Am I Athena? Always A Daughter, Never A Wife

Buzz, Love

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen once described the Jungian archetype of an Athena woman, the eternal daughter

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen wrote a book called Goddesses in Every Woman where she described feminine archetypes using the mythical Greek Goddesses. A Jungian psychoanalyst, Dr. Bolen outlined the characteristics of each archetype and common patterns in their lives that identified them. When I first read this book I initially thought I was Artemis, or whom the Romans called Diana, who formed brotherly relationships with men. The more I read the book it was clear that Athena describes me best.

My life and psychological tendencies have been defined by my father. Actually, it has been defined by my two fathers. Growing up I called my grandfather Papa and my father, I call dad. When I was an infant my father moved to another country. My mother and I were left behind and so my grandfather became my father figure. The separation between my parents was logistical. Before my third birthday my family was reunited and that was when I realized that my dad was not my grandfather. Nothing changed. I just had two fathers in my mind and relationally ever since.

Athena is known as the Father's daughter. She was identified as the daughter of Zeus but not much is written about her mother. Athena was also called the Goddess of Wisdom and her talents included strategy, intellect, and an ability to stay rational. Dr. Bolen wrote that an Athena woman was ruled by her head far more than her heart. I loved what I read.

Growing up my dad would bemoan when I put on nail polish. He thought that the time spent painting my nails and waiting for them to dry could have been applied elsewhere, to more productive endeavors. Over time, his demanding expectations became normal, while my grandfather would express satisfaction over achievements he made it clear .... it was could never be enough. It could have always been better. How I was raised was typical of many old cultures. There is nothing I regret about it.

The one thing that seems to be the legacy of my two fathers is my pattern with men I work with. Like Athena, it mimics the father-daughter dynamic. This happens with men regardless of age but almost always with a man raised in an old culture. For example, one boss was only five years older than I but he came from a traditional German family, and I was his "Tochter". That is the German word for daughter. If not the daughter I am the sister or "Schwester".

Wilhelm was actually born and raised in Los Angeles but he pushed me the same way my dads did. When I mean push, it was not in the brutish fashion people think, just that he would never let me get away with slacking. He'd remind me that this isn't your best because I know what your best looks like.

Other women in the office, he sort of seemed, fine with their output and effort levels. They didn't have the intensity that he would say was one of my best features. Somehow he didn't try to pull it out of them. Wilhelm and I talked about it. He said it was an old world thing. The women he never pushed were typical of the Quinn Fabray variety, you know, the character in the TV show Glee. They came from no culture. Or at least did not know their ancestral ties and had no interest.

Wilhelm and I talked about loyalty. We agreed that it was something old world people understood in a way that was inexplicable but not due to language. There was also another boss before Wilhelm. His name was Oliver and he was British. We had the same relationship and Oliver was also less than a decade older than I. It dawned on me that Athena the archetype was operating so strongly in me that it played out in the workplace. The only time it didn't was if my boss was female, which hasn't been the case since I was 25, or if it was a man who was of the Brody Jenner variety. Basically, the male counterpart to Quinn Fabray or Lauren Conrad.

That kind of man either was my older brother who didn't push me as much or he couldn't understand why I was wasn't a Southern Belle. While the old world men seemed very at ease with my strengths the new world version clearly was confused. Here is the metaphor: If I'm Margaret Thatcher, then Wilhelm and Oliver were Winston Churchill meets Sean Connery, while new world men are like Justin Timberlake meets Brody Jenner. It's as if the later were perplexed that I didn't bat my eyelashes at them if I wanted to leave work early on a Friday. Fact of the matter is, I didn't want to. I didn't push myself for money as a primary motivation. I push myself because it's the thrill of victory feeling I am chasing when being consumed by a project.

So then there is the inevitable question: Are you married?

No, nein, non, nada.

The response: I'm not surprised or silence (doesn't matter age or gender of the person who asked)

You see, I'm not surprised either. I'd be shocked if I was.

A friend of mine in London suggested that if Wilhelm and Oliver were single, they would still have treated me the same. Her theory was: the women they don't push are the ones they want to sleep or get with. Those women are in the wife or girlfriend category. I was in the sister, daughter, tomboy segment. Either that, or men relate to me like and equal or worse, one of the guys.

Despite my long dark beach wavy hair a la Gisele Bundchen and my Rachel Zoe inspired dress style, complete with careful application of MAC Cosmetics to give me those smokey cat eyes ... energetically ... men respond to me as if I were sexually androgynous. They demand performance from me because I have no sexual allure to them even if I walked around in four inch heels. Basically, my London pal told me tame my alpha bitch if I ever wanted a man to love me or at least see me as someone they would want to hook-up with. My response - the hell with high heels they hurt my feet!

The other women they don't want to upset or become mad at them because they may want to date or marry them someday. Curious if this was true, and in true Athena fashion, I asked Thor (German-Scandinavian-American polo player and Stanford grad turned investment banker), Patrick (Irish-American doctor from Boston who goes to Dublin every summer), and Douglas (the French-American CPA who grew up around the world but was born in New York), their honest thoughts.

I promised I could take it. They knew it. I asked them independently. All three of them disagreed with my London pal's theory. Assuming these men were honest their conclusion was: I carried myself with a confidence, directness, and intelligence without apology. Fundamentally, my energy has a response that is more respectful of my space and makes me immune to being objectified. They all suggested, however, that when I am socializing to turn off Athena and be more of the Carrie Bradshaw I was when I was partying in New York earlier in life.

I agree. I love being Carrie. So much so that watching the Carrie Diaries has me wishing those days and wanting to be jailbait once again. Just like the Mia in "Fish Tank" as long as the older man is Michael Fassbender. Hee hee.

I'll let you in on a secret: When I lived out East, and was emulating Sex and the City in my own way, I never had to cook dinner, because if I was too tired I went on a date. The guy got nothing more than a handshake and I'd cab home. In my youth, I must have had some magic, or played Carrie so well that I went on dates to places like Tavern on the Green with doctors, dentists, investment bankers, real estate investors, etc. How did I land them? Funny enough, at business networking events.

Then there the time I met a man who was 46 but looked 36. I was 21. He and I happened to be at two different business conferences in the same hotel. His name was Jonas. Jonas walked right up to me and asked me out. He lived in Chicago while I was in New York. We had dinner two nights in a row, nothing else, never even kissed him, and then he returned to the Windy City. For the next six months he would send me cards and cute voicemails. Why? Jonas was a former Marine and I reminded him of, in the words of the Bruce Springsteen song, "a woman he loved Saigon". Oh geez.  He stopped calling when I told him that I met a man named Geoffrey.

Oddly enough: I'm pretty much look and act and dress the same from a decade ago. It's just that now, I'm not interested in dating for fun.Besides, I still haven't figured out why men get interested in me. I really don't get it.

Athena either stays as is or becomes Atalanta from the mythical tale of the Golden Apples. Atalanta refuses to marry a man unless he can beat her in a track and field race. Divine intervention from Aphrodite is what is needed to get Atalanta partnered up.

My point is, Margaret Thatcher did have Dennis, but men like him belong to another time and place. Wilhelm and Oliver married young and their wives and I got along because we were so similar. So, I'm thinking that I'll have to take more trips to Europe, if I want to end up like Atalanta.

Similar to Atalanta, I'll need some golden apples too, or my archetype needs to shift from daughter and sister to wife and mother. There is a reason why single women have their father's surname while married ones take their husband's. Traditionally, the father gives a bride away to her husband because it's a transfer of property. A woman physically goes from her father's home to her spouse's house. She also transitions that way psychologically. Athena the archetype is a grown woman who becomes independant of her father but doesn't replace him as the most important man in her life. In my case, having two, renders a husband redundant.

Book me on that Luftansa flight! Mein freunde Stephanie said that the men in Berlin look like Michael Fassbender. JA!