Some Dignity: A Brief Rant

Friday night I went out with my friend A. Like me, A is single; and, like me, she comes across as someone with confidence, no small degree of poise, and a good amount of intelligence.

And yet–also, like me–she manages to forget these things in the company of certain men. She manages to behave like a person with comparatively little confidence or poise or sense or smarts.

In such moments, A told me the other night, certain words once spoken to her by a close female relative frequently ring in her head.

Those words would be: “A——, have some dignity.”

We both busted out laughing when she told me this. Both of us, in other words, are aware of how frequently we act without dignity.

I reported this to my NY S a few days later, expecting her to laugh along as heartily. She didn’t.

“What do you mean, dignity?” she asked. “What has that got to do with flakey guys?”

I struggled to explain.

Then, yesterday, my friend and professor and luminarious poet Dana Levin came to guest teach my creative writing class. In introducing and defining poetry, she talked about her practice of looking up the etymology of words as both a creative and analytical tool.

So, this morning (only after spending one hour alphebitizing my bookshelf and another curled up in a ball on the couch with Bonita–this, friends, is how useless I currently feel) I looked up the etymological roots of the word “dignity.”

What I found isn’t that revelatory: the word comes from the Latin “dignitas,” which means “worthiness.”

But that, as it turns out, iis exactly it.

What A and I were laughing about is the fact that we know how “worthy” we are: we know we are smart, creative, attractive, worthy young women. We know we are worthy of someone who appreciates this: who treats us, in other words, with respect.

And yet, so often–for reasons too mundane, infuriating and typical for me to reckon with at this moment–we allow ourselves to become involved with men who don’t.

I was reminded of this several times this weekend, as I ran into approximately three men who I’ve been more or less interested in/involved with in the past few months–all of them evidently incapable of behaving like–and treating others as–a normal human being, much less a respectful one.

It would seem that these men don’t know how to make phone calls. That they don’t know how to apologize. Or how to make plans. Or how to acknowledge another person with whom they may or may not have recently had sex. How to make one feel, in other words, like a woman who is worthy of being called or apologized to or appropriately acknowledged.

“I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe of men who are completely socially dysfunctional,” I told S, sprawled on the couch the other night and attempting to read Lolita.

“I know,” she said. “I’m living right next door.”


Filed under Love Life

6 responses to “Some Dignity: A Brief Rant

  1. suzanne

    I LOVE this post! So wise!

  2. Alex

    Just found your blog and I love it. Just made today, sitting in the office, eating a chocolate bar, a much much better day. You have a fan in Cairo!

    • yay! alex!!!!!!!!!! i love picturing you eating chocolate in your egyptian office…and have loved hearing the occasional update on your adventures. hugs from new mexico!

  3. Hi Elizabeth. Your words are certainly on the mark for a lot of women who struggle with this exact issue. I work every day on this myself.

    A few years ago I had a dream about John Denver, who has been my musical idol, spirit guide, etc. etc. since the 60s. In the dream we were lying in bed together, fully clothed, on top of the covers, and I am going crazy inside my brain with the possibilities. (Remember, I am a woman of the 60s–when JD was the ultimate, ultimate), I am thinking surely something wonderful is going to happen and my life will be full of love and joy, not the despair and darkness I was actually feeling.

    JD turned to me and, as if he read my mind, he said, “Judy, you have to love yourself first.” I remember feeling so undignified (in my dream) that I would be such a fool to expect him to make my life right by having sex with me. And I was so impressed that he did not use me and then toss me away. It was a light bulb moment.

    Since that dream, I keep a collection of JD’s album covers displayed in my bookcase to remind me to love myself, first. Easier said than done but thank you, JD.

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