Learning childlike behaviour is not difficult, even for the most invincible adult women. Just watch spoilt little girls – especially the ones who are nearing middle age. Observe what they say and how they say it; the high pitched voice, the wide eyed look and the way everything, from floor tiles to soap dishes, are just “toooooo CUTE!” If you get the opportunity to be in the same room as one of these childish nightmares when they learn they are not going to get their own way it is an eye opener; their faces cloud over, they pout, they sulk and grow all stroppy, a few grow hysterical and have little temper tantrums – everyone knows they are upset, “I want my way and I want it NOW” is the message they give out loud and clear. The more modern specimens have a theme – everything has to be purple or silver, it has to sparkle or be in the shape of a flower, it must smell of roses or Jasmine – in short they have a signature style that takes over any place they inhabit for more than five minutes.
Not for one second would I ever suggest to anyone that they become childish and spoilt. But I wouldn’t advise anyone to settle at the other end of the spectrum either – the doormat. Raised to put others before herself, she will accept the very worst of treatment. Before she puts so much as a pot plant on a window sill she will analyse who could be upset – will her husband be annoyed she spent £2.49? Will her in-laws object to a plant with such green leaves? What will happen if it gets dust on it? Better just leave well alone and keep the sill bare, or let someone else choose all the ornaments (and the furniture, the carpets, the curtains, her clothes and how she spends her time). If you get the opportunity to be in the same room as one of these repressed nightmares when they discover they are not going to get their own way you will not learn a thing, you won’t even realise they had a desire in the first place. They are self sufficient and capable of holding in their disappointment, dismissing their own feelings as irrelevant.
Charles Dickens illustrated these two extremes brilliantly in David Copperfield, the first was found in his first wife Dora, the second in Agnes. Statistically Dora and Agnes were quite similar – both were only children, both were raised by their fathers after their mothers died; both were from educated middle class backgrounds (although Dora’s did appear more affluent when she is first introduced). The big difference is that Agnes was raised to support her father, she kept house for him, she cared for him and she put him before herself – when the odious Uriah Heap wanted to marry her he blackmailed her with her father’s ruin. Agnes was taught from a young age to put another person before herself, she bore a lot of responsibility and was diligent in fulfilling her duties.
Dora on the other hand was raised to feel that it was her right to have her desires met. She didn’t support her father, the worry of her marrying David probably contributed to his death! She put herself first, she demanded a lot, she was foolish and didn’t even accept responsibility for her duties.
David was besotted with Dora for a while, unhappy with her in the long term, but infatuated in the first months. He was never besotted with Agnes, but he was happy with her in the long term. The fascinating woman is a mixture of both; she will support those she loves, she will be responsible and diligent, but her signature style is probably evident in her abode and she also finds inanimate objects “tooooo cute” in a wide eyed, high pitched sort of way. She is pleasant and amiable without swallowing every desire, and hopes to have her desires met without throwing a strop if they aren’t.
Now I want to introduce Amy, who lived at the doormat end of the spectrum but is undergoing a lot of restructuring. Recently her husband wanted to go on holiday with his brothers, not big deal and normally it would be fine, but Amy is pregnant. She has severe morning sickness and a toddler to look after on top of all else. The old Amy would have helped her husband pack his bags, thinking “he deserves his freedom”, worried he would feel trapped by her neediness, considering how disappointed his brothers would feel if he misses the trip, nervous about how her parents in law would react if their son put her first. The new Amy puts herself first as she deserves to be, she stamps her foot and sheds tears and emphasises how much she depends on her husband in her vulnerable condition.
The biggest change in Amy is an internal one; she weighs up her needs against those of other people and makes sure she is taken care of without injuring them. Now she feels entitled to good treatment, the childlike Doraish behaviour bubbles up naturally through her responsible Agnesy personality. Once she was prepared to be vulnerable and needy, Amy felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. It wasn’t an artificial act, but a genuine expression of her true, feminine self, emerging after years of suffocation.