Photo by Debra Lopez
In my personal belief system, all men are high maintenance, but I've come to realize that that is not at all how many women perceive men. I've noticed, in particular, very performative feminists have the most high maintenance husbands. Now let me quantify that. By high maintenance, I mean men who talk to their wives "any ole kinda way" and the women take it. Letting a man talk down to you, command you to do things on his behalf or the silent treatment when their needs are not attended to right away are a few examples. Basically women who write off narcissistic behavior as "oh, he's just being a man." And frankly, that's a lot of women.
All of those women have made a choice and you know what: they are completely entitled to it and god love 'em, I welcome them to it. My only caveat is that the best friends of this woman are often invited (really I mean co-opted) into enabling this man's high maintenance behavior. I've learned that the nature of these friendships is that most of the time, the married lady in question is simply using you, her friend, to help her escape or please this man. And that's where I draw the line. Being friends with a "high maintenance husband enabler" personality is not really a friendship. It's about who this wife turns her friends into in an effort to hold onto her "HMH" (high maintenance husband). When the wife is tired, overwhelmed, needing a break, that's when her friends become so important. The trick is when the friend needs something in return, she's referred to as a "high maintenance friend." So these women who choose high maintenance husbands don't want high maintenance friendships, see how that works. The alleged high maintenance friend becomes a prop to the wife's value system, and not a fully realized friend.
Got it. So I've learned that when I become friends with a woman who is self-sacrificing and finds it difficult to do self-care (unless it's at my expense) or prioritize herself in any way, who's constantly overwhelmed and in need of a break are women who don't really love themselves (if they did, they wouldn't allow their husbands to treat them like the help); so if they can't love themselves, how can they love you? Friendship is something that is important, these are people you choose to love who you've decided to become. For many people, marriage and family is about becoming your parents. So the nature of the kind of love involved in these two different kinds of relationships is profoundly different.
Adult friendship is about breaking generational curses and breaking free of obligations to others that often diminish who you are as a person. Friendships are about choices that are in line with the new person you're becoming. Marriages are often not. They are often about getting from your partner who you were unable to get from your parents which is why people often chose partners who are uncannily exactly like their parents (in all the good ways as well as the bad). Friendship on the other hand as adults is about clear seeing. It's about grown up evolved people making choices based on the new values that they have created in order to survive their families. It's about those folks who left home because what was on offer was not enuf for their souls so they decided to create a life that was richer, fuller and more in line with who they've chosen to become. It's adulting at its finest.
So when true, evolved friendship is at it's finest, it becomes as important to you as the concept of family. Because there's no obligation involved, it's pure. The love is a choice, not a duty. Family and marriage are often about duty and obligation which is not always the healthy, free choice, but rather the one many people feel confined to.
So for women who prioritize the self-sacrificing nature of their marriage over themselves and friendship; they will inevitably treat you the way their husbands treat them. It's the cycle of life. Because somewhere down the road, they had a father who treated them as dispensable unless they were catering to all of his needs all of the time. That's a cycle you can't break as the best friend looking in, but what you can do, is something the wife/daughter is not: take care of yourself.
Learning that what you see as valuable in another person is not always something they see in themselves was a painful and vital lesson I had to accept. And you can't make that self-worth leap for them. Women who have a healthy sense of self-worth don't waste their time taking care of people who don't take care of them. Their self-respect won't allow it. Much of that self-worth comes from an understanding of your purpose, your gifts and why you're here. Once you realize why you're here, you won't allow those folks who don't value your mission to waste your time. My friends joke about me being the "one to quickly cut people off." What I've realized from that joke is this: I put me first (because in my long life, no one else ever did) and people have a problem with that especially if they are guilty of letting others treat them "any ole kinda way" (my great grandmother's catchphrase). When you have to earn your sense of self-worth through struggle, you're not willing to compromise it so easily.
I was taught to believe that men were selfish and not worth the bullshit. Instead of, when u value yourself, you don't attend bullshit. No one can do to you what you don't allow. This reframing takes the power away from someone else and places it back in your hands.
Seems like such a simple thing, but I didn't really clue into it until the other day when I was dreaming of owning a nordic track to get rid of this COVID weight, but looked at the prices and blanched. Then I did a search online and found a neighbor was selling a practically unused nordic track for $400 and when I got there, my worry over how to get it home vanished as the woman's husband and friend loaded it on the back of their truck and walked it to my door. It was like I dreamed of this machine and 3 days later, it was in my living room. People tell me constantly that I live a charmed life. Which is not true. It's not that I live a charmed life; it's simply that I've come to expect magic from this life because I've spent a lifetime learning how to love and value myself, pursue my purpose and live in sync with my core values instead those values imposed upon me by others.
I believe my life is a magical gift and I treat it accordingly...so magic is what I expect and look forward to...anything less is not acceptable. That's how you get what you deserve: expecting it and accepting the fact that anything less is not an option.
So how does this relate to acting?
Well, the whole structure of acting is about an actor giving up their power and constantly accepting any ole kinda treatment from the industry. Availability checks, last minute auditions that uproot your entire life, your salary not growing as your skills set and credits grow, constantly audition ing for the same roles over and over again instead of simply getting an offer.
Treating acting like it's some honor you have to earn the right to do instead of being honored for the time, effort, skills you've acquired over a career to speak for themselves and to be compensated accordingly. It's the only profession where folks salary doesn't grow with their career unless you're a part of the the small 1% of "stars." And even then, women are making peanuts for the same job men are being paid exorbitant amounts of money for.
Like in my previous example, of wives who expect a marriage to be a self-sacrificing labor of love, the same is often expected of an actor who is expected to jump through the same hoops over and over again, for the same or less money year after year. Meanwhile, the union protects them less and less. I recently read the new SAG deal negotiated for actors where only folks in group A were required to be tested and vaccinated on a set. Vaccinated people can still infect you and being in a workplace with thousands of people all day long having contact with each other with no testing required of everyone and no isolating is not protecting me. It's a performative bit of caution that will still get an actor sick and dead from COVID. But actors are supposed to tow the line, show up at work for that recurring (that should be a series regular, but its cheaper to just keep hiring them as a recurring) and to be grateful. Gratitude is wonderful when you're just outta of school with no credits. Gratitude is not acceptable compensation when you have a million dollar degree, credits, reviews a mile long after 10 or 15 years of paying dues. One's compensation and protections should match the quality of the expertise that an actor has. That is not the case. Our time isn't valued when asked to uproot our lives for a last minute audition and when producers refuse to negotiate compensation because the union protects this minimum salary and other actors will take what they can get.
It's a high maintenance career that requires the actor to drop whatever they're doing to accept the same limited terms for employment and engagement that have been on offer for decades. It's giving up your power to get less and less from your career year after year....
When you've done your work, figured out your purpose and are about it...you value your time very differently. You also value what you have to offer and expect to be treated accordingly. The structure of the business is that actors and women are that abused wife who's accepted: "that's just how the business is" and those are the terms for engagement.
As long as you believe that, that's is the lackluster treatment you will receive. But once you 'realize your own personal worth, anything less than magic is unacceptable...That's the reckoning Simone Biles has recently made. It's also what it took Viola decades to understand about her own career when her annual salary was equal to what male leads were making per episode. It's what Britt Marling figured out a long time ago and has been writing, producing and starring in her own politically charged movies and films ever since and why Harvey Weinstein wouldn't dream of trying to get handsy with her. Her work ethic, what she will accept or entertain is clear...the industry and it's unimaginative, power hungry men can't take from her what she is unwilling to give. She'll not work before she allows some producer to pay her less than she's worth to do work that's less than what she's capable of.
April Yvette Thompson