Monday, April 09, 2007

On Being a Woman

I believe womanhood starts earlier than most of us are ready for.

One of the first signs is the beginning of breasts. Maybe you get them early, too early, or maybe you fervently pray for them.

But they do show up and the first thing you are instructed to do is to cram them in a bra. And it's uncomfortable. And you really don't want to wear one but if you don't, you'll jiggle. That is something to be ashamed of.

You grow hair under your arms, another thing to be ashamed of. You must shave your underarms and your legs too.

The ultimate betrayal is the period. As if things couldn't get any worse, that comes along. And maybe your mother tells you, "Make sure to keep very clean down there, because boys can smell that and they know what it is."

Then you have something to be super ashamed of.

The obsessing begins. Your hair is too straight or curly or frizzy or the wrong color.

You're too short, too tall or too fat. You're embarrassed to eat at a restaurant because surely everyone is waiting to see what the fat girl will order.

The messages begin. Maybe they are unsaid or said out loud. But you receive them.

You can't say what you think because you might hurt someone's feelings.

You need a man to be happy.

You have to be thin to be desirable.

It's unfeminine to laugh too loud or act too smart.

Don't compliment yourself. That's bragging.

And maybe you buy into this and try to mold yourself into what society thinks you should be but you always feel inadequate.

You go on with life and meet that man, maybe.

You are so happy and you get married.

You buy the house. You have the kids.

How could life get much better? How could you love these children and this husband any more than you already do? You are truly happy.

You devote your life to taking care of them and meeting their needs until you wake up one day and realize you're not even good at that.

The house isn't clean enough. You don't put out enough. Not everybody likes what you cooked for dinner. Where's the clean laundry? How could you have forgotten open house? Why aren't you thin and pretty like so and so's Mom?

You keep running in your hamster wheel thinking if you run just a little bit faster you'll catch up. Life is blurring by while you run in that wheel.

But then you get resentful. You love the kids, you really do. You love your husband too. But you feel at times that they are vampires sucking the very life blood out of you.

And you realize it's your own fault, for buying into the myths of what a true woman is. It's your fault for devoting yourselves to them and forgetting who you were. And who were you really? You don't know. You were too busy obsessing over who you weren't.

You can't remember that last time you let out a belly laugh, the last time you found anything funny enough to laugh so hard about.

"Is this it?", you wonder. "Isn't there more?"

How do you rediscover yourself or find yourself or whatever the hell it is you need to do?

And how do you avoid that voice in the back of your mind that says you're selfish for even thinking about it?

23 Comments:

Blogger Mary Poppins said...

Wow!!! That is an amazing post!!! I truly think that somewhere along the line we forget so many important things that truly make us happy and we conform to make everyone else happy but ourselves....

It's so funny how so many people talk about female empowerment and yet we are still told how to walk, laugh, eat and take care of our kids....

tsk tsk

12:34 PM  
Blogger paula said...

Caro? Are you okay?

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to remember what a warm hearted funny person you are and find some way to give yourself a reward once in awhile.

Mom

1:36 PM  
Blogger badgerdaddy said...

I think your mum's right.

Definitely.

This is a surprisingly common thing, this feeling. I could name a fair few people I know who felt, after a while (and usually after children) that they had sacrificed some of their own identity and were no longer being recognised as people. It's a tough thing, too.

But basically, your mum's right.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Ms.L said...

Aww Carolyn,I'm with ya:)
Wanna run away together?

Thank you for writing this post.
What you said is so true.

I'm thinking of you Love.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

You're not selfish! I don't think anyone who has kids is.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Ty said...

Ummm, have you been reading my mind?

3:37 PM  
Blogger daysgoby said...

You put your finger on my biggest sore spot right now -
am I doing this right?
And if I'm not, then why?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I feel like crying right now. Probably because I identify so much with this.

The sad part is, my daughter is just at the beginning stages of this progression (she's got the start of little boobies).

4:07 PM  
Blogger Iamthebookworm said...

I'm with you Caro. You are NOT selfish. I'll be thinking about you.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Mary - Exactly. We are people pleasers.

Paula - I'm fine. I was trying to speak for lots of women, not just me.

Anonymous - It's not about the reward so much as it is about finding yourself and who you are.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Badgerdaddy - I think it's probably why men have that mid-life crisis thing, that daily grind.

Ms. L - Hawaii or bust!

Bearette - I fantasize about being more selfish. :)

Ty - You've been having a rough run lately.

Daysgoby - The "why" crosses my mind frequently.

Roxanne - My daughter is there too and I'm dreading when we have to pull out the training bra.

Bookworm - Thank you.

6:49 PM  
Blogger craftydabbler said...

Oh yeah. I've bucked a lot of the things in your list over the years, and I'm glad. I'm so afraid of passing it on in some way to my daughter. I know she will get it from society if she doesn't get it from me.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Selfish:
devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

That doesn't even almost sound like you. Taking time to focus on yourself isn't being selfish, it's self-preservation.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

Crafty - It's hard to not pass those messages on. I try not to but I'm sure I've passed some of them.

Liz - You made me laugh. You are definitely a librarian.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Mad Rabbit said...

wow. Sounds like you are speaking for women in general. You have got to find an outlet for just you. Prior to sj you always had the going back to college thing to look forward to. Now you are not so sure you will ever be able to. I think you reaaallly need an outlet that does nobody any good except for you.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

MR - Does masturbating count? LOL

10:44 AM  
Blogger Sarah Louise said...

Loved loved loved this post!

I was an early bloomer in the having crushes dept, a late bloomer in developing physically and my first kiss was when I was 17. (By the time I was convinced it was never going to happen.)

My mom gave me hardly any information about my period except that for the year before it happened, if I said "ew, that was so gross" (like when I dropped my comb in the toilet) she'd say, "Did you get your period?" (Great PR, mom.)

I was the last of my friends to "become a woman" and let me tell you, early or late, it sucks either way.

And I really liked what Liz said--you are seeking self-preservation. From what I know of you in your blog you are not a selfish person. Self-preservation, however, is crucial to not burning out.

Hugs, SL

3:06 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

SL - I'm glad you liked the post. And yes the arrival of Aunt Flo is the worst part of growing up. We can't pee standing up and THEN we get that too. It isn't fair.

5:02 PM  
Blogger My float said...

I would have loved a little girl but in a way I was very relieved I had a son. All those things you listed? Me.

Children are such sensitive little souls. I'm sure I'd have passed on all my female hang-ups to my daughter!

I hated being a teenage girl. Hideous.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

My float - I agree that being a teen girl stunk. There seemed to be so many things to worry about. And we were all so MEAN to each other.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Gingers Mom said...

First...is your meltdown over? We have all been there. I don't know if anyone could have said it more eloquently. I felt like you reading my inner most thoughts.
I feel, often, like my one thing in life is being a wife and mom which I am proud of but that really, when you get down to it, I'm not that good at it.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

GM - My meltdown is over. LOL

I always feel inadequate too.

12:24 PM  

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