Take off your cape and flog yourself
This phrase came up in conversation over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Additionally, one of my friends got a cape from her husband as a gift, I am not kidding! She does rock though, I’d probably give her a cape too.
Maybe people want to be recognized martyrs? And I mean more than a pat on the back. Maybe they feel they need martyrdom to be important or have value or to be/have something they aren’t intrinsically? I’ll borrow loosely from Merriam Webster and define a martyr as: one who suffers on account of adherence to a cause or faith or belief. They also define a hero as someone of great strength or courage.
Marriage is a semi-exclusive direct route to martyrdom for some. Laugh now. You want to “stick it out” for the good of x or y or z or anything other than yourself b/c martyrs aren’t selfish, superficially anyway. And cause x or y or z is much bigger than you, your life, your desires, you, you, you. And heroes are strong and courageous enough to weather the storm of unkept promises, lost faith, de-prioritization, and eternal like. We explain that the burning in a fire of rage or bitterness or unfairness or, or, or... will make us stronger or better while elevating us closer to martyrdom. Through the suffering and sacrifice of self you become better and by definition less selfish. Less like you more like something else. Small-nothing-you is now associated with something big and important. Life in a crucible elevates YOU.
Now does this happen anywhere else in anything else? Does this sound absurd yet? Get burned at the stake. Be a prisoner. Be a scapegoat. Host a parasite.
Motherhood is a less-exclusive yet direct path for others. For most mothers the biological drive towards self sacrifice for progeny is hormonally hard-wired and emotionally irrepressible. This is evidenced by a dizzying loss of sleep, loss of self, loss of sexual relations, loss of bone density, loss of higher brain function, and loss of sanity, just to name a few. In some species (penguins and seahorses for example) dad does kick in. Yay team dad. But since I have first hand experience with the mother thing, I’ll stick with that. Some moms lose their identity in their children, if they had one to start with. “Who was she? She worked here too? I never heard her talk. When was her kid born?” But look out for super mommy now! These types know all the latest research, publish their own reviews, are involved in every d*mn play group there is and seem to know every developmental milestone or at least have an opinion about it and want you to care or at least be impressed with them for giving a rip. She was invisible mom before her kid and now she is the Martha Stewart of Mommies. Oh, and she used to work but now baby is #1. There is.nothing.else. Why do you ask? (Stepford wife smiley face here). I think I might rather be a hamster than her child. Once the kid is old enough to have an identity and aren’t as dependent on mommy then they’re both in therapy. Hero?
Then there are the types who overschedule themselves and their poor progeny also so that the whole lot of them are victims; slaves to the Joneses; doing what they think everyone thinks they should be doing but not really anything they want to. When you ask a simple question mom instantly sounds winded as she begins a 30 minute monologue on the first 30 seconds of her day. Or the moms with too many kids and not enough frontal cortex left to keep their names straight, even with help, “I can’t stop poppin’ them out! They’re just so precious” Martyr?
But I can agree that the path would vary for everyone. You have to own something before it’s your to lose. If you don’t have a care, a personality, and opinion, or something of value to lose then what could you sacrifice on your path to martyrdom? You can't lose something you don't have to begin with. Can you suffer for or because of something you don’t have? Can someone who is neither married nor a parent be a martyr? Sure but not according to these examples. Said single person might be a true hero.
I may sound bitter but maybe it’s only b/c maybe I wish I was a superior mom and wife. I wish I could weather the storm; I wish I had more to complain about. I wish I had more to lose. Oh well, time to put my cape back on.