Nature Abhors a Vacuum. Worrywart Women Do Too
A Void of Information Creates Havoc
In physics, the Latin term horror vacui, nature abhors a vacuum, comes to us from Aristotle, and no, it does not refer to a fear of vacuums or cleaning!
In people-speak, the term means there are no naturally-occurring empty spaces because denser surrounding material immediately fills the void.
I’m no scientist. So, who am I to argue with Aristotle? I would, however, add an important corollary; Women also abhor vacuums.
Vacuums = Worrywarts. Let Me Explain
Whenever there’s a “vacuum” of information, a woman’s mind, much like a washing machine, starts spinning and quickly reaches the agitation cycle, coming up with all sorts of negative, awful conclusions to fill the worrisome info-void.
I don’t know who said that we should look at the glass as “half full,” but it surely wasn’t a woman. A female’s possible responses to that glass include What happened to the rest of the contents? Did they spill? Didn’t you like the drink? Can I get you something else?
And what about that expression – “Give someone the benefit of the doubt”? Also not said by a woman. “Doubt” is the silent middle name of most women!
And the name “Doubting Thomas”? That’s not a guy’s name. I’m sure it was just shorthand or a nickname for a worried woman named Thomasina back in the day.
You are, of course, familiar with the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Now, that could only have been written by a woman and, sure enough, it was – Judith Viorst.
Women are worriers by nature. We start early. It prepares us for the big 2Ms – marriage and motherhood.
For most women, our appearance – our weight, in particular – is the training ground and first source of angst and worry.
Tales of a Teen Worrier
From the age of 13 on, I would barge into my brother’s bedroom at 6:15 each and every school morning, demanding his opinion of the outfit I had chosen to wear to that day. Without regard to his privacy or sleep needs, I would fling the door open and heartlessly flick the light switch on.
“How do I look?” I would breathlessly ask.
“Fine,” he would grunt. Then, ending his nuanced commentary, brother Hank would throw one pillow at me and bury his head under another.
“Looks ‘fine'”? I would worry. What does fine mean? Fine, as in, fine for a fat girl? Fine, as in, whatever, go away?
“Fine?” I would ponder each and every day. Fat shaming done by an expert – me at age 13.
So, each and every day, I would change into a second outfit, crash into my brother’s room yet again, turn the light on yet again and ask yet again what he thought about my clothes.
“Fine,” he’d say again. “What was wrong with the first outfit?”
“Oh, you liked it better?”
“GET OUT AND STAY OUT,” he’d shout, hurling the second pillow.
Of course, I always changed back into the first outfit.
From the Queendom of Mom
Motherhood, from conception on – no, make that from the very idea of conception on, and then, on and on forever – is an exercise in living life in constant worry, doubt, and second-guessing.
Like all naïve women, I thought it would get easier as the kids got older. Now, two decades into motherhood and I’m still on the clock. My son or daughter goes out for the evening. He or she says they’ll be home by 1. By 1:07, I’m frantic.
“Where is he?”
“Was there an accident?”
“Did somebody put drugs in her drink?”
“What? Is she drinking? Is she drinking too much?”
“Wait. Is he doing drugs?”
My vacuous mom-mind never goes back to sleep, lulled by contented, confident, and loving thoughts like “We raised him right.” and “She’ll make good decisions.” Nope. Nature abhors a vacuum, and a mother’s nature abhors a happy, safe thought.
Nature Abhors a Vacuum, 24/7
And it doesn’t have to be vanity or a mom thing that causes women to worry. Worrying, like breathing, is an autonomic function. It just happens.
Recently I set out to research the life of my Uncle Henry, who was a Marine killed on Iwo Jima during World War II. I gathered together whatever photos, mementos, letters, and other information I could find. I spoke to my one living relative, who was just a small boy and had only a fleeting memory of Henry before the war.
Then, I got hold of my uncle’s service record, but without a military background of my own, I could not easily make sense of it. So, through a professional association I belong to, I contacted a Marine Corps general, who immediately and enthusiastically responded to my request for help. The general affirmed that the military owes it to its families to help them understand their loved ones’ service records and that she would be delighted to assist.
We corresponded a number of times, as the general shared various tidbits about the military units my uncle had served in. In each of those emails, she promised to send more information. Semper Fi, the general signed off each time.
A month or so later, we had an opportunity to meet in Washington, D.C. We hugged, introduced our spouses, and said how thrilled we were to work on this project together. This lovefest ended with the general’s promise that all her research would soon be making its way to me.
That was six months ago. Since then, nothing. I have emailed her. Once. Twice. Three times. I have called. No reply. Not even a “bug off, I’m too busy to be bothered.” Just silence. Have I been ghosted by a general? Semper huh?
This sudden, unexplained silence has created a vacuum in my mind, which has gone into warp-overdrive worry. And into this void, I have developed multiple theories as to why the general has gone AWOL from my life:
- She is on a “Top Secret” mission and obviously cannot break her cover to get in touch.
- The General is simply too busy running her military unit and protecting our nation. She just hasn’t had the time to get back to me.
- She has a life-threatening disease and understandably is distracted.
- The General’s spouse has a life-threatening disease and again, is understandably distracted.
- She is an insincere, inconsiderate lout.
- I did something terribly wrong when we met, committed some unthinkable faux pas, and the General thinks I am an inconsiderate lout.
Left with no answer, I fill this abhorrent vacuum by vacuuming. First, I vacuum the house. Then I vacuum all fattening food out of the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets, sucking all caloric goodies straight into my mouth and onto my hips.
And, of course, the end result of all this compulsive eating? I return to the fears of my teen years, and with each outfit, I put on, I hound Handsome Hubby with that most terrifying question of all time: “Does this outfit make me look fat?”
Maybe I should consider that fat-vacuuming procedure I’ve read about. Now that is one void I would not abhor!
And as a final “scientific” note, here’s a wonderful The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson on the subject of Nature Abhors a Vacuum!