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C. Jane Kendrick: Women Behaving Goodly

Published: Tuesday, March 1 2011 11:01 a.m. MST

I took time one morning to simply watch what was going on outside my front window. A cross-section of life — cars, bikes, dogs, students on their way to class — ebbed and flowed. My 2 year-old was playing "vacuum mechanic" giving our cheap contraption a five star look-over. All hoses, attachments and filters looked to be decent. Thumbs up (if he could.)

Out of my window I also saw Mrs. Reed — my 70-something neighbor — who carried sacks of groceries in both hands. For weeks now, I've been studying her impeccable demeanor. Reminiscent of my own sweet Nana, this woman is quiet grace. Her poised walk, hushed voice and shy acceptance of compliments made me to believe on the spectrum of Fine Women, she and I were at opposite ends. As I watched her walk across my front sidewalk, I very much wanted to tame my spirit to resemble hers.

Last Sunday, I overheard Mrs. Reed’s earnest husband whisper in her ear during a busy exchange at church, "Here we have Brother and Sister Jeppson who recently moved into the Muirs' old home." So, as the Jeppsons approached, Mrs. Reed sweetly extended her hand to say, "Welcome to the neighborhood Brother and Sister Jeppson. We're happy to have you."

Flawless. My husband and I need to practice that sort of social succinctness.

But mostly Mrs. Reed is, to me, a human vessel of wisdom. She doesn't fling her opinions across space to explode with shock and awe. Rather, she keeps them, preserves them and — it seems — refines them. I don't get the feeling either, that hers are the ideas of a submissive woman. I strongly sense she knows the secret of womanhood — with all of the power and responsibility associated — and chooses to live it, rather than talk about it.

And here is what I am wondering:

Do I — passionate, exuberant and insistent — too freely give away my opinions? Telling people what to do and how to do it, where to find it and how to solve it and subsequently, frequently ending up feeling … emptied?

Shall I sample stoicism? Allow those ideas and opinions to simmer in the Crockpot of my soul, and become bettered building blocks of me? Living what I say instead of saying what I live?

Something like that, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who birthed the phrase, "Well-behaved women seldom make history," which I've always loved.

I fell a little out of love with the notion as I watched Mrs. Reed. After observing her, I want to be well-behaved more than I want to make history.

C. Jane Kendrick writes for blog.cjanerun.com and cjaneprovo.com. She lives in Provo with her husband and two children.

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