I’d like to title this post “From Girls Shame to Woman’s Brave Heart: Growing Up, Out, and Into a Lady.” My intention in writing this is to open up to readers, especially young biological women, who struggle to love themselves as themselves. The particular audience I wish to address isn’t an implication of prejudice against those who don’t fit in the category of biological woman, but to speak to those who deeply share such a similar potential for experience.
As a Girl
Oh Amy Schumer! I have only watched her in the film Trainwreck, which I enjoyed immensely in spite of its crassness. Other than that I only know anything about her from a few articles. Recently her latest comedy special has been released and apparently, at some point she refers to her genitals as a “barnyard animal” like a goat. My early middle age self shakes my head silently and wonders how someone with so much shame towards their body could think she’s helping anyone, either by providing humor or “building up” other women. Personally I don’t feel an entertainer is beholden to provide spiritual enlightenment or emotional support, regardless of sex. However it’s weird when someone denigrates themselves and can’t even make it funny, which vagina as goat, is not.
My young adult self finds Amy Schumer a kindred spirit, especially in having the freedom and audience to say outrageous things. It’s fun, especially as a woman, to not be held back from being as crass as we want to be. Back in the day I used to revel at shocking people, saying the things a lady shouldn’t. There was little joy beyond the sensation of shocking someone, but my performance gave me a sense of autonomy and fierceness, which apparently was more important than actually having fun. I wasn’t too different from Ms. Schumer, but am glad that I have changed, and I hope she grows beyond her current version of humor.
Time takes time. My teen years, 20’s and even early 30’s was steeped in attempting to conform to images of women popular at the time, while rebelling against such images by way of personality. Basically I was a girl trying to “have it all” by being the “total package.” This meant I had to look hot, but not try too hard to look hot while focusing on subjects that would present me as smart, funny, adventurous, naughty, but not too naughty. I prided myself on knowing just how an eyebrow should be shaped for a given face while being able to discuss ancient architecture with Dead Prez playing in the backround and slinging out a joke about lesbians and crackers at the end of a conversation. My goal in life was to be cool, by any means necessary so that someone special, and the general public would find me worthy.
For my generation (X) being the girl who could work hard, play hard, have sex hard, and still effortlessly be hot in all circumstances, was a universal goal. It was a lot of work to be something of a hybrid; part our own natural God-given talents, and part cultivated image copied from cultivated images. No wonder I felt so tired as a young woman. It was a lot of work to be so broken. Add to my story a mentally ill mother – making low self esteem in a way, a way of life. I wanted to be not crazy and hot and smart and generally amazing. That way I could find true love, a good job, and fulfillment. Of course this fulfillment had to cost the very essence of myself as a woman, but such a sacrifice was worth it for something supposedly right and true.
As a Young Woman
Another woman I know recently discussed with me her shame regarding her genitals as a youth. This was one of those conversations that had I known I’d have it, I may have tried to avoid it. Not because its a bad thing to talk about, but because of the sheer vulnerability of the talk. We shared the insecurities we got over finally, but lamented at the power of the struggle. Women these days may wear p-ssy hats but that still doesn’t mean we actually discuss the shame we have around our bodies. When this woman and I got honest, we discovered that in spite of our racial differences, we both had the same shame towards the most female parts of our bodies. It was a relief to hear and share such honesty. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more women engage in, talking to each other about the beauty and sacredness of our bodies, rather than wearing pink hats and comparing ourselves to earthy animals.
I read a Vanity Fair article from a couple years ago that discussed the hook up culture young women today feel increasingly beholden to (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/08/tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating). One woman lamented that “It’s rare for a woman of our generation to meet a man who treats her like a priority instead of an option.” What this tells me is that though technology has changed regarding how women find sexual partners, women still feel they have to present themselves as a priority…rather than a mere option, in order to meet someone of quality. “It’s such a game, and you have to always be doing everything right, and if not, you risk losing whoever you’re hooking up with”. Women today still feel, as I did as a young woman, that some part of the natural self must be sublimated so that the appearance of ideal can warrant attention. Indeed it is a game. One where women, regardless of generation or technology, often seem to lose.
Find Your Way
At some point women who have allowed themselves to be victimized by trying to be an intriguing ornament find that enough is enough. Change eventually happens from enough consequences of hooking up without intimacy and with self objectification. Since young women, especially now, are not offered the saving grace of Christ, they have to find their post hook up phase identity in other things. Once the 30’s hit for many women, those who desire an intimate relationship, have no idea how to do it, even when a partner is in front of them who can offer such a dynamic. It took me a while to “settle down” when I finally found my wife. At the time I identified as a Christian but my primary identity wasn’t in Christ. Instead I searched for enlightenment as a means of discipline for being a good girlfriend. My attempts at “programming” myself into being a good partner was just a more philosophical version of trying to be an “it” girl. I needed more than sitting cross legged meditating my way into being “priority.”
Even vague spirituality can be another factor in cultivating the external appearance of “doing it right.” Once the jock or f-ckboy of his 20’s becomes the yoga guy in his 30’s, women at that same age need to confront a choice between continuing to attempt appearing as an (albeit quieter) ideal or becoming themselves. I spent years in 12 step recovery trying to be the spiritual and physical it girl around such social circles. At the end of the day it turned out the “deep” people I dated weren’t that deep and neither was I. It wasn’t until I met my wife, who a number of years older than me, introduced me to “rockin’ it” meaning looking however I truly wanted, and embodying it for my own sense of enjoyment; that I began to find more freedom in being truly myself, as not just a human being, but as a woman.
No one wants to be lonely but buying into the dreams executives and activists sell, images that neglect to foster positive mutual relationships, is a road to unhappiness. We women want love and if more adult mature women send messages to younger women that p-ssy hats, eye shadow, and hook ups don’t catch hearts only eyes – perhaps more of the girls out there can get honest and discover who they actually are. Rather than cover up what is true, lovely, and even vitreous, young women deserve to know the dream is a fantasy that doesn’t belong to us. When we put a man (or woman) before God, that man, as rapper KB says “will become your God and God will be another man.” If you’re not a woman of faith, I can also put it this way: If you don’t love yourself as you were created, from such a mystery, understanding your intrinsic worth beyond the other’s gaze, you’ll have difficulty maintaining an egalitarian and loving life long relationship.
This weekend I sent the following text to several women:
Sometimes life doesn’t get any sweeter. Hope you’re good. Feel free to send me your own “any sweeter” moment. I included the following photo.
In putting myself out there to connect to other women, asking them to be a witness to their lives, I saw the beauty of their spirits. One sister in-law sent me a photo of her youngest son sleeping. Another sister in-law sent me a selfie which showed she was at a cosmetics event selling her heart out with offbeat elegant style. I felt so proud of her I actually shed a tear. An older friend sent me a photo of her cats and told me how exhausted but grateful she was to be in another city, caring for a friend dying of cancer. A longtime friend sent a photo of her daughter in a red tutu on her way to a grade school sock hop. My mother in-law sent a photo of her husband bonding with their Schnauzer. It was a cornucopia of images and stories that demonstrated what was in their hearts, even if for one in particular, it was in part on her face.
Each of these women were not just female by association of appearance, but by lives lived. These women demonstrated that they were not just women but ladies. A lady knows herself, has survived some challenges, and appreciates the sex she was born as and enjoys in her current days. Her identity comes from something greater than appearing pleasing to someone else. A lady is a woman who appreciates herself as a female creation, yet continues to refine her own wild heart as she sees fit. A lady doesn’t need to hit the observer over the head with the “right” political statements, the “right” look, or the “right” interests. A lady lives out her life and gives witness to womanhood by being who she is. We don’t have to sell who we are. We just rock it, regardless of the gaze upon us. Now that’s what I call true bravery…no pink felt hat required.
In these unusual days we women can be a benefit to each other and ourselves by reaching out, getting vulnerable about our experiences as women, and by telling young women they are more than they know. A simple photo, sentence, phone call, or conversation is all that’s needed to remind ourselves we are more than trophies, and truly lift up another woman, regardless of differences, political or otherwise. If you’ve come across this post, I’d love to hear from women what their most recent “any sweeter” moment is. Sharing the strength, beauty, an truth of our lives always leads to love. At the depths of the mysteries of womanhood lies love, and there is not a thing to be ashamed of about that.