I’m honored once again to be hosting my sister’s monthly post here on my blog. I think men and women both can relate to this post, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it! You can check out Shan’s artwork on her Facebook page.
Growing up, my Halloween costumes told an interesting story. One year I was Princess Diana – fluffy dress, tiara, scepter-from-a-baton, and all. One year I was a groom – sharpie mustache, suit, maybe even a top hat, now that I think of it– escorting around
my little brother in a bridal gown. One year I was also a bag of trash, but that’s another story.
I have found it perplexing to try to figure out how to be a woman. I’m not making comparisons to how hard it is to be a man, or even a kid (as my son is fond of telling me is the most difficult role of all). I’m not even talking about what society or religion or my family or my exes or really any mysterious, inimitable “They” have done that complicates it. I’m just saying I’ve struggled to come to peace with all of the disparate Halloween costumes of my woman-ness, and to understand when and how to wear them all.
Puzzling through what it is that’s made it so difficult, I’ve at least identified that it isn’t a matter of being confused about my sexuality itself. I honestly believe that whoever I’d ended up being naturally attracted to when I hit puberty and after, this feeling of being oddly matched for balancing the dichotomies of it all would still be the same.
Looking around, it’s easy for me to just see perfectly highlighted hair and nails that are not bitten and shoes that are only worn once a month and perfectly matched to the corresponding outfit on the women around me and believe that I am failing at some key, physical ingredient of woman-hood that would make me complete. And even though I believe that’s not necessarily true, it’s also too easy to just mutter to myself that “I’m not the girly-girl type” and dismiss the idea of spreading my wings and experimenting with a curling iron. Yes, that’s all superficial and doesn’t define being female anyway, but figuring out how to express the desire in me to be beautiful without sacrificing my desire to be strong is just…hard. Confounding, even.
I told my 7 year old daughter a couple weeks ago I thought she’d make a good racecar driver (it was relevant at the time) and she looked at me like I’d said one day she might want to dye her skin green and spend her time selling monkeys livers to the Lilliputians – clearly neither idea seemed like a reasonable consideration to her. She said as an explanation, “But … I’m a GIRL!” I was horrified; I started weaving suggestions for heavily warrior-themed Halloween costumes into our daily conversations for a week.
But confound it all, as much as I don’t want her to think there is adventure she can’t have because she’s a girl, it isn’t fair to let her think that wearing a skirt is a sign of weakness, either. She shouldn’t have to suppress her desire to dance in pink to go after “real” respect from anyone – least ways her mama. And there’s the rub, isn’t it? That’s the question I keep puzzling through for myself. How do I feed the part of my nature that wants to protect and still give myself permission to admit that I want to be protected too?
My hand and arm have ached to draw sword from scabbard and thrust the blade into a charging enemy – so much so that when I use the phrase “I’ve got your back”, there is often a genuine, bone deep desire in me to be able to do so in an utterly physical fashion.
It took me a long time to realize how dangerous it was for me to lie to myself about my equally powerful desire to be allowed to paint in a tower room in a velvet dress, smelling of patchouli and sipping earl grey, while some dragon paces in front of a drawbridge to keep me safe.
I often look at the women around me and wonder how many of them spend conscious effort balancing these same ideas. We are all made of component parts and I suspect we must all be choosing to feed or starve the warring clans of our natures on some level. Please tell me everyone else doesn’t find this all effortless. Somewhere inside of me there
will always be an arm wrestling contest between the blue dresses and gray uniforms of my nature; and I have no idea which will end up being my Halloween costume this year.