Sometimes women don't need pity or comfort. Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them - someone to tell them to suck it up.
Let me tell you a dirty story.
It's the story of how I became a grumpy, insensitive, old woman.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, when I looked great in shorts and had never even heard of spider veins, I got a job as a truck stop waitress.
It's true. I was a truck stop waitress in a diner just off the 101. I was 18 years old and had heard that you could make "good money" waiting tables.
I was an innocent young thing with a soft heart. Hard to believe at this point, but true nonetheless. I cried easily. I had "feelings."
I was trained by a tough blonde woman who had been a truckstop waitress since she was a teenager and who could memorize an order for a table of 10 (drinks included) without a single mistake.
Guess what, first night, I messed up an order.
Not surprising, considered my ignorant state. Someone ordered hash browns as a side with their breakfast and I wrote down "hash" never knowing that there was an actual food called "hash."
The kind sir who had ordered the hash browns but got hash was not happy and let me know how I had screwed up his breakfast (for dinner) in a royal way. Apparently he HATED hash.
I will admit, it's an acquired taste.
I ended up crying in the bathroom of that truck stop. (As it turns out, women's restrooms in truck stops are rarely visited places so I was quite alone.)
Alone, that is, until my waitress/trainer entered to give me some sage advice.
She could tell I was sad and crying away my hurt feelings in the potty.
Did she offer a hug? A kind shoulder? A tender story of her first mistake as a truck stop waitress back in yonder youth?
She uttered just a few words.
"Suck it up, kid," she said.
And she left.
And I left too.
I squared my shoulders, splashed some water on my face, dried myself off and walked out. I came out of that bathroom (surprisingly clean, just so you know. It was a nice truck stop diner.) and I got to work.
I worked at that truck stop all summer and the next. Every time I came home from college, I had a job waiting for me and I made enough to buy my first car and help with school.
In fact, so deeply touched was I by that advice that it actually become my go to advice for others and myself during times of trouble.
Some may say that I am emotionally stunted, insensitive, even mean.
But I prefer to think that rather than cruel, I simply believe in the ability of people to carry on, to get through hard things, and to survive even when life is lumpy.
Being a truck stop waitress probably has little to do with being a mom or being a human being or surviving in this world, right?
I don't know…
I learned a lot at that job. I could tell you some fun stories about dirty old men and kind homeless weirdos.
But mostly I learned the value of sucking it up and pushing through.
I know that we live in a sensitive world where sensitivity is demanded often. I know we talk a lot about victims and being "nice."
But more and more often that "niceness" sounds a lot like demeaning, pitying, paternalism.
This happens all the time in the birth world as educators, midwives, and doulas strive to right the wrongs and make care more sensitive.
I know we talk about all of this all the time, but I can't help but wonder if sometimes a hurting, scared girl who lacks confidence and got her feelings smashed would be better served with a, "suck it up" than an, "I'm so sorry, you poor, poor thing."
Doesn't pity sometimes just serve to further embrace their role as helpless victim?
We all need hugs sometimes, and I get that. I have written about that too. They have their place and we need to use our judgment and good sense when it comes to approaching hard things.
But sometimes pity just sends the message that this hurting person CAN'T actually function or make it through. Sometimes what "suck it up" really says is, "you can do this."
When did women get so weak that we have to carry them, like wet tissue paper, through life so that they can survive?
I refuse to believe that women are weak and ALWAYS need the soft shoulder to weep on.
I was at a birth once with a first time mom who was transitioning. She was having a hard time, as women often do at 9 centimeters.
I was shocked when the midwife, got in her face and told her in no uncertain terms that she COULD do it. She informed this birthing woman (who was feeling weak and hopeless) that she herself had birthed many babies, and she then pointed to all the other women in the room, myself included, and informed her that these other ladies had also done it.
And now she was going to do it too.
Then, this weeping woman did just that.
I thought that midwives were supposed to be sensitive and kind and hold your hand while you felt sorry for yourself.
Sometimes, pity isn't the best course of action.
You are stronger than you know. You CAN suck it up and move on.
You can get up and get out of bed when you don't want to.
You can go to work.
You can take care of your kids.
You can do hard things.
You can get through hard times in your marriage, your life, your emotional landscape. You can survive when people are mean to you because you are stronger than all that other junk. It isn't bigger or tougher than you are. You are tougher than the hard times.
I realize this isn't a popular feeling and it isn't popular advice. My loved ones, unsurprisingly, don't enjoy getting advice from me. (I can admit that my delivery often sucks!)
Maybe it needs to be said anyway.
Giving birth is hard.
But you can do it. So suck it up and do it.
Having a newborn is hard. Babies often don't sleep.
Eventually they will sleep. So suck it up and push through.
Raising young kids is hard. But you can do it.
Your house will be in constant need of cleaning.
Suck it up, square your shoulders, and clean something for 10 minutes.
When you have older kids, they will fight.
They will be a pain in the butt.
Suck it up and love them anyway.
You will be hurt and beat down, sometimes by those who should have been kind, sometimes by those who should have been lifting you up.
You can make it through this. Suck it up. Get out of bed. Remember that you are stronger than this. Go out. Do hard things.
You aren't some weak thing with flowers in your hair. You might not be able to do 20 pull ups, but you are strong and coddling will never teach you that.
Dig deep. Remember where you came from and what you are made of.
I don't buy the, "women are weak and must be handled with kid gloves," line. We are no more sensitive or helpless than anyone else.
I know the phrase, "suck it up" is awful, really awful and insensitive.
It is still the best advice I ever got and I tell it to myself all the time. It has gotten me through much harder things than a tough and angry truck driver. A better phrase would probably be, "you can do it."
You can do it.
You can do hard things.
There are many who have come before you. They stand waiting and watching and knowing that you are stronger than you realize.
Photo credit: Cia de Foto/Foter.com; CC BY, Matthew Wilkinson/ Foter.com; CC BY-ND, mescon/Foter.com