Just the right amount

About a week and a half ago, a friend saw me dancing, and had a thought that she didn’t know at the time I would really need to hear.  She didn’t tell me about it just then, but about a week and a half later.

Since I was about 18 — it took me a while — I realized that I wasn’t nearly as girly as most other young women around me.  I had been a tree-climbing, kickball-playing, barefoot tomboy as a child, with absolutely no regrets.  It didn’t bother my mother, either, at least not that I know about.  I went to a small elementary and high school — a VERY small school — and there weren’t enough people to form cliques.  Pretty much everyone was friends with everyone, and no one got singled out.  I would be teased occasionally for my love of “weird” music, but I think that’s about it.  Unless I was clueless to others’ opinions of me, which is a great likelihood.

I think it wasn’t until I got to college and witnessed — from afar, by choice — the sorority rush season at the school I attended, Tulane.  And I lived in a dorm with a bunch of young women.  And I saw a wider range of girls than I’d ever been a part of, previously.  And it dawned on me that I really wasn’t interested in what about 98% of them were interested in, and I started feeling like I had somehow missed the instruction manual on How to Properly be a Girl.

I’m now 38, and I have carried that my whole adulthood.

Yet, I like my interests.  I can’t imagine not liking baseball, or hiking (a neighbor gasped recently, “By yourself?  Aren’t you scared?” which hadn’t even occurred to me).  I think I look better wearing make-up, but most days, I don’t.  I feel like a faker/poser when I wear anything fancier than jeans.   I wear a dress maybe six times a year.  My walk feels clumpy to me — I’m bowlegged, my feet point out, I have thick ankles…

Sometimes my felt lack of femininity — both internally and externally — bothers me, sometimes not.

But, there are definitely times where I feel a disconnect when talking with other women, and that troubles me.  I do a lot better now than I used to;  I specifically look for things in which I can connect, things in common, and when all else fails, I just keep asking them questions and don’t talk about myself at all.  Most women like to talk about themselves.  😉  But, more often than not, I start feeling awkward and too aggressive, and less feminine… or that I’m missing cues she’s sending (because that doesn’t come naturally to me), or something like that.

When thinking about this post, I could come up with about fifty things, right off the top of my head, where I’m really not as girly as most women, or things I like that most women don’t like…  Then, I started getting depressed, and decided to stop making that mental list.

So, please imagine my surprise when a lovely lady, my friend Brenda, pulled me aside and quietly told me a few days ago, “I watched you last Sunday in SuperChurch while you came off the stage and danced*.”  It was the Cha-Cha Slide, which the kids love to do, and is loads of fun; the teachers will occasionally put the music on when the adult service is running long and they need to kill some time with the kids.  She continued, “My thought right then was, as I was watching you dance, ‘She is so feminine.’  And I thought I should share that with you.”

She did this because in a conversation on Facebook, I had made the comment, “I tend not to read books for women because I get discouraged about how… unwomany I am.”  A few responded with encouragement, a few with incredulity, a few with, “I feel similarly!”  Brenda never commented, but she told me that after she read it, she thought to herself that I’d probably appreciate her sharing her thoughts with me.

Which I did.

Then, she made it even better by saying that she was thinking about how to tell me, and she got the thought, “You have just the right amount of femininity.  Just the right amount for yourself, and just the right amount for your daughters.”

Tears welled up.

That was so significant for me.

It sunk in deeply, immediately.  I could feel how important this was, and that this was going to be a pivotal moment in my life.

I’ll never forget it.

It made perfect sense.  YES, I’m not all crazy-feminine with pink, lacy frills, talking about Coach bags and mani-pedis (I’ve never had either), and neither do I seek out chick flicks — I’ve never seen Titanic or The Notebook —  and I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a commercial.  I have NEVER watched Lifetime channel.  I’m low-maintenance, and I love sports and I don’t run from conflict (even when, perhaps, I should).  I don’t like to be the center of attention, and tend to shy from anything flashy or shiny.  I generally don’t ever fear for my safety, and I worry that my children will look back and think I wasn’t nurturing enough as a mother.  But, God knew what He was doing when He made me, and in His wisdom, He gave me just the right amount of femininity.

Just the right amount.

————————

*I had led worship for the 6-12 year old kids.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 10, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I am a natural childbirth advocate and an erstwhile birthing class instructor. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 19, 2011, in Character Development, Encouragement, Friendships, Introspective Musings, Vineyard Phoenix. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I too can relate. I’ve been told countless times that I am very feminine but I don’t feel like it either. I hate doing my hair which is why I wear it long so that I can wear it in a pony tail. I hate applying makeup but do if I am leaving the house. I have never had a manicure and had 3 pedicures in my life. (2 of those times I was pregnant and couldn’t reach my feet) I hated it. I’ve had a couple of massages too but was never able to enjoy that either. A day at the spa doesn’t particularily appeal to me. I too feel like a faker if I dress up in more than a t-shirt and jeans. I’m not romantic nor am I sentimental. My husband has said many times that I think like a man. So these similarities make me wonder if any of us feel like we measure up to other women, in all sorts of ways.

    • Kim, I can totally see YOU in what you wrote, but it’s funny, because here comes another person saying you are very feminine. I think it’s in your bearing. You are lovely, and I’m not just saying that to make you feel good because you know, I think like a man, too, and I just don’t say stuff JUST to make people feel good, if it’s not true. 🙂

      The thought of a massage FREAKS ME OUT. I would way, way, way NEVER want a stranger’s hands prodding my body. Ack. It would have the opposite effect on me; I would become a bundle of nerves.

      And, yeah, that’s one reason I wrote this, because I have found so many women who feel similarly, but it’s like a secret or something…

  2. I feel like I’ve been commenting waaaay too much on your posts lately, but I just couldn’t resist this time. When you talk about your lack of femininity, I feel like you are talking about me… 🙂 I love gardening and being outside and getting dirty and swimming and hiking. I like to wear skirts and dresses if the occasion calls for it, and I wear makeup maybe 4 or 5 times a year. My husband and I usually split driving responsibilities on long trips and sometimes I drive more. I like to do some traditional or old-fashioned womanly things like knitting and canning and cooking and baking, but the modern girly girl frankly freaks me out. Your paragraph about getting people to speak about themselves really rings a bell with me. But I guess I’m sort of proud of the way I am and my husband sure doesn’t complain either! So I’m at peace with how I am, but thanks for articulating so well on my behalf… Except that I really don’t like watching sports, haha!

    • Will you teach me to knit, Heidi? 😀

      The “modern girly girl” freaks me out, too. And more so, now that I have little girls. My 5yo is SUPER girly in what appeals to her, but she has many of my… aggressive traits, too. She’s not gentle, she gets into people’s faces, she’s *very* loud. She’s much like Olivia the pig — the book version, not the TV show version. Dressing up in a billion outfits, but making a mess and being extremely stubborn, too. So, I look at her and think that she’s probably a good mix. Fiala is 2 and is more like me. 🙂 It’s hard to keep them away from the whole “princess” thing, though there’s a part of THAT that appeals to me, too. My femininity was definitely NOT encouraged when I was a child, and it just seems…. right that my 5yo feels comfortable to dress up and twirl around and sing, “I am so beauuuuuuutifuuuuullll and prrrrrrretty” and bat her eyes as she looks over her shoulder, which she has certainly not learned from me; it’s innate. It has actually been really eye-opening to see her grow, because she has had super-girly tendencies from when she was just a few months old.

      And, Heidi, I like PLAYING sports, too. 🙂 At 38, though, I’m def doing more watching than playing, though!

      • P.S. I love hearing from you. You have good comments, always thoughtful and well-expressed. By the way, I bought some smoked paprika!! 🙂 I used it in a Crockpot dish with a pork roast, onions, red bells, tomatoes, cumin, and some weird gourd-looking firm zucchini-tasting squash from my CSA basket. It was really good!! It smells stronger than it tastes, though, so next time, I will use a lot more.

        • Hmmm. I have a pork roast thawing in my fridge. I was going to stick it in the slow cooker this morning, but then I forgot about it. Whoops. I think I’ll stick it in tomorrow before church with some potatoes and zucchini and maybe beans. I refuse to buy any vegetables right now; we’re eating only what we have in our garden… so that means lots of zucchini, beans, and potatoes, along with a few other things… BUT… it wasn’t actually me that you were having a conversation about smoked paprika with; I remember seeing those comments, but I don’t remember who you were having the conversation with. 😀

          My daughter is also a funny combination of girliness and aggression. She likes to dress up and she likes princesses (much to my chagrin) and she’s started liking me to do her hair, but she also likes to run around naked outside and she is SO tough when she gets hurt and she can climb like no one’s business. It’s actually kind of scary to watch her sometimes. And she pushes her brother around all the time (drives me nuts!!) but she can also be kind to him.

          Hmmmm… Long distance knitting lessons?? Haha… If you’re actually interested in learning and have no one who can teach you in person, I think there are a lot of pretty good youtube videos on it.

          I’ve never been particularly good at organized sports. I like swimming and walking/hiking and biking and I used to like soccer, but that’s about it.

          • Oh, my word. Actually, as I was typing my last reply, I thought, “Wait. Was that Heidi with the smoked paprika?” I should have gone back and checked, but I was in a hurry! Serves me right. 🙂

  3. You’ve really been on a blogging roll lately. Seriously. Where ya getting all this inspiration for what we all need to hear at just the right time?!

    My Aunt told me a few weeks ago that I don’t dress like normal people. Wasn’t quite sure how to take that.

    I think we all deal with this constant comparison, because our world is just soooooo FULL of messages of what is normal and acceptable. Everyone is supposed to fit the cookie-cutter. But, none of us really do. Not even the people they made the cookie-cutter after! (All those magazines and TV shows….so not real.)

    I guess we are all in the same boat–even if we don’t know it!

    My other thought, reading your post, was how wonderful it is to know people who will be obedient to the Holy Spirit and speak those little words of encouragement. It may seem insignificant t them, but it is HUGE to the hearer. Sometimes we just need the courage to speak those little things and not qualify them first–because the Holy Spirit knows what needs to be said.

    • (Btw, I don’t think The Notebook is a chick-flick and I’m a connoisseur of chick-flicks. LOL! Love me some happily ever after! But, I liked The Notebook despite the hype. I don’t think, though, that I liked it for the same reasons that other people liked it, if that makes any sense. If you ever see it, I’d love to talk about it. But, don’t want to spoil it by sharing my thoughts now.)

    • About having others to speak the Holy Spirit to us: YES. In fact, I meant to include a bit about that in this post, and forgot. I am LOVING the Body of Christ right now, and I pray that my love and appreciation grows. I got an e-mail from a sister in Christ whose family has “withdrawn” from the Body for nearly a year now, under the auspices of the husband being priest of the home… doing church at home. While a part of me can see value in that route for a season (maybe), that makes me sad. I would DRY UP. I absolutely adore the dynamic of give-and-receive via a local body of believers. There’s no substitute for that.

      About not being normal. OK. This is a huge confession that I’ve been contemplating writing about, but I go through seasons of watching America’s Next Top Model on Bravo. I have really mixed feelings about the fashion industry, but I find the show fascinating and moving, largely because it takes young women who — many of them — are shy and withdrawn, hurt by rejection (for being lanky or having unusual looks), etc., and teaches them how to present themselves confidently, even if they don’t FEEL it. Watching them flower and step into some confidence and out of that cloud of, “I am less than….” is inspiring and touching to me. I don’t get the chance often to watch the show, but I did catch some episodes last night, and the girl who won at the end (who I really wanted to win) said something as she was in tears and awe, “All my life, I’ve felt not-normal,” and one of the judges responded, “You’re not normal. You’re America’s Next Top Model.” That may sound ridiculously cheesy, but it spoke to me. It’s hard to be the fish that swims upstream, but if we can get over feeling “less than”, we can make a glorious impact on our worlds, both for the cause of Christ, and just because as we draw closer to Him, He makes us **MORE** than we ever could have been on our own, with our own skewed perceptions and insecurities.

      I think that for many of us introverts (would you consider yourself an introvert, Daja? Not sure about that.), there does certainly come a point where we just have to choose to stick out our hand to a lady and say with conviction, “Hi! I’m Karen. I don’t believe we’ve ever met!” and there just isn’t magic pixie fairy dust to make that FEEL comfortable. But, should we tuck into our shells and retreat because speaking with other women doesn’t feel “natural”? I don’t think so. I think that can be used in the arsenal of the enemy’s weapons to keep us squashed under his thumb and ineffective as bearers of the nature of Jesus, and just as women. My tendency — in my flesh, having my own druthers — would be to live off the grid, in a cabin by myself at the end of a five-mile long dirt road. But is that the Father’s plan for my life??? Absolutely not. I shudder to think of what my life would be — if I would even be alive! — if it wasn’t for the power of God in my life.

      Maybe that’s a rabbit trail, but for me, it’s connected. 😀

  4. Leaving aside the vexing issue of God, I very much empathised with this – I remember working for a big telecomms company in my early twenties with a large group of very macho, very hard-drinking etc engineers. We kind of got on but there was definitely this strange gulf. A female co-worker doing the same kind of role as myself encapsulated it very well “To them, you’re a kind of third sex.” Decades (and no small amount of gender theory) later, I still struggle with a lot of the conventional ‘masculine’ roles in terms of how males traditionally play them.

    Fate has played a funny trick then in putting in the situation where my 3yo daughter is a ballet dancing fanatic who wants to dress in pink and be a fairy princess and my partner has jsut taken voluntary redundancy (largely to spend more time at home!) leaving me the “sole-breadwinner”).

    Aside from that, what you’re experiencing sound to me like a classic case-study of the difference between biological sex differences and socially constructed gender differences. Western society demands this absolute division between socially acceptable male and female identities when the reality is much more of a continuum…

    • Michael (I always think of you as Michael, even though you’re now officially “Gabriel”. Same with my older brother. He has been “T.J.” to me forever, and I just can’t bring myself to call him his adult name, Tom. But, I digress.) ~ I agree, and I don’t with your last paragraph. Clearly, I feel…. SOMETHING, though I don’t know if I would call it “social pressure to conform to socially constructed gender differences”. It’s more that I observe a difference, and *know* that I am different from most other women, and I wonder what about that is healthy and beneficial, and what isn’t. AND, what is just an illusion, as there are a great many women who FEEL like they’re less feminine than other women, yet the perception by OTHERS is quite the opposite. So, to where is the credit for that gap due? There is the issue of perception by others, self-perception, reality, social acceptability, biology… I would suggest that with each person who feels “different”, there are probably a variety of factors — both real and imagined — that lead one to that place. Add to that mix is abuse by others. Sexual abuse or even “just” mental/verbal abuse can really alter a person’s understanding of self, and healthy, whole “gender roles”.

      I don’t know if any of that makes sense. I just think that there is more at play that JUST nature vs nurture, biology vs social construction.

      I appreciate your contribution to the conversation, though!!!!!

    • I agree very much with your last paragraph… I was on another (non-Christian) blog forum a while ago having a very similar sort of conversation, and that was basically the conclusion that everyone involved in the discussion came to; that male and female identity is on a continuum; and furthermore, that where we are on the continuum does NOT necessarily define our sexual identity.

      It seems especially unfortunate to me that it is American style Christianity that really pushes for the absolute division of identities and absolute, clearly set gender roles, with the assumption that that’s how God “wants” it, and that if you’re not within those boundaries, you are somehow outside of God’s will… I’m truly thankful that my pastor husband is not conventionally masculine in every way and helps me in the kitchen and bathes the kids and changes diapers, as well as mowing the lawn and splitting and stacking our wood for winter burning! Though he does balk at picking out clothes, particularly for our girl. 🙂

    • I should clarify; I actually agree very much with your last sentence… I don’t know Karen Joy enough to know whether she is a “classic case study pf the difference between biological sex differences and socially constructed gender differences,” and I think most situations in life are too complex to generalize to that degree.

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