Just Too Dang Much!

By Jeanne Treadway

It’s an interesting phemomenon, this “too” stuff. When people say “you’re strong,” it’s a compliment. When they say “you’re too strong,” it’s a criticism.

I’m one of those bad-broke, rode-hard-put-up-wet kinda gals. You know ’em. Fire sparks from their eyes, smoke streams from the nostrils, and they’re just generally a handful. Sometimes gentle, sometimes a cross between a treed bobcat and a lady. Always keep you edgy wondering how to approach ’em. I don’t know if I was born this way, but it seems like it.

“Talisman” by Via at Studo Psycherotica

My opinion is that the world deserves me just the way I am on account of the way it treats me and everything else. I’m kinda like one of the Earth’s walking consciences, always reminding people of what happens when they treat other people mean. I’m sure you know someone like me. I’m strong, opinionated, pretty, lucky, independent, self-assured, smart.

Oh, I ain’t a stunner dripping with money and gently holding the cojones of the world; no way. I’m one of them strong, independent types who’s got everything nobody else really wants. I’m one of those bitches who makes everybody nervous and that everybody calls touchy or crabby. I am too damned much for anyone to handle, or so they say.

The first time I remember having that odd little “too” adjective applied to me was when I was about five and was told I was too young to understand, too small to do it, and too hard to get along with. In the first case, a five year old should never be sacrificed to nuns for education. Secondly, I could ride any horse I got on, sort of. And finally, if they would talk to me reasonably I might not be so damn hard to get along with. But all this was just a portent, a hint, of what was coming.

By the time I was eight, I was too smart, too dumb, too much a tom-boy, too serious. I kept the smart, dumb, serious part and became known as Little Miss Priss to my family by age ten. Puberty found me weighing in at 85 pounds, heft that was stretched across a five six frame, with a mouth full of teeth that wouldn’t fit until I was about twenty, braces, and the self-esteem of a mouse. No tits, no hips, just elbows and knees and braces. Gorgeous from any perspective. My mom always told me I had a great smile, though. Very small comfort to a human tree.

Kids were mean and stupid and I found solace with very old people; they had something to say and knew how to listen. The first love affair I ever had was with my grandmother who died when I was nine. I played dominoes and jacks and could skip high waters/hot peppers with the best, but I also read forty to sixty books a semester from second grade on. I loved Hank Williams and Patsy Kline when Elvis was king. Vincent Price, who was better than John Wayne every hoped to be in my book, introduced me to Poe. Our twit of a librarian refused to allow me to check out the collected works of that dear alcoholic because I was only in fourth grade, but she poured the first shot in a life-long addiction.

I knew rocks, snakes, trees, water, rabbits, cats, and horses had souls; I was uncertain about people. I wanted to be a ballerina from age six until I dropped that nonsensical dream on my twenty-eighth birthday when I did an arabesque and semi-permanently sprained my ankle.

I fit well in high school, too. I had to take the high school entrance exam twice because I scored higher than the male genius and the first score was obviously a fluke. By fourteen I had fallen in love with a man who was to fill my dreams to the present, some thirty years later. We were an item during my twenties, but that story best fits in later. I dated three guys in high school, none of them him, and scandalized the town with my supposed promiscuity (you were only allowed one man every four years back then). I wasn’t selected to cheer for the team because, as the kind president of the pep squad told me, they were afraid I might become too egotistical. My algebra teacher made certain I was never elected to senior honor society or chosen as an honor student because I was too loud in the halls. I was asked to run as secretary of the senior class, but wanted to run as president. Girls names were never entered for that position so I didn’t get to run for anything.

I kept thinking I was going through a phase, that some time in the near future I would be just good enough. In fact, it wasn’t a phase and it expanded to include too sensitive, too loving, too good, too bad, too intense, too modern, too wild. Let’s see, what did I miss? Oh yeah, too sad, too happy, too mad, too glad. Too much a hippy, too old-fashioned. Don’t get confused here, these were certainly not words I applied to myself. Good-intentioned professors, friends, therapists, bosses, unknowns told me these things, for my own good, of course.

What the hell is a twenty-year-old supposed to do with this kind of knowledge? I thought love might help me figure it out. Believe me, it doesn’t. It just adds to the list. Drugs don’t help either. They mirror the words back onto your soul and write them into your heart with a bitter, indelible ink. Alcohol is a socially acceptable method of drowning, but that leads to alcoholism and, dang, that’s a tough one to get rid of. Thank God for the rare soul who believes in you, without strings, without wanting to own or change or manipulate.

I’m not certain when I started thinking I might be okay to look at, that my nose wasn’t too big or my cheekbones too prominent or my lips too big. Somewhere in my mid-thirties I decided my eyes were really quite nice, but pretty? Never. In fact, I settled for exotic. That’s better, anyway, isn’t it? I think getting sober at 32 unlocked the gate for several revelations, including that I was bright, could be charming and okay to look at, and might have something of value to give to friends and lovers. It’s a theory I’m still testing, twenty years later, though.

Briefly back to the love of my life. He just got married for the second time, obviously not to me, and that’s because, he says, he would rather be comfortable than passionate. Ergo I am too passionate. He’s probably right that our marriage would have been tough, but damn him anyway.

What the hell is wrong with being too passionate, too sensitive, too everything? Why is this silly little adjective thrown at me in explanation for each aspect of me? My beloved sister once told me I was too supportive. Jeezo peezo! Was I supposed to become less smart, less pretty, less lucky, less sensitive, less passionate? Would that ensure that someone would love me? That I would find a place I fit in this world? That the pain would abate? What was I supposed to do with this stuff? How do people want me to react, to change? I was simply befuddled by this. It ebbed and flowed. I could go a whole three, maybe four, months without someone using that adjective to describe something I had just done, some feeling I had just expressed, some thought I had just expounded. But without fail, that well-intentioned look would descend on someone’s face and the next “too” would pop out.

It’s an interesting phenomena, this “too” stuff. When people say “you’re strong”, it’s a compliment. When they say “you’re too strong”, it’s a criticism. It implies that you are supposed to do something about it, that somehow you have stepped over an appropriate, social boundary and that, if you were a “good” person, you would do something to correct that faux pas. When you first encounter it, it stings but you don’t spend much time thinking about it. You have no idea that little word will become your personal Chinese water torture, wearing your heart away drop by drop. You start hearing that word in every conceivable context. Is there something wrong with you? Do you have some major deficit? Were you born missing some key ingredient that would allow you to understand this too stuff? The weight of that silly little word is extraordinary because not only is it used to put you in your place, it is also invariably used to explain why someone treated you abominably and why you should be big enough or strong enough or gracious enough to let that rudeness pass. In essence, because you are “too” you have to accept every form of abominable behavior imaginable. People are allowed to and, according to their moral precepts, should bring your “too” behavior to your attention, just in the off chance you were unaware that you’re a “too” person.

I spent years shaving off parts of my personality. You know, trying to speak softer, act nicer, be stupid. I even wore suits and coiffed hair. Jeez. I figured if I kept shaving I’d eventually get to the “good enough” part and then everyone would start saying I was just strong enough or smart enough or whatever. It doesn’t work that way, but dang it takes some learning to figure it out.

Finally, though, it comes to you. They ain’t never gonna be satisfied. They just need to break your spirit for some reason. When you get to that understanding, and believe me it don’t come quick, you have yourself a year-long cry, dust off your boots, and start living for yourself again. Now, just like I love those delicious little power surges they call hot flashes, I glory in being too much. It reminds me I am vitally alive, full of piss and vinegar, raring to go. It lets me know that they haven’t broken me to saddle yet. Oh sure, they still want to but, until they figure out that wounding an animal’s pride only makes it mean, they’ll never get this mare in their corral.

9 thoughts on “Just Too Dang Much!

  1. Robert Moore

    Thank you for this piece, Jeanne. I just got done editing my interview podcast for the upcoming week. As this is a new endeavor, I’m learning how real life comes across through the mic and audio equipment. My guest is a very mellow, laid back, even-toned guy and I’m like a gorilla in contrast to him. I’ve been thinking all morning, “Everybody’s right. I’m too loud, too agitated, too in your face, too on edge, just too, too much.”

    Well, that is who I am. This empowering perspective is appreciated, Jeanne, and right on cue.
    Thanks –

  2. Eric Francis

    Here is a quote from this article:


    Let’s make a note that here in the first seasons of the 21st century, we have a little problem with relationships. Most of them are boring. The divorce rate is the tip of the iceberg, and is artificially inflated by many who attempt marriage three to nine times. Meanwhile, what’s the real domestic violence situation? What about the insidious problems of jealousy and control, and the repeated incidents of lying to our partners about sex, or concealing our sexual realities from them? What about the countless women who have told me they were used for sex under the age of 10, or were raped and could not say anything about it for decades, blaming themselves?

    Could these all be expressions of one thing, namely, the painful, guilt-laden relationships we are conditioned into having with ourselves? This doesn’t always show up as sexual guilt, nor does sexual guilt always show up as what shrinks call “generalized guilt.” But guilt is guilt, and it has a lot to do with sex. For many people, the two words are practically synonymous.

    Fritz and Laura Perls, early pioneers of Gestalt Therapy, taught that guilt is resentment turned against itself. Generally speaking, children, being the powerful yet powerless little critters they are, take upon themselves the notion of “fault and blame.” They cannot imagine adults (who are personifications of the gods and goddesses) making an error. If they do, it’s still the “fault” of the child. “If only I would’ve done this or that, daddy wouldn’t hit me.” “If I was more quiet, mommy wouldn’t drink.” And so on. Since they are at “fault,” they are “guilty,” and since they cannot rage against the adults very successfully or have a real impact on the direction of events, they turn the resentment at being pruned, modified, corrected, disciplined, strongly directed, or dictated to, back at themselves.

    That is guilt. It’s fair to say that our lives, so often filled with the idea that we cannot influence the direction of events, so often caught in the web of control, of bosses, of taxes, of children, and yes, of our sexual relationships, are often holographic copies of these original crushing relationships with parents and teachers. Yet as adults, the programming, the patterns, are contained within us. They are internalized. Check it out: do we have especially creative jobs? Dare we say what we feel, go where we want, be who we are, or have sex with who we desire? Or are we pruned, modified, dictated to, and denied out of existence by our own self-control?

  3. Kerstin

    Dear Jeanne, thank you so much for putting these feelings into words, for actually calling out this phenomenon… I am recognizing myself in this, having been called “too sensitive”, “too intense”, “too emotional” and just “too much” all my life. Your article has really “clicked” with me, opening a new perspective…. to look at this being “too much” as not being my fault or deficit, but that perhaps the person accusing me of being “too this or that” is not able to allow another person to fully express their being and rather have the other “dim down” their light to make it more comfortable for them. Otherwise, our “too much” poses a challenge…
    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. crystal west

    I embraced a “take it or leave” mental attitude. I have no qualms telling people just that, and if they continue to pester me around, I make them even more jealous! ha! ha! The thing is they are just about as “too” opinionated as I am but they’re “too” ignorant to notice that in themselves.

  5. Shelley Stearns

    Great piece. I used to experience an extreme amount of envy when people did things I felt compelled to do, but believed I didn’t have a right to experience. I think that sometimes when people say someone is “too” something, it’s because they want to be or do that thing themselves. Also, even as I was putting down others and controlling myself constantly, I still got told all the time I was too this or that.

    And, Eric, I have never experienced your writing or podcasts as too anything. On the contrary, you, and Planet Waves, have set an example for me of how to be more open about who I am and what I feel in all levels of my life. I greatly appreciate that you disrupt and inspire.

  6. Lizzy

    Ha ha! I love this piece! Growing up, I was sometmes a little too loud and spontaneous for my fellow Brits (was also a shy and retiring cancerian, however) . I found my emotional home in Italy (though my mother could rival Anna Magnani any day for emotional ‘over-the-topness’!).
    You’re right Shelley. Yyou can be sure that people who use the ‘too’ too much are just as hard (if not more) on themselves as they are with others.

  7. Josie Beug

    Thank you sister! I was high giving you all along the way! I go by the pseudonym Firehorse, born in 1966 and always considered “too something”. Now that all us wild women, or so it seems, are hitting power surge time (I think our generation is going to change the beliefs around menopause) the corral gate is swung wide open and we are free to run. Just let them complain about those of us who are “too much” as we leave them behind in a cloud of dust!

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