Dissembling woman


To the beach with A on Saturday where we reviewed our past love affairs and laughed ourselves silly. O, the inauthenticities! The martyrdoms! The deceptions! And though we met only a year ago, and lived in different places and families, our stories are the same. They go like this …

A goes to a party. Day or two later, a man rings her. “Remember me from the party? I’m really attracted to you and I’d like to see you again.” A doesn’t remember him from the party. She dissembles. She thinks to herself, “Ha! I know what I’ll do”, and tells him she must consult her diary. She’s extra busy at this time, she thinks with satisfaction, and I can be totally honest when I tell him I’m full.

“Every day and night is booked, would you believe? All I’ve got is two days spread through the month”, she says gaily.

“I’ll take ’em”, he says.

And that was that. Snookered.

Four years later, she finds the wherewithall to end the relationship.

God, we laughed. And while the details vary, the structure is the same in every story we told. In each case, there’s a moment very early on when something is stepped over, when something that is there for us to say, is not said. When instead of saying the thing – “I don’t remember you” – we choose looking good (to say it another way, avoiding looking bad).

And in the world of agreements which women inhabit, looking good means choosing to seem “nice”, “good”, “helpful”, “self-sacrificing” … ugh, I’d write more only I’m making myself sick.

In our desire to look good and avoid looking bad, we trap ourselves.


When I got home that day, I was cleaning out some old papers and found this vigorous quote about Germaine Greer’s book, The Whole Woman. It was written by Australian literary critic, Peter Craven.

… the intensity and savagery of her critique of the false feminine woman, the castrate with her poisonous altruism and masochism and sookiness that has allowed the male dolt and the myth of motherhood to usurp her soul.

A word on the phrase “male dolt” …

When a woman is being inauthentic in the ways women be inauthentic, it is only natural she is with a male dolt. Her inauthenticity calls forth the inauthenticity of the man. Inauthenticity calls to inauthenticity.

She creates the man as he is, just as the man creates the woman as she is, just as we are creating all those we are in relationship with.


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28 thoughts on “Dissembling woman

      • If only it were that frog problem I had in mind.

        It’s a different frog problem: it’s thinking one is with a frog and that one is the magic wand that will transform the frog into the prince. It’s the problem of not loving the frog and yet being with the frog because “what would he do without me”, “he’s got no friends, how could I leave?”, “he can’t look after himself, he’ll fall apart if I’m not here”, “I’m so noble because I’m giving him the advantage of my beauty”, “when would the poor guy ever meet anyone like me again”, etc.

        Arrogance upon arrogance!

        It’s the story of Isabel Archer, and Dorothea of Middlemarch, and countless other “heroines”. It’s not quite the story of Madame Bovary and it’s not at all the story of Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is the story that transforms the story. That’s why my friend, Jane and I cry whenever we discuss it. Jane Eyre is the fairytale every little girl should be given.


      • In my long experience, a frog makeover can’t be done. The poor creatures are what they are, and need to get over it. I asked my daughter after her divorce why on earth she had ever married him in the first place and she said she thought she could remake him. Can’t be done. There is no magic wand. There is an old song called “There’ll be Some Changes Made”. But not to the frog unfortunately.


      • Exactly, and yet women have done and will continue to do this until such time as we distinguish and own up to our inauthenticities. Until we give up the looking good, the wanting to be as an image, wanting to be the perfect mother, doting wife, virtuous friend, utterly capable manager, blah blah blah. Until we have the courage to see and be with our rough bits, our unpretty and awful bits, woman will hide in images.


  1. Interesting that women don’t feel that being themselves is enough that they create a persona both she and the guy grow tired of. It’s just too much work and eventually, she comes to herself and because of that inauthenticity, the relationship suffers. It’s natural to be unnatural to an extent, maybe, but not for the long haul. I’d be exhausted myself.


  2. I am getting into feminism (my work calls for it and I am semi interested) and need to start following these matyr women who blog and tweet – I have a whole hit list – do you tweet ?

    PS I need to know all the details – dating details

    Lets chat at length if I find a space in my diary LOL


  3. The games we play! I stopped all of that a few years ago and life has gotten so much better. At least I know I stand on solid, honest ground. It takes up too much energy that I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not and wonder if the someone I’m with is pretending, too.


  4. Perhaps the saddest part of all this is the time spent on inauthentic relationships that could have been spent cultivating an authentic relationship. (With apologies for using the word “relationship” twice in one comment.) All that pretending wears you down and makes you cynical. It gets more and more difficult to trust someone enough to let down your guard and reveal who you really are.


    • You hit the nail on the head, Mrs Daffodil. It’s the cost. A and I were laughing, because we finally could, and part of the laughter was grief and regret. Both of us in our early 50s, without a happy marriage or children, and having spent years in relationships that didn’t work. And then there’s the cost to the men, and to our extended families, who have missed out on grandchildren, and so on.

      I’m not saying this to blame or criticise A or myself. We did what all of us do. It’s simply about seeing what actually happened.

      You know the saddest part? We didn’t know we were being inauthentic. We thought we were being “good”, “kind”, “perfect”, blah blah blah. We didn’t see that that is the inauthenticity. And while both of us have now been trained in getting our inauthenticities, it doesn’t stop us doing it. It’s part of the human condition.


      • It’s not so much the human condition as it is enculturation, a word I just recently learned. It is learning and adapting to the social norms of our first culture, as opposed to acculturation, which is adapting to a second culture, as immigrants and aboriginal peoples have to do. Individuals in every culture have to go through this process, but I think what goes on in our society is particularly ensnaring, because of the pervasive and sophisticated nature of advertising.


      • Sure. We’re saying the same thing with different words. Human beings live inside a network of social agreements. Being an immigrant allows one to distinguish them more readily than a native.

        What I’m interested in is how we respond to this fact of life, given that we want to have loving, productive relationships. How do we live, how do we take responsibility, in the face of the inevitability of social agreements?


      • Yes, that’s the question. I don’t have an answer, but I think it requires courage. Good examples help. Patience.

        Really, at the best of times, relationships are difficult. Marriage is difficult. It brings us up against our own “stuff” on a daily basis. A good friend once pointed out to me that there are a lot of people who will gladly help us dismantle our marriages but few who will help us preserve them.

        Great post, SGC. Very thought provoking.


  5. Narell, This is beautiful. We create each other, so why wouldn’t we do so to lift us up. In relationship we can create love for ourselves, for our earth, for the heavens. They can expand us beyond what we know. Unless, only, unless there is fear.


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