I have decided I should write a self-help book.
Doormat To Dictator In One Day.
It would probably have to carry the sub-title "And back to the doormat by bedtime."
Because that's me, that's my personality. I am a swinger, and not in the fun way that means my keys are always found in a bowl at parties.
As a kid, I was mostly a doormat. I just wanted to fit in, not make waves, not be too noticeable. I was generally a follower amongst my peers, not a leader. Oh. Except maybe at sport. I do admit to the recurring affliction of White Line Fever. There are several girls, and probably some boys (hey, I didn't discriminate), out there with fading scars, unhealed fractures and still bruised egos who would probably testify to that.
When asked for an opinion I would often shrug my shoulders, wait for someone else to give theirs, and agree. There was always someone louder, stronger, more outgoing and confident, who would step up to the plate. The people who know me now are probably incredulous, as I have proven myself to be louder than rock music and quite capable of waking neighbours at 3am with a dirty joke, a roar of laughter and a bit of Hollywood-style old-school soft-shoe shuffling (okay, stomping) out in the street. I may have danced head-first into the tree once or twice but I still got up to finish with *jazz hands*. What a fucking trooper.
But not back then. I kept quiet. Was it through absence of opinion, or fear of expressing one? Mostly the latter, I believe. Pretty sure I always had opinions, but was reluctant to let my mouth release them.
At home I was the youngest child in a house where my mother totally ruled with intimidation, manipulation and emotional blackmail. I just did as I was told. I may have rolled my eyes, had a surly expression on my face, and even poked my tongue out at her behind her back, but I did it.
She was bossy and dominating wherever she went. She wanted to be in charge, to dictate how things should be done. No shrugging of the shoulders and going with the flow for her. Even as she got older and took on volunteering, if somebody else was made the Grand Poobah of Monday's Bingo Balls ahead of her, she took her colour-coordinated textas and her shiny name badge and moved to Wednesdays.
I didn't want to cause trouble, and I also didn't want to be like her, so I let the doormat attitude rule my mind and body. For the most part I accepted this as my lot in life; part genetics (from Dad), part upbringing, part my choice. But eventually, the doormat dam broke, years of held-back opinions rushed forth and there were flashfloods of verbal rebellion. You should have seen people scurrying for their lifejackets and paddles. The unpredictable ebbs and flows of white water rafting have nothing on me.
I can't pinpoint a timeframe or a specific catalyst; I just know I didn't want to be a doormat any longer. Problem was, I didn't really know how to express an opinion in a non-confrontational, objective, pleasant manner. I had never learned. So I SCREAMED it. I got sulky, angry or belligerent. I cried. Pouted. Slammed doors. Threw plums in the swimming pool and blamed the neighbours.
My mother's genetics appearing? Typical teenager? Hormones? Maybe. Partly. Mostly though, I think I was like a really bad case of gas that had just been held in for far too long, resulting in a big, violent fart. I stank the joint up.
The learning process continued. I oscillated between doing what I was told, and wanting to dictate things my way. By the time I started working, I realised the doormat approach was required again. At least initially. I was young, shy, learning the ropes, meeting new people. I became a bit of a follower, probably until my first drunken work function brought me out of my shell. Prawns and champagne. Holy projectile vomit, Batman.
Work, marriage, children, family issues, health issues, frustrating friendships, new experiences …. all have brought out different levels of either subservience or dominance in me. Sometimes I have been targeted because people knew I would be a doormat and say "yes, whatever you want", and I have considered having 'SUCKER' tattooed on my … umm …. forehead.
Other times I could be a contestant on Evil Dictator Idol. I have literally seen people catch sight of me and duck off to avoid the 'Wrath of Cath'. Fuck, I hate the name Cath, but it rhymes with wrath. Don't call me Cathryn either. Cathryn is no doormat. She will fucking kick your arse.
Don't get me wrong, I am not always either a screaming dictator or having people wipe their dogshit-covered shoes on me. Due to the upbringing I had, the lack of an encouraging learning forum, and the choices I made, I have had to teach myself how to express opinions calmly, and try to find a safe, middle ground. Compromise, the golden word. And I don't always succeed. But I try.
It has been a never ending struggle for me. I still shrug my shoulders and give in to people far too easily on occasion. I also get controlling and bite heads off more often than I should. I then have to spend energy either chastising myself for being too weak or apologising to others for being too strong. Most of the time though, now that I'm older and wiser (or just older), I hope I can be found somewhere in between the two extremes.
Anybody seen my keys?