By on November 10, 2016


EMPOWERMENT ::  A colleague of mine has a sign on her door that reads “A is for Rebel”. We work in different offices but Facebook assures me it’s there and neither the actual, nor virtual, distance between me and the sign reduce my affection for it. It’s nerdy and makes me feel strong and reminds me that not every rebel starts out with a cause.

I was 18 when Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls came out. Aside from Rosie O’Donnell’s kick-ass monologue (“God’s a fair guy, he doesn’t f**k around”) it also contains a line I remember every time I have an outstanding Saturday night. In the film, Natalie Portman’s character, 13 year-old Marty sarcastically laments having no exciting Saturday night plans and Timothy Hutton’s Willie tells her “You have so many exciting Saturday nights in your future.”

I vividly remember longing for an exciting Saturday night at the time. It would be two years before I had a Saturday night exciting enough to take note. [Note to 18 year-old me: move to Mexico for school even though you are afraid to take the subway to the Eaton Centre and say yes to riding in the back of a pick-up to the Independence Day party.] It would be another four years before I would start my first relationship and take my pants off in front of another human. I felt badly about how long it took me to have these exciting firsts for a long time, as if I should have done them all sooner which seemed somehow better. I was a professional Should-er, even back then.

I recently elevated my expert should-ing to a new level as I listened to a fertility specialist talk about how old my eggs were and how, if I were to become pregnant even in that very instant, my gestational period would be referred to as a “geriatric pregnancy”. Talk about taking your time! This face-smack of a reality check made me dizzy with “should haves”. I should have thought about this! I should have asked more questions! I should have taken my pants off much, MUCH more often! 

But that’s just not how I roll. 

So here we are, twenty years after Beautiful Girls was released and I’ve learned to manage my should-ing (I know the math is right, my ovaries double-checked). And manage is the right word. I didn’t flick a switch and suddenly stop saying “I should…”  But I notice when I say it now and do a little self-correction. I adjust my should posture and find another way to express the frustration or fear or utterly crippling vulnerability I am feeling (Are you there Brené? It’s me Kathleen Margaret…) And when I find myself sliding down that slippery “should” slope, I give myself permission to take my time, because taking my time is how I’ve always done it. I’ve never let myself down taking my time. But I’ve let myself down plenty when I’ve tried to be someone else and rush myself along. 

Shaun Proulx wrote a great piece about the word “should” that helped me re-align this summer when I found myself slipping. A quick read on the subway and I was able to give myself permission to take my time all over again. We could talk for days about what the need for “permission” means, what it stems from and how to move past it (if we do, let’s do it over a flight of tequila). But for someone used to following the rules, someone who loves them even, giving yourself permission to set your own is an act of great rebellion.

– Kathleen Harquail, producer and writer.

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