Susan P. BlevinsI think I can honestly say that I have always been a rebel. At least, that is what my parents told me over and over, as I disobeyed their rules and misbehaved. Mostly it was because they didn’t acknowledge me as my own person, and tried to make me conform to their ideal of a well-behaved daughter. I was just a babe-in-arms when I yanked my mother’s pearl necklace, and watched with glee as all the pearls bounced musically over the wooden floor, and I was about seven when I kicked my grandparents’ glass kitchen door in rage and shattered the glass. And I always wrote or drew on the walls of my bedroom, or the living room, with crayons or anything else that was sure to leave a mark. My punishments were varied, from a good spanking, to being made to stand in a corner, to occasionally being strapped into my bed by extremely tight bedding. Fortunately, such a strict upbringing did not quell my spirit.
I gradually calmed down, but underneath I was usually simmering, and my mother gave up trying to control me and resorted to threatening me with my father’s wrath. “Just you wait until your father gets home,” she’d say, and I’d wait upstairs in my room for him to come home from work, hear my mother’s agitated explanation about how naughty I had been, and then hear his heavy, reluctant steps coming up the stairs to reprimand me. His heart was not in it, and I sensed that, so it softened the blow a bit.
Thanks to this excessive parental discipline, I grew up rather subdued, so as a result I was always an easy target for my peers to taunt. Eventually my willful nature re-asserted itself and I freed myself from bullies forever, thanks to my obstinate, defiant nature. I have subsequently made the observation that children who are unruly and difficult to control, invariably grow into adults who can forge their path and overcome obstacles, whereas passive and obedient children rarely make any waves and strive always to please and avoid any conflict. This gives me patience with the children in my life who live on my street, and of course a certain kinship with them when they are having a fit of tantrums.
I am still a rebel, and defiant, though it manifests in insignificant, rather mild ways now that I am in my seventies. Every time I do not make my bed in the morning, which has become more and more frequent, I get a kick out of it and a emit a victorious (nine-year old’s) chuckle, thinking about how upset my mother would be. I even address her out loud, sometimes, telling her, “Sorry Mummy, I’m not going to make my bed again today. I know you don’t approve, but you know, too bad.” This attitude enhances immeasurably the pleasure I derive from getting into a deliciously disheveled bed at night. I know for certain that I could never have gone into the military, where blind, unreasoning obedience is required. I’d have spent more time in the brig for disobeying orders than in usefully serving my country.
This rebellious inclination got me into trouble as a child, but as an adult, I have to say that I am very happy not to submit to society’s expectations. There have been times in my life when an attitude of defiance and revolt proved to be an advantage. My willfulness as a child became willpower as an adult, and apparent disadvantages were transmuted from curses into blessings that have served me well.
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