Writing In Bed Calm Down! And Other Unsolicited Directives Marianna Tabares

The older I get, the less I care to be told to calm down or anything unsolicited imperative statement. This isn’t the same reaction as being a know-it-all teenager who can’t take advice from well-meaning adults. This is me, as an adult woman, asking that I not be told what to do by people, usually men, who think they know what is best for me.

The most significant part of this annoyance is when I receive imperative statements from older men who know nothing about my culture, my upbringing, my values, or my lifestyle. For the most part, they respect that I make my own choices, but there have been a few instances where they’ve taken it upon themselves to tell me what I should do and how to do it, even going so far as to email me lists of instructions.

As a grown woman, I don’t find it helpful at all. I know they mean well, but there is a slight feeling of condescension in having a man take the time to write out a list of what exactly I should to do improve my life. I have determined the following: Any man who wishes to continue speaking to me should recognize that I am an adult (regardless of whether my jokes make me not sound like one) and that thus far, I have been fully capable of caring for myself and if I wanted to bring about a specific kind of change to my life, it is in my power to do so. In fact, I prefer to keep the company of men who respect me enough to never speak to me that way unless I directly ask for specific advice.

I am aware that this kind of reaction seems childish, and maybe it is. Maybe I’m supposed to just listen to what someone tells me to do, but my ethnicity also comes to mind. Why should I receive instructions from an older white man, for example, who has no way of understanding where I’m from, what I’ve done for myself and my career, and what influence my culture has on the desires I pursue? I’ve often read about the “white savior complex” and I’ve wondered if it applies to this situation in my life. Do these men believe that they are going to take part in my salvation? Do they hear my complaints about, for example, how broke I am, and think that they have the solutions I seek? An older white male in his 40′s once wrote a long email to me telling me that I’m single because I don’t let anyone get close to me. This filled me with a rage that I hadn’t felt before as I almost couldn’t believe that someone actually sat at his computer and took the time to say these things to me. I was amazed that someone would have the audacity to even pretend to understand why I choose to remain single and turn it around to make it sound like it’s not a choice, but a consequence of some no-good part of my personality.

I’ve had conversations with professional women and after they’ve learned about where I am in life, they either share personal contacts with me who can point me in the right direction of what I seek, or they simply hear me out and do not tell me what I should do. This is important to me because the more that I am in an awareness of just how much of my life is in my hands, the more it becomes clear to me, as if it already wasn’t, that I control a huge percentage of my destiny. The more I see of successful young women, the more the belief solidifies itself that there is nothing holding me back from reaching the kind of success I think I deserve. Granted, we face obstacles for a variety of reasons, but they can be overcome one way or another.

As for being told to calm down, I’m put off by anyone who sends messages to me intending to control what I do with my emotions. I became very frustrated recently when someone on Twitter put it upon himself to tell me to calm down as a response to a flustered tweet I published. Why should I calm down? I shook my head after reading his message and was angry, then annoyed. Finally, I shrugged it off and remembered that though the message annoyed me, he is not in control of my emotions – I am.

I am in charge of whether I remain frustrated with a situation or let it pass. I am in charge of how long I will mourn something like the end of a relationship. I am in charge of how far I let my passions guide me and how fast or slow I go.

I am in charge of everything about me for as much as I can be with a few obvious exceptions such as certain diseases or accidents. I am sure that as time goes by, someone else will come around to tell me what I should be doing and how. As usual, I’ll be polite and cute about it, but I’ll go home and feel a tinge of ire before finally shrugging it off and remembering that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing at my own determined pace.

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  1. I had an ‘e-fight’ with a man just yesterday who had ‘good intentions’…

  2. I could not agree more. You have managed to put into writing a long-running and repeated internal dialogue of mine. I am so glad it’s not just me that sees situations this way! Thank you!

    • For a while I used to think, “Maybe he’s right, I’m screwing up my life.” But then it hit me that no one else has any authority over MY own choices in life and it’s up to me how fast or slow I move, etc. I just can’t understand how someone who has zero in common with me feels so entitled to tell me what to do.

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