Let me preface all of this by saying this is a purging of ideas on what I think it means to be a woman. I don’t write many personal posts, but maybe this will lead to more.
Up until now the word ‘woman’ didn’t mesh well with who I identified as. I’d like to think other young, female twenty-somethings have grappled with this identity crisis of sorts. Of course female is my gender, but woman is a sophisticated, experienced, all-knowing form of the feminine gender. Being called a girl obviously didn’t suit me, but considering the amount of time I’d been identified as a girl –an innocent, youthful female– it was simply more comfortable albeit incorrect. I just couldn’t bring myself to feel comfortable with the new title ‘woman’, that is, until recently. I dare you to call me a girl. Go on, try it.
Why did I struggle with coming to terms with the word woman? I tried for a while to define it. Okay, now here’s the bit where I talk about vaginas and your face contorts in disgust. I won’t apologise because I’m honestly disgusted by the general attitude toward female genitalia as opposed to male. But I’ll save that for another post.
Most cultures define entering womanhood by a girl’s first period. Other than the obvious bodily change, my experience marked no significant change in identity/ outlook on life, etc. The only memorable thing about my first period is that it occurred the same weekend the Pope died. Of course I found that hilarious. Just like the time I told mom over lunch I was hell-bent on moving to Scotland. Two seconds later a car came flying off the road into the cafe’s parking lot being stopped only by a parking lot light pole. The cafe was in an uproar with everyone peering out the window and recapping what they saw. Notably traumatic events tend to parallel with my own, adding to life’s humor. So, the Pope basically cursed me into “womanhood” with his death…but I still considered myself to be a girl-child.
Okay, if you’re a family member reading this, well, then you are a family member reading this. Onto the topic of sex: Surely sex must be the defining moment. Purity must be what sets you apart from the status of ‘woman’. Well, nope. The feminist voice of my mind riots loudly and obnoxiously. Why should a man (in my case) determine your ability to identity as a woman? A man does not define how much of a woman I am. Sexual contact with another (regardless of their gender) can be empowering, and can help in defining self-identity; but for me, sex has no effect on my ability to identify as a woman. No one can determine that but me. ROAR!
However, I have thought for a while now that having a child –experiencing the entire womanly experience full circle– would be the ultimate defining moment of being and becoming ‘woman’. Since I haven’t had a child and already find myself comfortably identifying with womanhood, this can’t be entirely it either. Also, some that have undergone this entire womanly experience still tend to identify as girls themselves. Then there are those that biologically can’t or just don’t want to, etc…so child birth is not a factor. ever.
Conclusion: anything my vagina goes through does not determine my ‘woman’ identity. So, why do I feel like a woman now?
Confidence. Clarity. Change….all of which belong to maturity.
So maybe age is to blame? Is twenty-two old enough to be considered a woman? Recently a guy I graduated high school with was in the news for murder. He was described as a man. That alone didn’t sit well with me. A man? I guess being twenty-two, you are a man. But his cognitive functions haven’t fully developed yet by that age (obviously), so are you sure he isn’t still an adolescent? The Huffington Post published an article about how we don’t reach full cerebral maturity until our late twenties (I mentioned this in my book review of Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow). So, does this neurological development determine our ability to fully identity as a woman/man? I think so.
But regardless, I am beginning to tell myself: I am a woman. Feels good. It’s a change in self-perception, a change in attitude, a change in my human experience. I think honestly it’s the first time I feel as if I’m a part of something greater than myself. And this is just beautiful.
What changes I’ve noticed in myself: I cry at marriage proposals and water births on YouTube. Never in my life did I think I could embrace my emotional side, but my god, can I! And I love it. (Don’t you dare say this is hormonal. I’ll kick you!)
Also, for the first time, I know what I want. Now I’m just working on how to get it. I’ve found a certain motivation that makes me understand that ‘the world is my oyster’ thing on an entirely different plane. It’s on, world.
As a girl, I thought makeup, hair, fashion, etc was dumb and a waste of time. I am still that person and understand that the whole thing seems superficial and impractical. But at the same time, it isn’t. Recently I splurged on contouring powders and other crap because this is important. May not seem important, but it builds an inexplicable confidence. I’m unstoppable with my nude lipstick and smokey eye. For any men who have managed to read this far, I think this would be the equivalent of a quality button-down shirt and necktie combo. You just feel more polished and as if you can take on anything. Changing the exterior, changes the interior. So, this superficial confidence is changing self-perception. In most cases, you have to pretend to be something before becoming it. I’m aware I’m in the ‘lie to yourself” phase, but this will evolve.
So the lies: I’m in tune with my emotions. I’m in control of my future. I’m content with my new appearance. And this is the first time, I’ve felt this close to understanding not only myself, but the workings of the world. I’m starting to ‘get it’.
Being a woman comes from within. It’s a confidence, a clarity, and a change for the better. I’ve just entered womanhood and there will be no stopping me.
Where are you in your womanhood journey?