I Didn't Look Like Me: Where Does Feminine Come From?

Syndicated

A few weeks ago, I went to a party and there was a professional photographer there. A few days after the party, the organizers started tweeting a few photographs as a teaser. The images were beautiful. People that I had stood around and talked to had been captured perfectly: soft, glowing, and still authentically the people that I remembered meeting.

When the e-mail came that more photos were available to see I was excited to click through to look for photos of myself. That is something you will rarely find me say. Towards the end of the collection I saw the photo. Me. Standing at an island in a kitchen. Obviously a plaid shirt. Obviously my hair was pulled back into a messy nest of a bun. Obviously my face had no make-up on except for the party red lipstick I thought I was going to wear so well. My plaid messenger bag, the only "purse" I have that isn't a diaper bag or a backpack, was flung across my chest. And in my profile I looked hard. Tough. Maybe even mean.

And the part that caused me to literally choke up? I didn't look the least bit feminine. I didn't look like me. Or at least the image of me that I had of me in my head. The one that I thought that the world was seeing. I think I thought the world was seeing some sort of Earth Mother type. Amazon Woman type. Round and red. But seeing the image of me through the lens of a stranger proved otherwise.

This led me to do some serious thinking. Which led me to realize something that is going to be hard to admit but it is the honest truth -- I think I turned in my Woman card the minute I decided to become a single mother. Or maybe I stopped being a woman when I became a full time caregiver. The moments happened almost on top of each other so it is hard to know which is chicken and which is egg. All I know is that 2003 is the year I stopped feeling feminine.

Sure I had a couple moments left in me of party dresses and high-heeled shoes, but the walls of womanhood were swiftly crumbling down. And the tricky part is that I have no idea what it is that was behind the fortress of my femininity. No idea what I am now that that part of me has crumbled away and turned into shiny pebbles scattered about.

What I realize though, as I struggle to comprehend this loss of a part of myself, is that I want it back.

This is where I am totally and absolutely and 100% lost. Because where does feminine come from? Does it come from boobs? Hair? Shoes? Makeup? Having a small butt? I'm at a total loss. Once upon a time my femininity came from other people. I felt like an attractive woman because I dated men that told me I was attractive and being with them allowed me to feel more attractive and I was just all that and a bag of peppermints.

And then I got a career and I stopped really caring about dating because I knew it would be there for me when I was ready -- like a scarf that one is forever knitting. I would reach a landing pad within my career path and then I could relax and I could focus back on dating and marriage and family and apple pie.

Except my life didn't take that path. It did a bit of a zig and then a bit of a zag, and the next thing you know, I'm practically having a virgin birth.

And motherhood didn't make me suddenly feel like more of a woman. If anything it enhanced my inner schlub to a pretty scary degree. I now had a total legit excuse to go an extra day or two between washing my hair or changing out of my yoga pants. Speaking of hair, I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn it down since W was born. And the freakish insanity that happened to my body through fertility treatments to pregnancy to post-pregnancy certainly didn't turn on any Aretha Franklin anthems.

Most of the time, I see my body as part failure and the rest of the time I see it as blah. It's in better shape than it has been in a while so yay me for that, but starting with my feet and working my way up, I think I am clunky.

I'm going around in circles here. Just tell me this -- what makes you feel like a woman? Be brutally honest and vain and tell me everything.

Photo Credit: Calliope.

Calliope tweets @calliopeblogger & blogs about Alzheimer's, infertility, and single motherhood at Creating Motherhood

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