As early as I can remember, I never really belonged to a tribe. I was never quite this… or quite… that. I remember that I had to fight and earn my right to belong to a tribe. I remember being a little girl of 3-4 feeling quite right about my dolls and dresses. At age 5, while starting school, something changed. Things were expected of me.
I couldn’t just wear pretty things, but I had to be sporty. I had to be an all-star athlete to meet the expectations of my parents’ dream for a scholarship. I had to be so strong I could beat the boys. In fact, I needed to become one of them. It wasn’t just my parents intention to make sure that their first born girl was an overachiever, society also required it. Cartoons and advertisements meant to empower young girls often ran on TV. Girls can be president of the United States, can be doctors, lawyers, computer nerds, etc. We are meant to be equal and don’t let a boy take you down. In fact, beat him.
So I did the best I could. I wrestled with my brother, Andrew, just two years younger than me, often pinning him down with my super quad squeeze, following WWF regulations. After my dad told me “not to throw like I girl” I realized that I was doing it all wrong being me. I readjusted my throw to please my father’s expectations of correct athleticism. The irony of this statement unfortunately didn’t hit me until my late 20’s.
My positive female examples were limited. All my mother’s efforts at pleasing everyone through entertaining, keeping up appearances, and raising ADHD kids seemed exhausting. It seemed she was unhappy most of the time, but she had convinced herself that she wanted this. She said she could have had a career an been somebody, but she wanted to be a mom. It all backfired. So she made sure I’d be tough as leather and never have to depend on a man. In the 1980’s and 90’s housewives were old fashioned. Corporate wives were in. My mother wasn’t the only one lost in our new roles, I was lost with her.
I was confused about who I was. At school, I was bullied often by everyone.
I fit best by they girls, but I didn’t like the mean girl tactics. My mother often complained of other women doing this to each other, thus they were not to be trusted. The boys just picked on me, probably laughing at how I tried to hard to be tough. I have later found out that did not help Andrew, only two grades below. In 6th grade, I actually dressed up as a boy for a book report. I was never prouder to be who I thought I was!
I imagine you are thinking is she a lesbian? No, absolutely not! However, I was at puberty very immature about dating in high school, more than others. Eventually, I began to blossom into a beautiful young woman with vibrant energy, but still quite quirky. I started to feel the vibrant pull of feminine energy and its power over men. Naive, I know and never fully utilized 😉 Finally, a tool to feel valued and powerful as a girl. Even so, I think I was like most young women dealing with body image issues, just so I could be one of the pretty girls on the cover of Seventeen.
When it came to sports or school, I was definitely full on masculine energy. Gotta make it happen. Gotta compete. Gotta win, or else. I didn’t believe that my emotions or holding space for creation would keep me safe in my family tribe. Hunt and kill. Farming was deadly. Caring for others besides results in the business world, not important. Protecting what was mine was most important.
Like other young women of my generation, we subtly experienced discrimination, despite management’s sensitivity training. I had to defend my gold. I was 3-4 months pregnant looking for work in 2008, scared that my current job would fire me because of it and that a new employer wouldn’t hire me. The stigma of being female pressed harder on me. Would I still be respected and valuable after having kids. It was like, “Crap, they will know I am actually a WOMAN!” So to secure a position that I needed I did what likely most women would do when barely pregnant, hide and conceal. ( Not recommended as it will not attract a positive working relationship or an employer who appreciates young families!)
I never quite learned what was valuable about being female. We cook, clean, and raise kids that drive you crazy. Where’s the joy in that? No one values you. Having boobs are mere sex toys, and God help you if you get pregnant. A disaster. Oh, and if you are an over exuberant little girl, you better be nice and quiet or you will be shamed. Being a boy, you can be lazy, loud and people will give you the benefit of the doubt. Double standards abound.
My pregnancies (2) and beginning years of motherhood brought into question, what is this thing called being a girl? What kind of mom will I be? Is it a good thing? Should I breast feed or use formula? Should I be tough and strict? Like most new parents I was scared shitless. It was the beginning of an identity crisis. I tried on several substitute mom’s to help me figure it out, but no woman can do that for you, except your mother. If her example is not a good one, then we must do the painstaking work of forgiving her example and heal ourselves to become positive nurturers for our own children.
Now, I get it. 7.5 years later I am finding my stride as a mother, a woman and it’s function in life. I’ve been out of the “high paced man’s world” for 3.5 years now. I miss men, yet I appreciate the nest of supportive women and mom’s who are pretty crunchy! I have found my tribe in the warm nurturing energy that we provide to every human on this planet. I feel even honored to have the ability to physically and mentally hold space for another being, while doing the dishes, starting a business, and caring for multiple people’s future. I get to be their leader and teacher. I get to be the student more often than not, but the true beauty of being female is the diving exchange of energy flowing through us like at conception of a baby or the nurturing provided by other friends, moms, grandmothers, aunts who collectively care for this world.
We have brains, yes, and a purpose, but it is not to fight the men anymore. The latest wave of feminism supports women being women to win, not to be men. Sitting with my grandmother (82) this weekend, she doesn’t see the big deal in gender equality with clothes, programming, etc. It’s old school. Her purpose was simple, get married and have kids. Be a mom. I admire that simplicity. I don’t think I am alone in my female confusion. Research has shown compulsively competing while looking good, being type A, great job, big money, clean house, kids, etc., has left many young women burned out by our late 20’s even before we get to build our families or decide who we really are.
We are confused. That’s the point. The good news many of us are being reminded that we are gorgeous beings not just because of our parts, but because of what they can do. They create and hold nurturing love. They share and create communities. Fierce women are needed to bring this forth in the masculine world, but soft sensitive women, who often do not get the necessary credit, are needed more than ever. We have a right to be our full feminine selves without judgement, objectification, abuse, criticism or shame. We are gorgeous and powerful.
So many women stood on this speck of earth before me, bearing witness to our beauty and hard work. So many will come after me, like my daughter Lizzie. She is ALL GIRL! My tomboy self looks at this girl in disbelief at some of her girliness. My head says, “Toughen UP!”, but my heart says, “She’s perfect the way she is. Don’t change one dainty thing.”
I’ve become a woman. I’ve found my tribe among some of the crunchiest. I know that we are bonded by divine guidance to care for each other and our futures. I couldn’t be prouder.