Personally, the word “baggage” is a term that rankles me.
Several posts ago, in the comments section of the article titled Kip’s Challenge, I was quite pointedly and not-so-nicely accused of having baggage. He made the comment that most men reading my blog would slowly back away from their computer monitors and retreat to the companionship of other men in a bar. The implication being that relationship with me would be too much work. (Now, how he would know what other single men would or would not do since he is a.) not one of them and, b.) not a woman dating them, is beyond me, but, yeah, we’ll go with that for now.) Supposedly, Kip has an inside track to the normal healthy available male mind (the aberrant, unhealthy and unavailable don’t interest me, for obvious reasons.
That comment of Kip’s elicited a flurry of comments which ended in Kip silently backing away from his computer monitor and retreating into silence without much of a fight. It’s been said that silence is interpreted as agreement. Need I say more about that?
I’m not entirely certain what Kip meant by baggage, but if, as I think he did, he was referring to the typical things that people refer to when labeling someone as having “baggage” (kids, past failed marriages, life history and experience, a career, some debt, and a life of my own that I actually enjoy and am not willing to necessarily tube for some dolt with a penis and a pocketbook) then I suppose he is right. I have baggage and loads of it. The fact that he said it, doesn’t really bother me so much, the fact that he was the one saying it, when I know full well he is sitting on top of a load of baggage far messier and larger than my own, is what I found humorous. But you can go read all that for yourself over there if you like. I’d suggest you not waste your time…unless you actually like some drama.
Over the last two years, I’ve done some thinking about the word baggage, and Kip’s comment forced me to revisit and take another look at this ugly word.
It is an ugly, ugly word. It is ugly because it attacks the person at the core of their being but doesn’t mean anything at the same time.
Upon entering the dating scene nearly two years ago,now, I like most others just coming out of a disastrous marriage, was in no shape to begin dating. Even so, I ventured forth against the advice of good friends who knew me and knew better. I dated for about six months, learned a lot about myself and eventually quite dating, because I determined my friends were right. I need to sort myself out first before I was going to even be able to recognize a soul mate should he ever venture onto the scene.
During this initial dating period, I tried several different methods of meeting people. One of them being, online dating. In fact, I tried nearly all the prominent well known ones and some of the not so well known ones. During this online dating phase, I encountered the word baggage more often than I care to remember.
Baggage is an ugly, derogatory word that contains a million diffferent meanings depending upon who is using the word and what their particular definition of it might be. It is like the word love in reverse. People love God, or they love their significant other or their kids, and they love movie theatre popcorn or stiletto pumps, or lobster. Another vague and meaningless word like this is the word, “good”. What exactly is good? He felt good. That movie was good. You are a good person. Baggage is yet another word that is so vague as to be meaningless anymore except when it is used it can really sting. Even if it isn’t true.
You often hear folks mention it in their profiles saying things like this, “Those with baggage need not apply.” LOL! Like, first of all anyone with baggage is really going to admit it and second of all, what exactly are you calling baggage there, buddy? I mean, really? Seriously? As if the person writing it who is pushing 50 has a clean slate themselves. If they do, that’s the biggest piece of baggage! Baggage for me (not divorced, a lot of drama associated with the past because the divorce settlement or parenting time was vague, too many financial loose ends involving the ex, a volatile or violent ex, emotional instability, a prison record, unemployed, homeless, addicted) could be entirely different for someone else. Most men seem to state kids, addictions, and insecurities as the main elements of baggage. Most men do not include a stalker woman as one who has baggage since they mostly like to be stalked. Expecially if the woman is beautiful, tiny and has had her breasts magically enlarged so that they are significantly larger than her buttocks. What they don’t really recognize though, is that a woman like that (unless she paid for the services herself) is probably carrying a load of “baggage” (read insecurities and not comfortable in her own skin) and has even bigger expectations for relationship which don’t center around accepting the man as he is but instead focus on measuring him in light of the depth and breadth of his pocketbook. But I digress.
Most of the time, when someone says, “He/She has a ton of baggage” it is intended as malicious insult aimed at undermining the recipient’s competence as an adult human being. It simply means “He/she is incapable of doing life”. They are an incompetent individual unable to deal successfully with the challenges of adult life, therefore they are being crossed off the list of life by someone, usually, who has enough baggage of their own as to make the person they are criticizing look bag free.
It doesn’t mean merely that person was not a good fit. It doesn’t mean that the person made some bad choices in the past but they are overcoming them and they’ll be alright. It’s a completely derogatory term usually used by the middle aged single people for other middle aged single people. And most people don’t mean “life experience” or “the past” when they are talking about it. They definitely mean to lump all the person’s issues into one neat and tidy word without specifying anything but with the clear intent to verbally knock the person flat. Because really, the term baggage is so vague, so broad, who honestly can argue with it?
To many, I would be someone with a lot of baggage: four kids, a home that I own that I have not foreclosed on, but which needs some cosmetic improvements and which has a yard that needs tending to in order to keep it beautiful, a diminishing debt load and a successful career that requires a lot of time and energy from me during 9 months of the year. That would be baggage for some.
For others, my baggage would center around the fact that I have two marriages that didn’t work out. Okay, I’ll say it: I have two failed marriages. And, yes, they failed because I was as much a part of the problem as the other person. That admission somehow sends off alarms to all (well, at least the unhealthy insecure “all”) that I’m incompetent in relationship. People make assumptions instead of asking the critical question, “What was that about for you?” For others, my baggage would center around the fact that I’ve spent a fair amount of time after my last divorce thinking through exactly that very question and reflecting not only on what the other person did or didn’t do that didn’t work for me, but also on how I contributed to the problem. The result is, in some areas I’m very clear on what I will or will not tolerate in relationship. I’m clear on what the foundations of a good relationship must be and how to recognize them. I’m becoming more and more clear on what my limitations are and what does or doesn’t work for me and my boundaries in this regard are getting firmer daily. I’m also unwilling to waste time in any relationship that doesn’t demonstrate at least the basics of emotional, financial and legal availability and the biggie: mutual acceptance and respect . Many men, especially those, who haven’t a clear concept of their own self identity, who are insecure or immature, and/or who need a woman to take care of them or fulfill them or to meet their self-centered needs, or who are simply stupid, can’t stand me.
I’m totally okay with that!
The term baggage, however, is one of those words which while intended to harm the person talked about, also implicates the person wielding the word. When someone uses that word, eyebrows raise and the question goes out, “Oh, really, what do you mean?” It works like this. You use the word “baggage”. The question goes out, “What do you mean?” The word is uselessly vague so you must clarify the word and in clarifying the word you malign the other person somehow. When you malign another from your past, especially when on a date with a new person, it is the death knell. You’ve succeeded in assassinating the person you were talking about but you made yourself look just as bad in the process. Baggage is an ugly word which when used reflects badly on both the person targeted but even more so the person using the word.
How do you feel about the word “baggage”? What does that word mean to you?