What Strong Women Aren’t Supposed To Say

Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.

Eleven of us gathered in the cockpit of a sailing yacht Amelie, a luxurious fifty-three-foot Oystercatcher with a washer, dryer, and espresso machine on board.

We sat elbow to elbow eating Caprese salad, Alaskan canned salmon on crisp water crackers (which Jason caught and canned himself), and English pie baked with ground beef and vegetables topped with mash potatoes and melted cheese.

The dinner was a feast for our bellies and our ears.

As the day turned into night in Bahia de Los Frailes, a little bay north of Cabo San Lucas in the Sea of Cortez, we passed around pieces of homemade carrot cake with buttercream frosting and wrapped ourselves in blankets to keep warm from the slight chill of the ocean breeze.

We scraped the last bits of frosting into our mouths and listened intently to our hosts Stephen and Debbie as they shared stories of their first circumnavigation.

With Debbie’s arm draped around Stephen’s shoulders, they remembered journeys endured together.

I secretly hoped one day Jason and I would be able to tell stories as beautiful as they do, picking up where the other left off and smiling at a life well spent.

Strong Women Talk

As the men began asking questions of engine and boat parts, the women collected to the stern to talk about all the things women do.

Jennifer, a boat friend we met in Washington at the beginning of our adventure over a thousand nautical miles before, posed a simple question:

Why did you decide to sail?

The three other women and I took turns explaining why.

I rambled on that I’m not a sailor but a traveler and exploring cultures and learning languages have become my favorite thing to do.

The other women nodded in agreement and piped in with answers similar to mine.

Then, I turned the question to Jennifer.

She looked me square in the eye and lightly shook her head.

Her shoulders dropped and she let a sigh and said,

“Because I love my husband.”

Here was a woman, a professor at the University of Washington no less, without a narrative to validate her choice.

She clearly revealed the reason we were all here.

It was simple – because of love.

Has Loving A Man Become Faux Pas?

It made me realize that doing things for love, more specifically for the love of our partners, has almost become taboo.

As women in our current social climate (arguably the fourth wave of the American women’s movement), we are taught to be strong and independent, to not fall into stereotypical female roles.

It feels that since the modern American woman can become anything she believes, she’s almost required to do so.

Why be a stay-at-home mom when you can have a career, too?

As if being a stay-at-home mom isn’t enough.

(Which, if you’ve ever spent twenty-four hours with a toddler, you realize being a mom is more than enough and the hardest career you could possibly choose.)

To want a career instead of a family is considered selfish.

But if you choose a career then it better be impressive, unique, and dazzling to the ears.

To want to build a life with your partner is definitely not enough.

It’s archaic.

And if you really believe that, you should feel kind of embarrassed.

Although I agree empowering women is very important, the message sometimes gets lost in translation, like a game of Telephone.

The message becomes more “Us vs. Them” and less “You have the power to do what you want to do.”

(To be clear, the “Them” to which I’m referring are the regular dudes not gross, creepy predator weirdos.)

I think all this confusion directs power in the wrong direction.

Or as my mom simply put it: “All women have power. Just some don’t know how to use it.”

But Jennifer’s answer clarified all that for me.

It was pure and true.

Love is reason enough.

To Choose Your Choice

I chose to sail because it was the first time in my life I took a risk for love.

And the choice wasn’t to lose myself in a relationship but, as a woman who is secure in a life alone, it was a chance for my strong independent self to discover what loving a partner with a full heart could actually mean.

Empowerment is not needing to validate your choices.

Empowerment is not feeling you have to.

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    • Thank you so much, Goldie! Jennifer’s comment had been rolling around in my head for months and I finally had to type it out to better understand. So glad you can relate as well!