In the middle of a somewhat heated conversation recently, a woman called me cold. As jazzed as I was, her words were not at all intended to be a compliment. Her intent was to shame me; make me feel bad for not having an emotional response. While I simply didn’t feel like the situation warranted an emotional response, the attempt was to use this against me. Also, this interaction was with someone that I am not necessarily emotionally connected to. Ergo, no emotional response. But does this make me a cold person? This interaction got me thinking.
Full disclosure: I’m not a crier. Sure, I may get slightly misty at something that pulls at the heartstrings of motherhood. I didn’t cry at my wedding, but I did cry at the birth of both of my children. I don’t watch nor am I interested in watching Lifetime movies. I’m not overly sentimental. Sure, I keep a few mementos here and there, but my house is not large enough to hold every single solitary piece of artwork, program, or dried flower. Memories are a wonderful place to visit, however, it’s also important to focus on today. Let’s be honest, my bitchy resting face doesn’t serve me well in situations like this.
I may not be a crier, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions. In fact, I have a relatively deep understanding of my feelings, emotions, and how they connect. I am acutely aware that my conscious self exists alongside my feelings, thoughts, and emotions; not as an intertwined messy mix. I could easily be considered one of those women who think with her head more than her heart.
But does that make me cold?
I have deeply emotional connections with both of my children. I show them my faults and remind them that I am a greatly flawed human. I am also confident enough to be proud of my accomplishments and talk with them about the success of my life. I talk about feelings and emotions with a small circle of friends. I share with other moms who I am close with, feelings of uncertainty, fear, happiness, and joy. As a writer, I often make a habit out of detailing my greatest mistakes and lessons in humility. When I really need to let go, my husband is there and we connect on an emotional level with all of the vulnerabilities that exist between two people in an intimate, loving relationship.
When there is a connection, I unabashedly go there. Truthfully, I rank emotional connections and exchanges with other people as the most valuable of human currency. That level of connection is the epitome of human vulnerability; which is why I refuse to give that much of myself arbitrarily to people or situations that I don’t trust.
But does that make me cold?
I would argue that this does not make me cold, instead, it makes me selective; careful with whom I entrust my greatest resource. I’m not going to freely give my emotions to situations, or people for that matter, that don’t warrant or deserve them. When I connect emotionally with someone, they have earned that trust from me.
Additionally, or I should say, thankfully, I have an especially fine-tuned bullshit meter. So, in order for me to give in to an emotional response, I have to have that innate sense of confidence that my response is valid. In other words, I don’t fall emotionally for other people’s ploys. I’m not easily swayed by guilt. If I’m not going there with you, there’s probably a good reason. I am careful with my emotional availability because it is such a precious resource of mine. Emotional exchanges with me only happen if you have earned that space within my life. I need to know that what you are putting forth is authentic and well-meaning.
But does this make me cold?
It’s important for me to be clear that I understand this works in both directions. If I am interacting with someone and I have a sense that they are withholding from me, I get it. I don’t assume that they are a cold person, instead I understand that I won’t ever be everything to every person. I may be too much or not enough for some people. I am not everyone’s person, and that’s really okay! I am emotionally aware enough to empathize with other people – who knows what people are going through, what they may be struggling with; accepting the fact that some people simply may not like me. Whatever the reason it’s not for me to judge. It’s not for any of us to judge.
So to the woman who called me cold; you are markedly off target. I, along with other smart, emotionally intuitive women strongly disagree. I stand here today for all of us who are emotionally strong and willing to reserve our emotional rights for the situations that actually warrant them. My emotions, along with my choices in clothing, child rearing, and general meal prep for that matter, aren’t there for anyone to judge. One of the worst characteristics a woman can exhibit is to stand in judgment of another woman. I guess, above all, I’d rather be cold then judgmental. So to answer my ongoing rhetorical question, ‘Does this make me cold?,’ doubtful, but in all honesty, I really don’t care.
BIO: Melanie Forstall is a full-time mother, full-time wife, full-time teacher, and never-enough-time blogger at Melanie Forstall: Stories of Love, Life, and Mothering (www.entermothering.com). She holds a doctorate in education and yet those many years of education have proved to be useless when it comes to real-life mothering. Her work has been published by Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, Parent.Co, and Sammiches & Psych Meds. She lives in Baton Rouge and makes herself laugh on Facebook and Instagram.