The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016


Commitments. We’re told to make them. Magazines and self-help books urge us to take the plunge. Be decisive. Be clear about what you want and communicate it.

No space for the little voice that wants you to squeeze the brake just a little bit, hear the whir of rubber pad brushing against steel rim. No space for heel dragging, or forgetting your passport, or putting off the phone call. No space for an emotion as noncommittal as reluctance.

This ambivalence is what the aviator Amelia Earhart felt on the morning of her wedding to George Putnam on February 7, 1931. “You must know again my reluctance to marry,” she wrote. This was no jangle of last-minute nerves. This was a conversation the couple had had over and over and over again. She didn’t want to try to perform the role of a dutiful wife, which would tighten around her like shrink-wrap. She wanted to fly.

Theirs was a happy marriage, by all accounts. Her reluctance served the couple well, an early warning system. “I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly,” she wrote. And she put in a parachute, extracting a promise that “you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.” She died only six years later, five years after becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic, her bones resting somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, her marriage still intact.

For the other benefits of ambivalence see: UNCERTAINTY.