination of advance and retreat, then advance again. My body knew things long before my mind did. Even my birth was an on-and-off again affair, battered back and forth by the drama unfolding within my parent’s relationship.Put the drama on stage and an audience might snicker at the melodrama acted out before them, recognizing themselves in the struggle of another. For my mother, Ruth, lived her life by the answers given to her by others. Never questioning, never modifying.
However, as good as she was, and as hard as she tried, it seemed the more she embraced the answers, the less the answers fit. So she existed, day to day, in her desert of doubt and confusion, never recognizing it for what it was.
She had been taught that she lived in a world of certainties.
Do this, get that.
But when she did this, and that didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to, she never questioned. For it didn’t mean the answer wasn’t correct. It just meant she had not done enough of that. So, she redoubled her efforts, digging the hole deeper. For she truly believed that even in the failure, the problem wasn’t the answers she’d been given, but the effort she’d put forth. And even when she played by the rules, my father marched to the beat of his own drum, which changed the equation. Put simply, the problem wasn’t the answers she’d been given, the problem was in the doing, or the lack thereof.
For me, add to that, the self-serving “will of God” preached by a patriarchal religion, and enforced by my husband, a self-proclaimed “man of God,” and I soon found that my spirit, the essence of who I am, was sacrificed as surely as though I’d been nailed to a cross.
No, I risked nothing to become such, but when I awoke twenty-five years later, my spirit a mere flicker, I left the role of “unambiguous preacher’s wife.”
And risked everything.