Book Excerpt: "Permission Slips"
I wish someone would have sat me down when I was a little girl and told me, “Sherri, you can’t do anything right.”
Hold on — I can explain.
We women are trapped by our circumstances in a way that men are not. We are bound to our families. Our connections to our loved ones are intricate and profound. We stand in the center of a deep pond, surrounded by our children, husbands, boyfriends, parents, siblings, co-workers, and friends. Every move we make has a ripple effect on the people in our pond. If we make a small move, we create a small wave. Big move, big wave. The bottom line is, even if you’re doing the right thing, you’re making a wave. And that means somebody in your pond is going to get wet.
How many times have you left the house at 8 am, only to be haunted by competing cries as you shut the door?
“Mommy, I don’t want you to go to work!”
“Baby, you gonna put in a few more hours this week so we can pay the cable bill?”
When I say we can’t do anything right, I mean that we can’t win. I’m not implying that men aren’t bound to their families, or that their actions don’t matter. In fact, men live the same way we do. The only difference is, they don’t notice as much if someone gets wet.
That’s a huge difference.
Most men lead astonishingly guilt-free lives. I would love to be a man for one day, just so I could enjoy twenty-four hours of not being responsible for anyone else’s pain.
My wife’s mad at me? Well, she should stop being so emotional.
My dad’s disappointed in me? Well, his expectations are too high.
I’m broke? Stupid economy.
That sounds like heaven. But if men don’t take enough responsibility, women take on too much. Have you ever sat with your husband at a parent–teacher day-care conference, only to get chewed out by the teacher?
“You need to bring your son to school by 8 am. When he’s late, he misses out on the first art project of the day.”
If you’re Mom, you’re instantly stricken with “bad mother” guilt. But Dad, who thinks he deserves a medal for (a) getting his child to school before noon, and (b) even being at the meeting, will get insulted.
I envy men. And while I don’t believe we women can rewire ourselves to be like them, we must learn to forgive ourselves as much as we forgive others.
Remember: Every time we women make a “right” decision, half the people in our lives will think it’s the “wrong” decision. And when they start squawking, we are deluged by guilt. So to feel better, we start judging other women. And that old adage — When we point our finger, three more are pointing back at us — proves true, because we save the harshest judgments for ourselves.
I never met a man who obsessed about being a perfect husband, but I know plenty of women who want to be perfect wives. It ain’t happening. We women have to start accepting that no matter what we do, someone’s always gonna be cranky about it. Instead of feeling guilty, let’s make it okay.
Let’s give ourselves permission to make ripples in our ponds, even if we get a few people wet. In fact, I recently bought a boxful of pink permission slips, just like we all used to get at school if we had to come in late or leave early. Remember how free you’d feel? Leaving the principal’s office, running down the hallways with that signed slip … it was like having diplomatic immunity (or better yet, “Survivor” immunity). No one could say that you were doing something wrong. Well, I decided to see if they feel as liberating now, with me simply running around my apartment.
And guess what? They do. If I’m about to cause a ripple, I pull out my pad and write myself a slip.
“Sherri, you have permission to see a movie with your girlfriend, even though it means you won’t have time to read so-and-so’s book before she comes on ‘The View.’”
Then I stick it in a shoe box. If anyone asks what the heck I was doing last night, I have my slip.
The truth is, I’m not even perfect with the slips — in fact, the first one I wrote to myself gave me permission to skip writing a permission slip whenever I wanted.
That way, I’m always covered.
Do you need a slip?
If so, you’d better give yourself one. Immediately. So many facets of our lives conspire to make us feel like crap. If you don’t give yourself a break, do you think your kids will? Your husband? Your boss? They want you to keep producing, keep giving. I think you’ll see in this book that I’ve inadvertently made every mistake a woman can possibly make. But I’m not living in a cave, and I haven’t quit show business. Instead, I give myself permission to be flawed, and you know what? It’s working out okay.
Excerpted from “Permission Slips” by Sherri Shepherd. Copyright © 2009. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing.
For more about the book and to buy it, go to Grand Central Publishing.