“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
So I just got off of vacation and I really wanted to write about my experience and all the things I learned, but my mind decided to fight me and make me write about something, I promised I would never write about, but here it goes. Beauty. Fashion. All the things girly. Yeah, I never imagined writing about anything around the subject, because there are so many more pressing issues in the world, but as I delve into the evaluation of feminism or just simply watching how Hilary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are being treated differently as women, I can’t help but think on these things to some degree. This is what makes a woman, we are layered, and even when we try to avoid certain experiences they sometimes still seem to creep in on us. What we look like still matters just as much as what it’s in our mind, if not more so, unfortunately. So I am in the middle of a feminine revelation, or shall I say transformation. Yes, America, the #1 tomboy has started doing things a little different and I feel compelled to kind of talk about it. I promise at times I was annoyed in writing this…How dare we be defined by a social norm. For the purpose of this blog post, let’s just say I have subscribed to the notion, that being “girly” is a thing and it looks a certain way.
So I have a lot of girly friends. Why? I am not sure and I really don’t know why, opposites attract, maybe? I am a bona fide Tom Boy, and I have a number of really good guy friends too. Not to mention my brothers and I are really close and they taught me everything that I know about sports and in fact, I always love to brag that I know more sports than the average man.
When I went to college that was the first time that I had to face the reality that I didn’t do a number of things that normal girls do. (Well, actually the first time I had to really deal with this is when I was 11 and was mistaken for a boy), but for the first time living with women other than my mother was a culture shock.
Now, of course, there are no absolutes, but there were a number of things, girly things, that I didn’t do. I won’t mention them cause who wants to be that transparent. To further take me down the road of girliness in college, I joined a sorority. Sometimes, outside of the amazing relationships that I’ve built, how did I manage that? Sometimes I used to feel like an impostor when it comes to “girl” things. What is a purse, why were heels even made, make-up – that’s for clowns, right? I used to feel like life would be easier if I were a man. And not because of the obvious benefits men get, but my personality, demeanor and my likes and dislikes used to be very much geared similar to that of a typical male. Heck, GQ is still my favorite magazine (I mean the articles are good and it’s full of half-naked men). I couldn’t even name more than 3 woman magazines.
So over the last few months, I decided to pamper myself, doing things like maintaining my nails, wearing make-up regularly, keeping my eyebrows on point, being dutiful in cooking and cleaning around my place, and diligently eating healthier and exercising. Oh, and my hair has been on point (most of the time). Growing up, with the exception of hair, things like this I was never taught to focus on. It was always about education, be strong, and fight for your rightful place in the world. I have never gone shopping with my mother, nor have we have ever made a trip to a nail salon or things of that nature.
*Enters my first real relationship (with a boy)*
So to only complicate the situation, the first guy I dated, was very much high maintenance. He would always take longer to get ready then I would. He definitely liked a kind of women who was well manicured, done up from head to toe. Over those 7 years, I tried to do it. I failed miserably over and over. We were in a long distance relationship after I left college (thank GOD), and I would go through a mini-transformation every 3 months when we would see each other. I would always tell myself, I would keep my nails done, hair laid, but nope, that rarely happened. I was never comfortable. I never enjoyed getting done up. It was very robotic to me.
*end of my relationship*
So 7 years later, I was free, the inner tom boy came back with a mad vengeance. I still liked to dress cute and do my hair occasionally, but I think over the following year or so, I rarely touched make-up, didn’t keep my nails looking decent, or even appropriately put jewelry together. For a period, I was going through the loss of a relationship so I wasn’t being horribly judged, and since I wasn’t really dating, I got several passes. As time went on, I wanted to start dating again, and I befriended some new male friends who provided me with a new perspective (that I am not sure I agree), but for the purpose of this article, it is the thesis statement and basis of this article.
This idea that most men (heterosexual) do like women who keep up a certain maintenance, because they can’t help but be visual, and it’s not from a place of shallowness, but why wouldn’t you want to keep yourself together and healthy?
This “maintenance” involves maintaining healthy habits with exercise and maintaining certain “feminine” social norms (yes, I’m cringing as I write this). I personally feel like I should be able to do whatever the hell I want, and I should be accepted in that matter. But I decided to think I was wrong, and started making small changes, and began this transformation, and guess what I found. I have completely different interactions with the opposite sex, with men I know and men I don’t know. But even more so I have different interactions with women too, even in my professional space. I have worn make-up more often to work, and see the differences in the interactions, and it’s puzzling to me. What does this mean? Am I not the same person, behind the make-up, clothes and nails?
When I used to look at famous people, who after hitting a certain level of stardom and maybe were a little over weight, they ALWAYS lose weight if they can. The reality is that people treat you different, and if I am not saying it directly, they seem to treat you better. Yes, I said it, and whatever that might look like to you. And I get that, but I was just raised differently. That the external just means less. That focusing on my appearance says nothing about you. I have met a number of women who focus on all those things, and not much else, and when they gain a little weight or circumstances make maintaining that look difficult, they are lost, and obsess over their appearance, because their interactions rise and fall based on their appearance and it’s sad.
I was fortunate not have to deal with these issues for a very long time, and I am very happy that it only took me 3 months out of my life, but I, like most women have to at some point in their life, wrestle with the social norms of femininity as it relates to being a women and what it means. I will never forget the first time Hilary Clinton ran for President and they were having legit discussions about pant versus skirt suits in regards to her “femininity”. It. was. disgusting. (and let’s not forget, I am not a Hilary Fan, unless you attack her womanhood, homey don’t play that). But I will tell you all this, I have enjoyed getting my nails, getting to have a “nail” lady, and trying new things with makeup and getting compliments from men and women alike.
But what I have learned, which I am sure many of you all guessed, but that it’s really about balance and there is no right answer. You can go overboard with anything, focusing too much on your outer appearance or you can look so bad that no one wants to be your friend. But it really is more than that. That this journey is one of the million things that makes our experience as women different and AWESOME. We produce strong young men and women, because we have to juggle so many different norms. That men don’t get to have the complicated and interesting life that women get to lead. Yes, I just said that. That we have to challenge ourselves, question ourselves more than they do especially in 2016. There is still a struggle with roles for women in the workplace, in the home and in relationships. Whether there is a spiritual component or not in your thinking, women are questioned about the way they parent, the fact they have no kids, are we too emotional or not having enough emotion, so that we are considered a bitch, and the list goes on.
I will never subscribe to this idea that I have to look a certain way to get the attention or affection of a man, but being pampered, getting in touch with my inner girl was and IS nice, but it is my friends, not mandatory to be kick ass. Being kick ass is just what women do whether you are or not in touch with your inner girl. So just do that. Kick-Ass!