Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere… Is being good over-rated?
Author: Tatenda Sithole
What is a good girl?
Really… I am seriously asking you this question.
All my life I have never actually understood what this means. I have tried so very hard to be good. But it seems I always fail at some impossible hurdle that I didn’t even know existed. Best for the ‘good old days’ of say, Victorian England, where women had their place and men had their place and we all met in some crazy middle where no-one was satisfied and we all lied violently to each other. Where women swooned and needed smelling salts to get through all the excitement of breathing, and men were monocled and much-bearded. And any woman with a smidgeon of sense knew better than to act as though they had an opinion, and title was anything. So much so that starvation or success were often dictated by what ‘name’ you bore…. Or maybe better still for the good ole’ Caveman days where the only definition of a good woman was one who accepted the club like a good girl and was unceremoniously bundled off to a cave somewhere for a hairy oaf to have his way with her.
The life of a woman has never been an easy one at best. I know I have intentionally used over-exaggerated examples of what good was or has been in our histories, but really has much changed in the grand scheme of things? Is it ever really wise for a woman to unashamedly say she has a chequered past or even present? Or admit to certain proclivities in her private life? I invite you to embark on this ‘senseless’ mental exercise with me. Think of a woman who you admire and respect. Someone who symbolises all the values and principles that you admire and aspire to. Think of a person whose progress in life you have followed and you greatly admire.
© Photographer: Roman Milert | Agency: Dreamstime.com
In my case I would think… Angela Merkel. Ok, I am thinking someone else really but I will use Angela as an example. I will reveal who I really admire momentarily. If I look at Angela Merkel as a role model I would think she is an amazing human being. She is a pragmatist and highly driven. She believes in herself. You can tell by her quiet resolute ways that she is a woman who believes in getting the job done. Some of her ideas and actions have proved unpopular, but she is not easily swayed once she is set on her path. To me she almost exudes a quietly firm maternal aura – multitasking and overseeing without hinting at the doubtless immense pressure of keeping on top of it all. Angela has bridged the gap and continues to do so, not because she is trying to prove anything. But simply because – I feel – it is intrinsic to her to do what she feels is the right thing. I have a beautiful warm feeling whenever I imagine all the hurdles she must have overcome to be where she is. I’m sure you have some degree of respect for her as well? But here is the mental spanner in the works. Imagine if you found out a little known fact about Ms Merkel? Something silly – and please note this is not a fact. It is a supposition. Imagine if you became aware that she played truant in school? Or she had indulged in underage drinking, or had some other sort of chequered past?
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Think about it for a moment.
Would you lose some measure of respect for your role model? Could you no longer identify with her? Or would you feel somehow more connected to her? Because she is now ‘normal’, more close to you and your own struggles. Would you have more respect for her because her private life is not something out of a Stepford dream? Or nightmare if you prefer to see it that way… Now, you may be wondering who my idol really is? I have admired this woman for as long as I can remember. Thankfully for me she has been in the public eye for just as long too. I will start with the things about her that I have always admired. In one way or another I constantly wish I had the strength of character to embrace all the things I greatly value in her. She is an individual. Her strength of character has shone through and persevered throughout the years. She lives her live very much in the public eye. She has made her mistakes and ridden her successes all in the eye of the public and a much excited media. Her public persona is fluid and changes throughout the years. She has enjoyed a wild youth, a crazy ascent into womanhood, and a controversial motherhood. While I don’t advocate all the things she has done (but frankly really is it my business to state what is the norm or not?) I do admire one thing about her: she is an individual and doesn’t care what winds of change come. She is herself. And has remained ever so despite immense pressure to conform. She has done things most people would be afraid to even try, and has done them fearlessly. She has started from nothing and continues to work as hard as though she is fighting her way out of the gutter. She is a hopeless control freak. And I love even that about her. Wow, ok… I almost feel the need for a metaphoric drum-roll here. My role model is Madonna. The artist.
Classic bad girl aye?
But is she really? I mean, when you think about it and you look at her history, every part of her crazy lifestyle and fast-paced life should have had us banishing her to the furthest regions of our minds and only saying her name in hushed tones. Remember that book ‘Sex’? I’m guessing with the rise and rise of erotic literature nowadays that book would probably make for genteel circles’ book club reading. But when she released it I hear it was banned in some countries. As much as Anais Nin was loved in secret and loathed in public, so too was dear Madge banished to the furthest reaches of public discourse and yet so widely revered in private circles. Whatever the motivations at the time, Madonna has that ‘something’ that very few people are willing to acknowledge or respect: she has staying power. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” So really, when your career relies on people talking about you it is better that they say bad things than none at all. Right? Because to have been able to stay in the public eye for as long as she has is no small feat at all.
But what does this mean for the average girl? Should we all throw caution to the wind and now start to behave like Madge? Wear hot-pants and cone bras and fling our ponytails in the face of anyone who cares to look? How really do we assert who we are as individuals? And does it really matter what people think about us as long as we are staying true to ourselves?
Ok, first of all I will say that I definitely do not have the answer to this or many of the other questions floating around in my head.
All I know is that for the longest time in my life I followed the general popular ‘winds of change’. I am thirty-two years old now. And up until the age of sixteen roughly I did as I was told. I did as my teachers instructed, I did as my parents lectured I do, I did as my peer group so naughtily did. I was several different people depending on who I was interacting with. So while I was little Miss Goody-two-shoes getting good grades at school, I was also a rebel who sometimes got caught and disciplined by my parents. I didn’t dare assert myself or the things that I really wanted in terms of where I saw myself personally or career wise. Even up to doing my A-levels I always knew I wanted to do something creative, artistic, even social oriented. But I ‘obeyed’ my parents’ direction and pursued Accounting and later on Nursing. I know I know, both of these are pretty incongruent paths, but my parents followed patterns of what jobs were ‘stable’ and I was ushered quickly in the direction of what worked based on the metaphoric ‘divining rod’. I was drastically unhappy but I did what I thought was expected of me. Even through my twenties I ‘secretly’ rebelled while carrying on a ‘normal’ life as I assumed people expected. What normal was I really do not have any idea. Still. But I kept this facade of normalcy and rebellion even though in reality no-one was dictating the pace to me anymore. This had a ripple effect on so many aspects of my life. I chose unfulfilling relationships – both romantic and friendly. I pursued a career that was neither satisfactory nor fulfilling to me. I was marginally good at it. But then again my heart was not in it. I played it safe. But that was because I was struggling so hard to remain in this supposed realm of ‘good’ that I assumed I ought to be in. And I would have quite happily remained in that realm had it not been for a life-changing happening that forced me out of my drudgery in 2007. But that is a story for another day. Simply put, when you are forced to sink or swim and you have lost everything, you soon discover your ability to even tread water. Your priorities very quickly change as a result. As I once said to a friend of mine, I firmly believe everyone should have at least one ‘disaster’ in their lives in order to appreciate their own strength. Basically, at twenty six years old I discovered myself… And it’s not all roses and apple pie believe me. But it’s me. And I love it, warts and all.
But that essentially brings me to the crux of the story. Do you try your hardest to be the ‘good girl’ that you think society wants you to be? Or are you driven by your own instincts? If you had nothing to gain from the world for example, would you still act the way you do now? We all have something we feel we gain from maintaining the relationships we have. Maybe it is a sense of belonging, a sense of fulfilment, a sense of achievement, or because they are people who help us feel less lonely? If you felt fulfilled in your own life within your own presence what relationships would you still have? If everyone knew the ‘real’ you, how many of them would still be around? A huge part of what happened to me in 2007 was that I lost the love of people whom I considered to be friends. The rug was pulled out from beneath me and I could not maintain certain material cloaks that I had proudly worn to keep up with the Joneses. I soon realised how many Joneses I had accumulated, not to mention the odd hangers-on when my social life went from going out almost every night to not hearing the phone ring at all. That was difficult. More difficult I suppose than the disaster itself I suppose. The sense of ‘belonging’ that I felt was wrenched away from me and I was left to find out what held true value in my life. But after the initial tears and despair – and not to mention denial – I had a deeper peace about what had happened. And I can gladly say now in retrospect that they were never really friends of mine in the first place. (Oh, and this is after I burned all their pictures and unfriended them on you-know-where. Of course.)
So good or bad…
Is it not more important to just be yourself? As long as you take the route to love freely and act responsibly then regardless what society tells you is good or bad you will be happy within yourself.