Monday, March 27, 2006

woman stuff

"Our perceptions are always coloured by how we see ourselves." - Debbie Ford

I remember the first time that someone referred to me as a 'woman.' I was in my teens and it was a boyfriend. Unfortunately for him it probably had the opposite effect from the one he wanted. I was so absorbed by and frightened of the fact that he had called me a woman that I was incapable of being near him and went home shortly afterwards. I'm not sure why it freaked me out so much. I think that I was really enjoying thinking of myself as a Girl. Being a Woman meant that I had to deal with a whole lot of other issues that I was not yet prepared for.

I think that that moment and others like it stalled me more than I realized. Just a few years before this poor boy's blunder there was a high profile serial killer caught in Southern Ontario. His victims were girls who were about the same age as I was. He had pulled them off of the street and done unspeakable things to them before he (and his wife) finally killed them. This was a very public case, and it frightened me so much that in many ways afterwards I was afraid to be seen as attractive. This early knowledge of sex and violence made me nervous of being the object of attraction. Unfortunately, in my head I equated being seen as sexy or beautiful with being vulnerable.

It's not that I have never tried to be beautiful or sexy. On the contrary, I would have really liked to have been seen in that way. Inside of my own head, though, I lacked the confidence to pull those looks off. Deep in my subconscious I did not want to be noticed. People told me that I looked beautiful and I didn't believe them. I really think I did not want to be that girl.

This is one of those posts that don't end up being the post that you started. This all came up because I have been reading a fabulous book called, "French Women Don't Get Fat." by Mireille Guiliano. In the chapter on Life Stages she says: (in the aged 17-35 section) "Now that you are making choices as an adult for the first time, make sure they are adult choices. The rules you violate are no longer your [parent's,] and it's no longer simply a matter of getting caught." For some reason that passage brought me up really short. I really realized for the first time how many of my choices and my actions have been about old fears and old patterns.

The most obvious example of this is that I still 'steal' cookies and other foods knowing that I am being a bit naughty. In a lot of ways I still behave like that little girl who was trying to put one over on her parents, or trying to get away with something. I still avoid going to the doctor, avoid cleaning up after myself, and I am definitely still that young teen who was frightened of the bogey man. The trouble with these rebellious teenaged actions is that I am no longer a teenager. There is no one now to catch me. I am now the boss of me. And I am not doing a very good job.

Somewhere along the line I forgot to look in the mirror and really see myself as an adult. Thinking that the way I was acting was right, I kept up those old protective patterns, kept playing those old tapes, and kept behaving like a child. That passage in that book made me truly realize that I am not that little girl anymore. At my center - my essence - I am still her, but I am a stronger, fiestier, braver, more resilient version of her. I can still look at the world with the wonder and the joy and the delight of my younger self, but now I think I am ready to also be her parent. I think I am ready to make my decisions from the center of who I am now. I can let her know that she is finally safe and that I have learned her lessons. I can tell her we're okay. And you know, I think I am also ready to be called a woman. Finally.

"One is not born a woman, one becomes one." - Simone DeBeauvoir


Laini Taylor said...

Meg, this is a GREAT post!! I can relate so entirely to that weird identity issue of being a "girl" or a "woman" and also to the whole grown-up issue, and being the boss of one's self. (And the sneaking cookies. Yes, yes!)

I think I've made tremendous headway in the past few years really realizing that if I want a certain kind of life, I have to provide it for myself, and that the only way to do that is to work really hard and drive myself towards that life ... there's no one else to blame if I screw around or putz around and don't get it done. I've never had any expectation of an inheritance to make my life easier, which I'm grateful for -- we all have to create our own future, and I'm glad I don't have the temptation of letting anything else decide, be it money or whatever.

I remember the weird period of wavering between being a girl and a woman, and though I've been pretty committed to the word "woman" for a while now, "girl" still slips out sometimes, with all its carefree youthful associations. In my head I KNOW I'm a 34-year-old woman, but I still don't really feel it. I don't FEEL like a grown-up who should be allowed to make choices and take care of herself!

tara dawn said...

These words ring so true for me as well. How long I have lived in old patterns, and it has only been in the past year or so that I have truly begun to examine these patterns and start to gather the courage to change them. What I have realized is that we all have an inner child, not only in the free, innocent and playful sense, but also in the scared and vulnerable and "little girl" sense. I wrote a poem once about the image of my own "little girl" meeting my adult "woman"'s not the best poetry, but let me know if you want to read it, and I'll send it.
I can see your strength and authenticity growing each day, shining through your words...and I am so proud of you, dear friend. You truly are a beautiful person...not because you're a girl OR a woman...simply because you're YOU!

Karen said...

Meg- I think this is an issue that so many women face and it affects all aspects of our lives...those that we realize and some that we don't even. How brave of you to face this head on. I feel that right now you are like a caterpillar who has become a chrysalis...I see the butterfly.
xoxo (ps..bought a phone card today)

Jessie said...

Your perspective on this topic is incredibly positive. And now that I think about it, it IS strange--that I'm 31 years old and am still reluctant to call myself a woman. I feel too short for that title. Too short, too fat, too flat-chested...whoa. Dang Megg--you've brought up a good point. I'm gonna go think about this now.

la vie en rose said...

ouch! i think you're talking to me too...

chest of drawers said...

I am almost 40 and I still feel like a girl rather than a woman sometimes. It´s hard to realise that I am getting older, not because I´m afraid of this or wrinkles or whatever responsibility that goes with it, but rather because in my mind I am still the child, the teenager, the young mother. I have grown up but I´m still me and I don´t want to leave the girl in me behind...does that make sense?

Bohemian Girl said...

oh, go eat that cookie. sometimes naughty is nice and cookies are sexy. *wink*

i resonate with this v. much...i am sure we all do.

wonderful, thought provoking post.

Connie and Rob said...

Very nice post. I saw this book several times at the bookstore. I think I will go pick it up for myself.

Thanks for sharing.


JourneyThroughLIfe said...

Oh my God, Meg. This was amazing! I've been through so much of the same thing that it was almost like reading my own life story. I valued reading about the journey you went through to draw the end conclusions. I'm going to read it again and see how it all fits within me. Whatever does it mean to be a "woman" though? I think I may have be formulating a vague idea. To be centred in yourself, to love yourself, to accept yourself for exactly who you are in every way - sexually, spiritually, physically, emotionally etc. The difference between a woman and a girl? - perhaps it is gaining the depth and understanding of all these areas and truly being yourself with no fears and no hiding - secure in yourself.

Tara - I would love to read your poem. If you read this, could you send it to me as well??!!


Living Part Deux said...

Megg, these are profound thoughts. It is amazing that one statement in a book can launch such deep discernment and self-understanding. Accepting and embracing ownership of your own life, represented by transition from girl to woman is a huge step. Isn't it interesting that it is really a choice, not something that happens automatically? Great post!

melba said...

I know what you mean by "stealing cookies"
I had a boyfriend that would always comment on what I ate...since I already had food issues this was not a good thing or a good relationship that somehow I stayed with for 6 years. Yikes!

So now I feel like Sean is judging me when I eat naughty foods. He can tell I feel guilty and he will always try to encourage me and tell me he wants me to enjoy myself..."it is ok to eat ice cream".
He constantly tells me I am beautiful and sexy, sometimes this little voice whispers, "he's lying"

Hmmm. Your post gave me a lot to think about. I didn't consciously think about that whisper before.

I will have to ponder this some more.

Letha Sandison said...

Megg, this is a wonderful post!! I really related to so much of what you wrote here. That transition to adulthood, self acceptance, and consciense choice making is a tricky one. It is especially tricky because I think that "girl" still lives within each woman, always.

I have always been fearful and had self-confidence issues and no matter how much I embrace the woman in me, I still hear those negative tapes playing from time to time. They play when I am feeling vulnerable, like before an art show, launching my website, showing my clothes etc... I am sure you hear yours at similar times. when you are sending out your book for example.

I dunno what tools you use to let yours go...but here's what I do. I listen to them, realize that little girl in me is still there and thinks she needs the tapes, then I focus on the woman in me and decide to let them go. I still hear them and if I am honest, I think I always will. However, now I don't let them rule me. I understand what my insecurities are and know I have to work against them. I guess it ammounts to knowing yourself, accepting yourself and not letting you hold you back.

Thank you for sharing this today, I needed it. I was struggling with an old tape this morning and you have helped me to hit the stop button.

Katrina said...

Wow. I needed to read this today, and I'll probably read it again. This is exactly where I am in my head right now -- not sure if I could have articulated it as well, though. Thanks.

Cate said...

Thank you, Megg, for sharing your thoughts about this topic. I remember being a girl who did NOT want to grow up (did not want breasts, did want to wear a bra, etc.) and I've evolved, finally by 34, into a woman who loves curves, quirky beauty, learning from mistakes, and taking a stand. Thank you for telling us about that passage from "French Women ..."--it's definitely in the queue now--but most importantly, thank you for being so honest and eloqent about YOUR process.

P.S. Can't stand now when women are called "girls" by certain industries (i.e. modeling). They make it sound like a lump, derogatory, anonymous term, somehow.

P.P.S. I read a lot of true crime but I CANNOT bring myself to read that book about that husband and wife team from Ontario--too horrifying.
P.P.P.S Have a good day!

HoBess said...

What a terrific post. I've heard many great things about this book, but none so wonderfully written as you sharing your conversation with yourself. Sharing these little talks you and you have is so very brave.
And I love the DeBeauvoir quote! It so ties into things I've been thinking about these past days. Thanks for your kind comments on my blog ... I liked the reminder that what I type today is a snapshot, not who I am. *hug!*

Earth Monkey said...

hi, thanks for sharing such a wonderful story... this transition, so profound. i love being a girl but yet i MUST be woman. I love to hide out, but i must be responsible. oh these contradictions... i could go on for hours. I really enjoy your writing. cheers!