Hi, my name is Sinclair, and I’m high maintenance.
This term is generally used in a rather misogynist way to describe a needy woman who requires a lot of care from her (typically male) partner in the form of time, money, or effort. Women who demand emotional connection and care, attention, intimacy, or other forms of human interaction are often deemed undesirable because really, who has time for all that work? My recent understanding of this condition hasn’t come from being in a partnership with anyone, but from being fully with myself, without any adulterants, no escapes, no distractions. Just me. On my own. Doing life.
Since being sober for three years from 2011 – 2014, I’ve spent the better part of the last three years in an on again/off again relationship with booze. A lot of things contributed to my thinking that this time, alcohol wouldn’t do me wrong like it had so many times in the past. I had done hundreds of hours of talk therapy. I had coping mechanisms that were healthy. I had a support system that was solid. I had done multiple years of my whole bad ass life full of events and parties and travel without drinking and loved it. I had taken my self esteem and self worth from the bottom of the valley to the top of the mountain. I liked myself. I had become a person of integrity, responsibility, and reliability for myself and the people I love. I was healthy and happy. I was working in a substance abuse treatment center, helping other people find the serenity and calm that I had found myself. There was no way I was going to go back to the way it was.
Arrogance is a dangerous thing to allow into your life when it comes to overcoming self defeating behaviors. The one thing I had not done sober was be in a romantic relationship of any longevity or substance. And it was the thing that derailed me.
I stayed in the soul sucking, codependent, life force draining relationship for a year, and by the time it ended, I was a shell of myself. I thought I was worthless, that my life was over, that I was damaged or broken because this man child didn’t love me. I was desolate, and I didn’t know where the confident, happy, optimist I used to be went. It was the worst breakup I have ever endured, because I no longer knew how to care for myself or hear myself.
In the years that followed, I managed to get myself back together and heal from the wreckage of my first sober relationship. But I had scars. Deep ones. Filled with whiskey and vodka and high end craft cocktails, which weren’t really a thing when I had stopped before. I would stay sober for months, start to feel good, great even, and then go out one night with friends from out of town, or to a festival where everyone was drinking, and I’d think, “Oh, just one won’t hurt.” As if I ever just had one. I was back to drinking not to feel things. And that is not what I am about. My superpower is feeling things deeply, with great intensity, and it’s something I am proud of. I never want to drown that part of myself again.
And that is why I have to do the work of maintaining myself every day. That is why I am hardcore, openly high maintenance.
We think that women should be effortless. Every stereotype of beauty and femininity, every manic pixie dream girl fantasy, every “I woke up like this” version of what being a woman is perpetuates the lie that women are naturally able to look like Rihanna, do work like Beyonce, keep a home like Martha Stewart, and party like Chelsea Handler. We should constantly look and feel fabulous, be fully rested, have washboard abs, and sip our pumpkin spice latte with the dreamy bliss of how easy our lives are.
Oh my god, what a rancid pile of utter shit sauce.
Being a woman is hard fucking work. We do the majority of the emotional labor of the world. We comfort, soothe, hold, listen, advise, nurse, love, and grieve. We hold space, even when we don’t have any of our own. We are the cure, the vaccine, and the fixer. We are the deathbed vigil. We clean up the shit on the bed of life. We are the healers. We are the glue, the solvent, and the bridge. We are the towers of resilience. We hold the world together. We are the ones who make your career possible and your kids’ lives full of meaning and love while you’re at work. And then we go to work. We do your laundry and cook your meals and clean your toilets. We work full time jobs and raise kids and send them to college. We make sure you don’t forget your mother’s birthday or to wear matching socks. And those of us who decide not to have kids, well we get to be pitied, questioned, and constantly told that if we are not girlfriends or mothers or wives, that we are not valuable. In some countries, they just kill us.
Women bleed. Our bodies are beaten, bruised, and torn apart so that we can create life. We are lust objects and sex toys, we are drugged, we are violated, and we are treated like we are disposable. Making the world work gives us scars, and not just the ones you can see. So many of us experience harassment, assault, rape, torture, abuse, violence, and even death. We are beaten down with aggression, control, jealousy, and gaslighting. We are made to be afraid for our safety. We have to cross the street or go a different way to avoid being raped. When we are raped, no one believes us. When we are raped by someone we know, someone in power, someone male, he usually gets away with it.
Women are the reason the human race has survived this long. Because without us, you’d have blown yourselves up by now. You’re lucky we haven’t thrown you all out the airlock and started over.
I am a single, vibrant, happily childless by choice woman who has not remotely begun to approach her last fuckable day. And I’m high maintenance as fuck. I need to get 7.5 hours of sleep each night. I need to meditate for 20 minutes each morning, and I need to make sure I do some combination of five yoga and spin classes and two long walks outside each week. I need to put healthy, nourishing food into my body that I prepared myself. I need to have a clean, welcoming, warm home environment that’s not full of someone else’s mess that I have to clean up. I need fulfilling work that pays me a fair wage. I need access to healthcare that isn’t an emergency room. I need doctors who are female and who listen when I explain that something feels wrong. I need friendship, and human touch, and hugs, and sex, and social stimulation, and intellectual discourse and people to crush on and travel plans in the future and the love and support of my tribe. I need to write and make things and dance all night until the sun comes up.
I can skimp out on these things. I have, many times. In fact, I struggle to make the time and put in the effort to deal with my high maintenance ass every goddamn day. I could put vodka on it instead of yoga. Or I could Tinder myself into a stranger’s bedroom and not think about the world being on fire for an hour. I could watch Netflix for two days straight while shoving McDonald’s into my face and giving myself a nice low grade, slow heart attack. I could wake up everyday and give up hope, and stop caring, and just believe that I am not worth all this work. I could think that it would be better to just be dead. I could just drink everyday forever and get fat and be sad and die young. It’s not a high maintenance way to go. It’s lazy and inefficient, but it’s not hard.
So, how do I rage against the urge to dive off a cliff into a vat of queso and martinis and self loathing? How do I keep myself happy, positive, motivated, and excited? How do I amp up the energetic, loving, calm and kind, blissed out yoga and watered version of myself? I make myself my number one priority, every single day. Even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. I do self care first. I keep track of what I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, and I make sure that I am sleeping enough. I do required service on myself on the reg, so that if I end up going out on a joyride, my systems don’t collapse. I do the work. I do the work because I am worth everything. Whatever it takes. And on the days when I fall short, I forgive myself and try again tomorrow.
The importance of self care, particularly for women, cannot be overstated. It’s not self indulgent. It’s literally what I have to do so I don’t eventually die from trying to avoid it. When I take the time to care for myself, I am calm, rational, fun, and life is generally pretty damn great. I don’t feel the need to drown myself in anything because life is manageable and easy. Be proud of the care you have to put into maintaining yourself. Put the care you would give to others into yourself first. This will make you a stronger partner, friend, parent, employee, and human, because you will be a stronger you. Because you, my high maintenance as fuck friend, are worth it.
My new, and final booze free birthday is September 1st.