Not too long ago, one of my best friends pointed out that when we’re on vacation, as soon as someone else grabs a map, I suddenly lose all sense of direction.


As in, I immediately shut down, possibly forgetting my right from my left, and allow myself to be directed. But if no one takes charge — if nobody knows nothing — then I just as quickly become an intense expert at EVERYTHING. I speak languages I don’t speak. I can recognize crumbling street signs blocks away despite not being able to actually see them. I can even call up arcane Lonely Planet message boards of local customs to get us all out of various jams. I am a sightseeing chameleon.

I’ll give you two examples. In Marrakesh a few years back, this same friend seemed to be able to remember the ancient intestinal twists and turns of the Medina, or old city. So I took to happily following her about without a care because obviously she had this. After nearly three days of this she decided to “test” her theory and see if I could remember how to get from our riyadh to a roof top restaurant we’d eaten at several times. We ended up in a tight stall decorated with chopped-off goat heads.

Not even a year later, in Brazil. I managed to safely get another friend — one who likes to be directed — from Sao Paulo to a ranch in the remote countryside with Portuguese and sign language, neither of which I’m familiar with. She sat on an abandoned bus bench as I negotiated with a taxi driver after the Brazilian version of the Chinatown bus dropped us at a gas station and took off.

“What’d he say?” she asked.

“He can take us to the ranch in like 20 minutes. His wife just cooked dinner and he has to get home or else she’ll be pissed. Or his cousin who lives up the street can come get us now, but his car is a little iffy.”

“How the fuck did you get all that?”

“I have no idea.”

Point is I’d probably make it in a zombie apocalypse or, more presciently, a hurricane if I needed to. But if I don’t need to? I can sit back and let someone else figure things out – -gladly.

Which is exactly what happened before Sandy showed her titties in DC this past week. It was my birthday on Sunday. At 32 years old, I should know how to do stuff like prepare for the worst. Instead, I let my boyfriend watch the Weather channel nonstop, calmly looking up from my favorite fantasy novel a few times to ask, “So what’s our plan?”

A lot continues to be said about the curse of the independent woman who can’t learn to let someone else lead and who will eventually end up forever alone. Or even the angry black woman, according to DL Hughley, who recently told NPR, “My assessment, out of, just in my judgment, you either are in charge or they’re in charge, so there’s no kind of day that you get to rest.”

Um, I guess?

Don’t logic and reason dictate that either one person is in charge or another person is in charge? Someone has to be in charge, right? Because if nobody’s in charge then the zombies (or the hurricane) will get you.

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned about myself while in a relationship — whether with platonic soulmates or the once-in-a-lifetime one I share my 1,000 square feet of world with — push and pull are a given. That’s not even an Aha! moment, it’s an A-DUH moment. But for whatever reason, it’s still shocking to see a woman, who can bring home the bacon and fry it in a pan, decide to let someone take her to brunch instead.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena Andrews on XOJane! 

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