Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where did my girly girl go?

I have come to realize that I have been hiding my “girly” side for most of my life. What do I mean by girly side? Well, my feminine side, the side that likes nail polish, make up, wearing dresses, wearing perfume and loving flowers and stuffed animals.

So what’s the big deal? Why is this not something that comes naturally to me, a female?

I began thinking about it this morning as I was doing my nails, something that I’ve just started to do again. I was thinking, is this really worth all the trouble? It’s just clear nail polish, no one will even notice it. This is a big waste of time.

And I thought, why? Why is this a big waste of time? Why can’t I just do this for fun, because I like it?

From the time I can remember, I had a boy’s name, a boy’s haircut and despite my wearing dresses to school, I was made fun of and called a boy. It became a pattern in my life that I have never known how to break out of.

I was about 8 years old and being raised in the Catholic church, I went through the classes to have my first communion. The final ceremony was a big deal. The girls had to wear these very frilly white dresses, white patent leather shoes and a veil, sort of like a mini bridal outfit. At the end of the ceremony, we were to stand in lines according to gender. I waited with all the other girls for my certificate. They read all the names and mine was not there. They told me I must have been put in the boy’s group and had to go wait in the boy’s line for my certificate. There I was in this fluffy, frilly white dress, my white patent leather Mary-Janes and my veil waiting in the boys line for my certificate.

I was 13. I had just put on my very first make-up and was coming down the stairs when my dad very innocently says “what’s that all over your face, you look like a raccoon”. My dad loves me. He is a loving father that took care of me and has been on my side since the day I was born, and always will be. The reality is that the words we say to our children do matter and can sting.

Thinking about these stories, I realized that was the exact moment that I put away my feminine side.

After that, I stopped wearing dresses, make up and became a tomboy. I went from dresses to Levi’s , and tee-shirts. I began to hide my body which was betraying me by developing too early.

I put away my girly side because I didn’t understand it. It was so much easier to be a tomboy that I embraced it completely. Now, I wasn’t the tree climbing tomboy but just dressed in men’s levis and tee-shirts and overalls. I chopped my hair off short and became a tough cookie. I didn’t fight physically but boy could I skewer a person with words.

I became one of the guys. I could out swear, out joke and eventually out drink most of the boys I knew. I didn’t see my self as a girl so why should anyone else? It was a defense mechanism and a way to fit in. The guys all liked me because I could handle the potty humor and could keep up with the sarcastic patter they tossed around. They didn’t need to impress me because I wasn’t really a girl, but just another guy.

This has continued throughout most of my life. Even today I think I come across as not very feminine. It’s become just the way I am.

My femininity has taken a couple of serious hits as an adult and I found myself diving back into that tomboy thing.

A couple of years ago a friend and I were talking about how his son would sometimes get bored when he would have to tag along with the girlfriend to the mall to get her nails done. I said “Well, he won’t have to worry about that with me, I don’t do all that girly stuff”. That friend stopped and questioned me about my statement. He called me on how negative I was about feminine things. I had never really thought about it but he was right. Girly things were for other girls not for me. I had failed at that and so didn’t feel it was an option for me.

Slowly over the last few years I’ve tried to open up that side of myself. I have done some very deliberate things like let my hair grow long, and dragging out my stuffed animals again. I’ve come to realize with the help of that friend, being feminine, a woman is a very powerful thing and something I want to embrace. It has changed the way I see myself and how I see the world. I’m not perfect at it yet, after all there are 48 years of tapes to erase from my head. I still don’t wear very feminine clothes and I still fall into that “one of the guys” mode more often than I’d like it’s what I know. I don’t feel like I have to compete with other women because I’m one of the guys instead. I’m safe, harmless like a little sister not an honest-to-god woman.

There is one person who gets to see the woman side of me, one person I feel safe with, that won’t belittle me if I don’t do it perfectly. Instead with this person I am encouraged to grab it, embrace it and immerse myself in it.

So will I ever find that lost girly girl? I don’t know if I ever will but I’m trying to open myself to the possibility that she isn’t gone, she’s just hiding out. That some day, I’ll feel safe enough to let her out so she can have her turn. For now, we do the dance and compromise. I let her put on nail polish and she lets me be a tomboy once in awhile.