Judge Judy: She’s No Give Away Girl

unknownI love the TV show, Judge Judy. Judy Sheindlin is no Give Away Girl. In fact, did you know she is one of the highest paid people on TV?  She makes about $45 million a year because she gets proceeds from every Judge Judy show that airs. For that, I would wear that ridiculous collar too. Nice negotiating for yourself, Judy.

Off topic …

As an aside, I had a Halloween party years ago where everyone was supposed to come in costume. My good friend Tanya came as Judge Judy with a wig, collar and black gown. I don’t know how she didn’t win the best costume contest.

No one had met Tanya before and, hilariously, everyone else assumed that that (see picture) was Tanya’s real hair cut. The wig was so good no one could tell. The next time the other friends ran into Tanya, they kept whispering to me how much better they liked Tanya’s long brown hair versus her “old” hairdo. I laughed and laughed.

Back on topic: great examples of Give Away Girls

The Judge Judy show is replete with Give Away Girls. Stories like the sad-faced blonde who says “I gave him the money to buy a car because he didn’t have a job” … or this, “I bailed him out of jail and he promised to pay me back.”

Again and again, Judy regales these women with quick sound-bite lectures about simple facts. She points out that a guy who has three children from three different women is unlikely to pay you back for that black Trans Am you bought him, especially if he doesn’t have a job.

Now note the Gimme, Gimme, Gimme girls

In contrast to the Give Away Girls on Judge Judy, you’ve got your Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (GGG) Girls. These are the daughters, sisters and friends who go back on their word or their contracts because they simply didn’t feel like following through. They take advantage of the kindness and generosity of others.

One GGG Girl told her stepdad she would pay him back for a car he bought her. She didn’t. The stepdad testified that she had agreed to use the car to pick up her sister at school and to pay him on a monthly basis. She dropped both balls.

Her response? “Things changed. Why should I pay for a car I don’t even use?” she argued, indignant and annoyed that she should have to pay anything when she changed her mind. She wasn’t a detrimental caretaker, she was a plain old narcissist, and it’s no fun being in a relationship with someone like her.

The takeaway

Men and women who have caretaking qualities need to be careful when entering into relationships. Narcissistic people like the flaky car girl do exist. And, current research suggests that narcissism is becoming widespread. So keep watch.

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Mary Todd Lincoln’s Difficult Life Journey

Have you seen the movie Lincoln? I liked it a lot. I am a big biography buff. My fascination with people and their lives was probably what lead me to becoming a therapist. Back to the movie, though, and what I found most interesting — the portrayal of Mary, Abe’s wife.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln has long been characterized as a hysterical depressive figure. I remember reading in historical literature about her bouts of depression, her hysterics and her lack of public popularity. Conversely, our beloved Lincoln usually gets credit for being the stoic, “in control” husband and father — father of a nation and his family. Just look at how he is portrayed so powerfully in his stone chair at the Lincoln Monument. I’ve been there. You get a sense of the heaviness of his life, his introverted emotional nature, as well as how strong and capable he was.

Mary had the opposite reputation, and this was long before public relations were available to manage and polish one’s public image. If Mary were around now, I would advise her to invest in some good PR. However, poor Mary had a lot going on

Let’s look at some of Mary’s stressors during Abraham Lincoln’s life …

1. In addition to witnessing her husband’s assassination, Mary was shattered by the deaths of two of her children, one of whom died while her husband was in office. One son who died was her darling Willie. He died in the middle of the strain of the Civil War. Unfortunately, he passed while Mary was entertaining in the White House. Understandably, Mary was devastated and burdened by her absence at his death. Duty came first for her, and that cost her dearly at an already stressful time.

2. She endured the challenges of being married to the man who was directing and was partially responsible for the Civil War. This was our country’s most devastating war. Thousands of our boys died. The country was horribly divided too. What woman in her shoes wouldn’t worry and feel anxiety? Marie Antoinette lost her head when the tide turned in her country. Wouldn’t you be stressed?

3. She was lonely and apparently had little or no support from Lincoln or anyone else. According to biographers, Lincoln worked very hard and was gone a lot even before winning the presidency. An article featured in the The New Yorker, (see below) writes that “prior to the presidency, Mary lived in a boarding-house room, alone and without help. She often functioned as a single mother, because Lincoln’s lawyering took him on the road.”

We haven’t heard much about the strengths of Mary’s character or the accomplishments in her life. Did you know she was dedicated to helping the ex-slaves who had moved into the North, fleeing slavery?

In the movie, when the war has ended and Lincoln and Mary seem to be moving into a more peaceful existence, Mary calmly makes a joke about how history will perceive her. The actual Mary probably knew on some level that she’d get the short end of the stick.

Lincoln kindly reassures her though. He seems to say the public may judge her, but they don’t know what she’s been through. Interestingly, he points out that unlike himself, she had the courage to feel her emotions and get through it to keep moving forward. Lincoln knew that only he had a window into the devastation in her soul, and he respected her for it. I hope they really did have an exchange like that.

Culturally, women are encouraged to feel their feelings and express them from a very early age. As adults, the tide turns. Crying and getting upset becomes a show of weakness or manipulation. Professionally, it can quickly result in a loss of respect. What’s a girl to do? Thank God for the ladies room! That’s what I say.

Emotional Self-Care for Today’s Woman

1. Don’t let other people’s judgments about your emotionality get in the way of your feeling and how you deal with them.

2. Having normal emotional responses to abnormal or difficult events is what being a human is about.

3. If you don’t feel and deal with your emotions, you will pay a price. Submerging feelings and not expressing yourself will cause stress. Stress affects us physically and medically. In addition, unaddressed emotions under stressful circumstances fuel the fire of addictions.

4.  Be empathic of others who are expressing themselves “too much.” Perhaps there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Try not to judge.

So, feel and deal, no matter what others say or think. At the same time, don’t go to extremes and walk around martyring yourself. Using good social judgment is always wise and prudent. When the situation arises and it is inappropriate to “get emotional,” excuse yourself and go to the ladies room, or call in sick and lick your wounds. Then, move up and on.

Poor Mary became a widow and was financially devastated after Lincoln’s death. She lost another child as well. Eventually, she was placed in a sanitarium by her remaining son. I hope she found some peace there.

For more insight into Mary Todd Lincoln, I encourage you to read “Reconsidering Mary” in the The New Yorker.

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No Give Away Girl in Zero Dark Thirty

Just saw Zero Dark Thirty movie this weekend. It is a movie about the decade long hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Exciting movie!

I loved, loved, loved the main character Naya. She was a CIA agent who was solely responsible for finding Osama’s whereabouts. Although the movie is supposed to be fictional, some of it was the same depiction I read about in the Navy Seals memoir, “No Easy Day”by Mark Owen.

“I’m the motherf###er
who found this place!”

Maya was a smart woman who did not let her co-workers eschew her successes. In a tense conference room scene, the alleged head of the CIA comes in to talk about the secret hideout that Maya has found. She is relegated quickly to a back seat, not even allowed to sit at the conference table. At one point, the CIA Director looks around and asks who the girl is. And she doesn’t answer reticently.

No, “Excuse me, I am Maya…” Blah, blah, blah. She speaks up and doesn’t let her boss get the snaps for all her hard work. She toots her own horn and does it loudly. This is not something women are socialized to do. And not demanding credit where credit is due has deleterious effect on one’s career and provides a good whack to the self esteem.

Reasons women are less likely to get credit for accomplishments:

1. They wait to be given credit. They don’t take credit.

2. They don’t want to be rude, make people uncomfortable or step on anybody’s toes.

3. They don’t want to appear too aggressive or bitchey, and are willing to sacrifice and take less important roles for the good of others. (Martyr alert!)

Kathleen Bigelow directed this movie. Before she won her first Academy Award, I read this quote from her and I can’t find it anywhere on the internet. But, it went something like this, “when I tried to make a movie, as a woman, they tried to take parts of it away. Like a dog, I held onto my bone. I would not let them take it away. You gotta hold onto your bone.” If you can find the exact quote, let me know. You get the point.

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Accepting Support: Why So Reluctant?

I just caught an episode of that new show Go On (http://www.nbc.com/go-on/) starring Matthew Perry. In the show, Matthew plays a character named Ryan who is forced to join a support group after losing his wife. Ridiculous and fun, the group is peppered with bizarre people who seemingly have nothing in common with the eye rolling, curmudgeonly Ryan. However, at the end of the show everyone shows up at Ryan’s house at 3 am, keeping him company with his grief-related insomnia. These characters provide unexpected support, warmth and encouragement during Ryan’s time of need.

Ryan’s initial reluctance to get support mirrors a lot of what I see every day. Many people I know find it difficult to ask for and receive help. Many see it as a weakness. Interestingly, people with codependent characteristics are usually the worst perpetrators of needing to do everything on their own.

“I got it,” yells my neighbor as she straps another 5-pound bag of potatoes onto a heap of grocery bags she’s dragging and kicking into the house. “You sure?” I ask. “Really, I am fine!” she belts out red-faced and panting.

Reluctance to receive help and support relates to many of my counseling clients’ complaints during their first appointment. They are stupefied at their inability to perfectly manage whatever it is they have come in to talk about.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have never needed to talk to anyone before. I feel ridiculous.” 

Why is it that people feel bad about needing help and support? If we were all meant to be alone, why don’t we all move to separate, isolated islands. We are brought into this world naked and dependent, needing gentle loving support, longer than any other mammal species. What’s the big deal anyway? Everybody knows it is easier to move out of your apartment with other people carrying the other half of the sofa. Are you less valuable?

Stretched thin? How do you view getting help?

1. Do you see getting help or support as a weakness? Why? What is that about? Who taught you that?

2. Do you think getting help or support is something that is good for other people, but you are reluctant to do so? How can this be so?

3. Do you often refuse attempts of help that others give you? Why? Are you uncomfortable? Where does this discomfort come from?

4. Do you make it look like you have it all covered but feel a little resentful that others don’t offer you the kind of help that you might be needing?

We tend to do better and feel better with the right kind of help.

Next time someone offers help, take him or her up on it. If you aren’t used to accepting help, you will probably feel a little uncomfortable at first. Sit with your discomfort a while and just try to take it all in. You might be surprised.

Just because you CAN do it on your own doesn’t mean that you should.

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