A few months ago, I was interviewing a man for work when for some reason, and I still can’t work out why, he asked me if I had children.
When I said ‘no’, he, without hesitation, replied with:
“You haven’t lived”.
I was telling a friend in the office about the really odd encounter and she asked.
“At what point did you punch him?”.
Now, to me there were so many problems with this conversation.
- I’d been in his company for 20 minutes; we’d never met before. Therefore, he knew sod all about me or what my personal circumstances are and I didn’t find it appropriate.
- For some reason, he found it perfectly acceptable to pass judgement on my life without knowing the first thing about it.
- IT. IS. ABSOLUTELY. NONE. OF. HIS. BUSINESS.
I didn’t punch him. You might be wondering how did I react? Well, despite being baffled and annoyed at the whole conversation; I ignored it, smiled, continued to be quiet, well behaved and got on with my job.
I told myself, had I not been working, trying to maintain an air of professionalism and representing the company I work for; I’d have challenged his ridiculous view that for a woman, a life without children is a life not lived, but in all honestly, I don’t think I would have. I think my reaction would always be, smile, be polite, stay quiet, don’t make a fuss, be good.
By this point you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, after all this is meant to be a book review, that incident (and others) played over in my head while reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
I had every right to put him in place but that’s not what girls and women are taught to do. We’re taught to be good, quiet and well behaved.
If we’re angry we’re volatile, if we’re emotional we’re being silly, if we’re strong willed we’re stubborn; the list goes on. We’re expected to live and strive for a certain way of life.
Glennon Doyle’s third memoir talks about breaking those expectations; listening to ourselves more, trusting ourselves, setting our own boundaries, becoming Untamed.
From the back
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent–even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent.
I haven’t read Doyle’s other memoirs; I didn’t know a whole lot about her before reading this book. She’d spent huge parts of her teen years battling an eating disorder, followed by drug and alcohol addiction. She got sober when she fell pregnant with her first child and married her husband Craig, they had three children.
Her second memoir Love Warrior details how they tried to save their marriage after he admitted he’d been unfaithful multiple times throughout their marriage. It’s something she touches on in Untamed in an amusing if not depressing story about how she tried to work out what to do….
“I found myself googling what to do if your husband is a cheater but also a really good dad”.
She recognises the absurdity of this, of ignoring her own voice and turning to algorithms and bots for answers. The turning point for Doyle came while she was promoting that book and she met footballer Abby Wambach, who she’s now married to.
Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
This book looks at the aftermath of that, how she upended her entire life and created a blended family.
While it is her own story, it is easy to recognise some of what she is saying about how we’re “tamed” from an early age. She talks about being told the story of Adam and Eve at Sunday school – pretty implicit reminder from the church about what happens if you don’t behave, girls.
I didn’t find any of this book overly groundbreaking, it could feel a bit heavy on ‘inspirational’ quotes in places but it did feel like an honest account of what it’s like to be a woman, we might not like it but there’s a truth to it:
These are the feelings you are allowed to express.
This is how a woman should act.
This is the body you must strive for.
These are the things you will believe.
These are the people you can love.
Those are the people you should fear.
This is the kind of life you are supposed to want. Glennon Doyle
There’s a story I’ve been told by my mum, many times. It’s about one of my parents evenings she attended while I was at Primary school, where the teacher in question told her “she’ll marry well”. No, I didn’t go to school in the 19th century, this was 1992 or something and apparently (at my school at least) that was what you needed to achieve.
I’d spent a lot of 20s believing that we’d come a long way in terms of equality and in many ways we have, however, societal expectations still by and large exist and we are now probably more than ever (thanks social media) bombarded by images and messages when it comes to what kind of lives we should be living and how we should behave.
Basically, in the encounter described above, this dude was telling me ‘that is what you’re supposed to be striving for, play the damn game’ whether that was his intention or not it doesn’t matter. I’m more annoyed that I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say ‘mate, concentrate on your own life, mine is good thank you and lived’.
I speak as someone who can and will stand up for herself when it comes to most things, who is happy with her body, who isn’t ashamed to let her feelings show, isn’t scared of upsetting others but I guess the messages we grow up with, still cut through on some level. Next time, I won’t shrink and I’ll say what I want 🙂
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm