MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Mountains by William Gibbons

Non Fiction
The Male Approval Syndrome

PJ Campbell

Over the years, those who have known me or who have heard the shortened version of my married lives have all said, ĎYou must write your memoir!í I began writing it 14 years ago and still itís not finished, but there is hope for its completion, now.

I finally got the message my angel was sending me, for decades. DONíT MARRY THAT GUY! Unfortunately, by the time I paid attention I had been married twenty years to four different men and divorced for the fourth time. I donít blame my angel for not hitting me over the head or screaming in my ear, because she did! I blame the time period, my upbringing, and my low self-esteem. I was totally dependent upon being completed by a relationship with a man.

God Bless me, father, itís been ten years since my last divorce. Itís time to forgive myself and move on.

Growing up in the 50ís in the Midwest and Catholic was fertile ground for what I have now termed, The Male Approval Syndrome ©. Being female, then (and I still see evidence of it today) meant I wore many masks and fulfilled menís greatest desires, as a whore, housekeeper, cook, and laundress. Thatís a perfect prescription for leading an invisible life.

I was the third girl in a row in my family and because having another daughter was basically meaningless to my parents, I was dubbed PJ, a sexless being. I became the boy my father so longed for. I was his little buddy and went with him everywhere, just as a son follows his father to go fishing, have a catch, and ride bikes. He gave me lessons on how to handle knives, how to trap rabbits, handle a boat, mow the lawn, throw a football, comic books, wrestling and driving. He also taught me how to treat women, of course, he had no conscious thoughts about this lesson, but it was something I witnessed daily by his treatment of my mother and sisters. He would eventually teach me how I would allow myself to be treated.

As a child, my father was the god of our lives and our world revolved around him. My mother made sure that we were bathed and cleaned up before he came home from work. Mom reminded us everyday that he was working to clothe us, put food on the table and a roof over our heads; the least we could do was to look presentable when dad returned from work at the end of a long day. I guess it was my motherís way of paying him respect. I donít ever recall him saying he was pleased to see we werenít dirty, but perhaps it helped to justify my motherís position of staying home, at the time. Of course, not many women actually worked outside the home in those days, at least not where we lived. Women were mothers and maids; it was all about the family.

I have three sisters and one brother. My brother was the prince of the house just as my dad was the king. That should have made us, girls, princesses and mom the queen, right? NO, this did not follow suit. I felt as if we were the wicked step sisters and mom was the wicked step-queen and mother. Brother, Brad was not required to do housework, make his bed, do the dishes, help with dinner and for that matter, was allowed to do most anything he wanted to do. He was the only son, the only heir to carry the family name. This right of passage gifted him with a ďget out-of-jailĒ free card that he would use and misuse whenever there was the slightest chance that he may be caught doing something he shouldnít have, but actually the only person he had to use the card with was dad. While dad loved having a son, they did not have a close relationship and in fact, my motherís worship of my brother put a continuous wedge between my parents as mom always stood up for Brad, no matter what. Iím sure you can see where, as time passed, the love mom had for dad was misdirected towards my brother. My father no longer held the highest seat in the house when it came to choosing between the two of them.

Those were the days when cleaning your plate was a big deal and we got a gold star for doing so. God forbid we left a crumb because of the starving children in China. On the other hand, Brad could choose what he wanted to eat on any given night. I remember him eating a stick of butter for dinner and that was perfectly fine with mother. I donít think it was so fine with dad; not because he didnít value having a son, because his birth was the triumph of the family, but my mother ruled the nest in many ways. If the boy wanted to eat shoe leather that would be fine with her-he was a male, after all and could do no wrong.

Maybe youíre getting the idea that I was a little more than messed up by the time period and my upbringing. I had no sense of self since I was taught that girls didnít really matter as long as they married well, could cook, clean, have kids and take care of their husbands in every way beyond your imagination!

Married for the first time at age 20, divorced sixteen months later I moved back home for a short while. My dad was heart-sick that I had been so hurt. What had gone wrong? Besides being completely delusional about what marriage was supposed to be like, living with the idea that being married would be like the TV shows of the time: Donna Reed, Father Knows Best or Leave It To Beaver, I had chosen an alcoholic and didnít know it until we were married and living together. It also didnít help my self esteem that my husband had forbidden me to work. He wanted me to stay home playing the role I knew so well. I waited on him hand and foot. Then I caught him in the menís room of his bar/restaurant with another woman-that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Three years later, I married my second husband. I should have recognized a pattern in him, but because of my own short-comings it wasnít apparent that he was a druggie and a depressed-ridden soul. He couldnít hold a job and his self-esteem was in the gutter. I had my first affair when we were married 4 years which eventually led to my second divorce and my third marriage.

One and half years later, I married my third husband whom I had had an affair with during my second marriage. I thought I had finally figured things out by choosing a spiritual man who wanted to take care of me. What I didnít realize was that I was setting myself up for yet another downfall because I was right back where I started; taking care of the man, serving him and not working. By not working, I was dependent upon him for everything. So, I quickly got a job. I thought I had taken care of my own issues, but didnít realize there were skeletons in his closet that were about to be revealed. Our ideas of what ďloveĒ was supposed to be like were diametrically opposed. He favored S&M and I enjoyed the old-fashioned form of love-hugging, kissing and consummating. I was so angry that he had deceived me and that he wouldnít change his ways, forcing me to comply with his wishes that I was vulnerable for the next man to come along.

We had a child together and I thought that would make him wake up to what love could be, truly, but it only drove us further apart as I put all of my attention into our son and not on him.

While it took almost 10 years for the next man to come along, it did happen and I was divorced the third time.

The last husband, number four, had everything I desired and my son told all of his friends that his mom was marrying a holy man because he taught Transcendental Meditation. He supported my independence, encouraged my dreams and knew how to make love like Don Juan. The only thing that was a contentious spot for me was, I was still expected to do all the housework, cook, clean and put his desires before mine. He ordered me to ďsurrenderĒ to him and because at 43 I felt this may be my last chance to land a man who could bring me happiness, I did as he ordained; after all he was the man.

Married for less than a year, I caught him in an affair. Having never used protection of any kind in our love-making, I found his briefcase full of condoms. Not only that, but a woman whom he had developed a business deal with was constantly calling and I learned through my own detective work that they arranged to have a weekend get away. When I confronted him, he denied it and became enraged. I was scared for my life. I had been living a lie, again, only this time the tables were turned. He was deceiving me and I was deceiving myself. I had believed he loved me and we would be together the rest of our lives. How stupid was I? I didnít see it coming because I was so wrapped up in making sure his needs were being met I didnít even notice that mine were not. He had brainwashed me to the degree I had lost 25 lbs, weighing 94 lbs at 5í8Ē tall and was a mere shadow of my former self in every way. The spiritual healer who cared for me said, ďHe is a spiritual vampire and has literally sucked the life out of you!Ē

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I was insane until I was 44 years old. With each relationship I believed it would be different, however, I was not different. It wasnít until I was almost dead spiritually, mentally and physically that I began to awaken to a new me.

How is this possible? Iíll tell you how - no sense of self, and brain-washed to believe that I, being a woman, was created for the sole purpose of serving men.

The Male Approval Syndrome© took over my life; stole my identity as a woman. It came upon me slowly, unsuspectingly and rooted itself in my subconscious. There it grew, day by day in every way, manipulating my every thought, word and action as I went about my daily life. I became a slave to the men in my life, whether they were my father, husband, boyfriend, brother or employer; they manipulated my being to the point that I was dependent upon them, not knowing how to live without them.

How long Ďtil you wake up?

The process of getting me to the point where I have become truly awakened has taken 10 years after the last divorce, but itís been at least 35 years in the making.

In the beginning of 2008 I finally figured out why I couldnít finish my memoir. I kept telling myself and others that it was the PAIN of the experiences that I just couldnít bear to go through again, even though Iím safe and no harm can come to me, now. But the truth of the matter, and my pledge for the rest of my life is to be truthful with myself, is that I had to face the fact that it was I who had made the choices of staying, going, accepting, obeying, denying, etc. No one else was there to force me to do what I had done in every one of these relationships. I and I alone, am accountable for my actions. Facing the fact that I could no longer blame husbands, 1, 2, 3 and 4 for my poor judgment, naivetť, or low self-esteem I recognized that owning my actions set me free to finish my story.

This realization has given me a new life, one that I can be proud of and share with others. If I can help bring the light to even just one woman besides me, then I will know that I havenít gone through all of this for naught.

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Reader Feedback:
Praise to this writer! I have been married to all four of her husbands, but, with one man. It became so clear to me after reading her story why I married the man I did and stayed with him for 40 years.
~ccbarrett

I too was in a relationship (marriage) that I was expected to do everything in the house, manage two daughters and all their activities. My spouse was an airline pilot, and believe me, they are a special needs breed of men. He refused to have his uniform shirts done by the cleaners, so I had to starch and do his shirts, and believe me if they were not perfect I heard about it. I also shined his shoes!! I was an airline stewardess in the 60's and believe me working 1st class with all the business men back then, demands were made on me. There was an incident that took place where one of the men got drunk and thought he could put his hands all over me, the Captain wired ahead to San Francisco to have the police meet the aircraft, only to find out after the authorities spoke with the men and the airlines - I was forced to write an apology letter to them.
~wizardofoz



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