Lately I’ve been faced with the challenge of being myself.
It is laughable – how hard is it to just “be yourself”, Stef?
It’s a little hard – I want so badly for people to like me – and historically I have been told that “myself” is a bit abrasive, loud, swears too much, and definitely not “Lady-like.”
I spent most of my formative years being told not to do something because it wasn’t “lady-like”. I was “too pretty” to let my teeth rot out of my head. I was a girl, I shouldn’t swear like a sailor. I was a girl, I should not carry a wallet in my back pocket. I was a girl, I couldn’t drive as well as a guy, I couldn’t handle certain conversation topics, and could certainly not be as interested in anything “manly.”
This traditional sense of “man” and “woman” has ALWAYS haunted me. I have a fairly traditional set of parents – and family. We split into the “men” and “women” during family gatherings, women are the ones asked to help with the meals, and men are the ones who play cards or watch sports games. My father felt fairly certain that there was a “women’s” section to our family vacations – he felt left out with no sons to bandy with him.
There was a time when I felt I had to reject any “manly” sorts of activity – boys did this, so I couldn’t. It prevented me from enjoying a lot of things I might have been able to practice at in my younger years, but c’est la vie.
Not being a boy made me feel not good enough. If only I could do manly things, my dad wouldn’t feel so lonely. I tried liking sports – it worked! Huge fan of football, and love basketball, and a few others I can stomach to see even with a husband who only likes the one sport I hate – soccer. I tried liking hunting – I just can’t. I don’t mind shooting at targets – but something about walking in a dusty field with asthma just does NOT appeal to this girl. I have plenty of female friends for whom hunting is a great joy – makes me happy they are called out there along with all the dudes – and I’m proud of the dudes who don’t make a big “thing” out of it.
I never felt too girly – and a lot may have been my build. I am not as tall as some women out there, but at 5’10”, I do have some height. I’m also built fairly solidly – bone structure, I mean – and this is not a figure that appeals to the general population. As a woman in a small, conservative locale, your attractiveness to men was a definite measure of worth. So here I was, not lady-like at all, too large, and frankly, with a huge chip on my shoulder. Dating, for me, was a huge mess.
I’m lucky enough to have married a man who is non-traditional – he was never worried about my manliness – and the times we do conform to our gender roles (I like to cook, he likes to hunt) he, like me, attributes it to our personalities – not our genders. He’s committed to letting our boys be who they are – wearing pink, nail polish – whatever they want to do. We are not “worried” they might be gay – if they are, great. We love them, so does God. We do not think pink or anything girly is indicative, nor a cause.
There are still some faith traditions that feel that only men are suited for leadership in the church – a point I truly disagree with. I’m seeking ordination with the ELCA, and am proud to be a woman in leadership. There are some traditions that say being gay (GLBTQIA) is not ok. I wonder for my GLBTQIA friends how hard it is to be who they are, when in some places it isn’t even safe. For this reason, I feel I must be willing to be me, my non-traditional, boundary-pushing self. If I can be me, perhaps I can pave the way for others to be themselves without fear of judgment or repercussions.