The Good Girl

I learned to be a good girl early in life. When I took care of everyone else, didn’t rock the boat, followed all the rules and met my parents’ high standards, I stayed out of trouble and earned the occasional grudging nod of acceptance.

I got married a couple of months after college and settled down. I was a good wife, supportive and enabling, tolerating it all and cleaning up messes as soon as they were made. I earned a good living and used it to support the family.

I had my first baby three years after the wedding, and my second three years after that, both on schedule. I was a devoted mom, putting my kids first and working long hours to both support them and spend quality time with them.

I finally divorced my ex-husband after nine years of his compulsive financial irresponsibility, not for myself, but when I began to feel my children’s safety and security were threatened by it. It cost me my faith.

A couple of years later I married Bryan, who I adored and tried to be an exemplary wife to. He was conservative, responsible, kind and loving and I tried to take care of him and the boys in every way. I was a good wife and mom, I had a good job, and constantly strove to be conservative and respectable and not rock the boat.

Then a year ago I lost Bryan, and with it a large part of my identity – wife. Loved one. Partner in a stable, responsible home. Instead, I had to try to figure out who I was, when I wasn’t busy taking care of everyone and trying to meet everyone else’s standards as wife, mom, employee, daughter.

Who am I? I am still a caretaking, nurturing type – that hasn’t changed. There’s nothing I like better than truly helping someone, preferably behind the scenes, with a hug, some long term support, an act of love, or anonymous generosity.

I am not, however, quite the good girl I’ve tried to pass myself off as for so many years. I do like to rock the boat. I firmly believe that “What the hell?” is often the right decision, and that I would, indeed, like to give ‘em something to talk about. I’m creative and artistic. Passionate about what I believe in. Very geeky. A little bit edgy and nihilistic. And more than a little bit hedonistic.

In the process of growing up a little this past year, I got healthier and set some interesting fitness goals. I changed the way I dress, a little curvier and punkier, becoming a shoe & jewelry addict in the process. I pierced my ears a few times and now wear colorful jewelry. I got my first tattoo, an ankle bracelet memorial.

The tattoo, in particular, is an interesting rejection of the good girl ethos. When I grew up, only sailors and bikers had tattoos. They were just not commonly worn, especially by women. Now, of course, for younger generations, body modification is a frequent rite of passage. As an artist, as a bit of a rebel, as a woman seeking beauty and meaning in my life, the act of permanently inking my skin with something significant is an important freedom for me.

So, here’s to shedding the old, ill-fitting good girl skin and finding one that fits better! I wish all of you a similar epiphany on your journey.

10 Responses to “The Good Girl”

  1. Celeste Says:

    A toast to the past and the future!

  2. Vince Says:

    I’m glad you’re exploring more of the person you are. I’m sad you spent so much time suppressing that, though the decision to do what was best for your children when they were at risk is indicative of the strength and intelligence you have. Sadly, too many women can’t (or won’t) make those kinds of choices.

    Sadly, the term “good girl” has become so much of what you describe – a woman who suppresses herself in service of others. Perhaps some day it will be defined as the person you have become – as a caring, supportive woman who not only cares for others, but also cares for herself physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

    Go Jeri!

  3. Stacey Says:

    Jeri,

    You go girl! I too had to work through the ‘good girl’ image. It is both daunting and exhilarating at the same time. I’m so glad to know you now, when both of us are coming into our own, shedding the square peg in a round hole syndrome. Here’s to many more years of us!

  4. Janiece Says:

    We’re all still figuring it out, I suspect. Progress, not perfection, as the saying goes. :-)

  5. Janell Says:

    You kick ass :) *hugs*

  6. mattw Says:

    Good for you!

  7. WendyB_09 Says:

    Yay Jeri!!! You go girl!!

  8. Rebecca Says:

    All that I can add is that I am in total awe of you. You rock!

    Big hugs and I am glad that I can say I can call you friend!

  9. Joni Zander Says:

    Wow, Jeri! Just found your blog tonight. Second article and I’m just wowed! I think we always had too much in common to really be great friends – too competitive. And now I see that we have too much in common to NOT be great friends!

    I’ve been working with a life coach in Minnesota for over 6 years now and of all the women I’ve known, I think you would truly love her program. It is a combination of conference calls and individual phone coaching called GUTS (Giving Unbelievable aTtention to Self) and it has completely revolutionized my life!

    If not that, I think we need to find a few more take charge, needing to shed our good girl skin women and take a weekend to work together!

  10. Jeri Says:

    Joni – thanks for reading! I was a really messed up teen, that was probably a large part of it. I’m much better at friendship now. :)

    You know, I’ve been dancing around the idea of life coaching lately without realizing it. Your post definitely motivates me to explore that more fully. I took a look at your person’s site – and there are a couple of others I know and admire as well.

    And a weekend retreat – I’m all for it! My Hawaii week was definitely that. :)