It was as if I was hit by a ray of sunshine. I was riding a horse in some ridiculously tiny tank top, my hair was long and golden, and that ray of sunshine was the realization that all of the men at the stables were watching me. The old stable hand -- whose duties were grooming, feeding, and cleaning of horses -- and the young beautiful brother of the coach and all the others.
I straightened out in the saddle and that was also, possibly the moment when men watching me became more important than my beloved activity, which was riding horses (I never rode horses after that summer).
I was 15. I got drunk for the first time. Danced with those men who liked to watch. Felt their excitement against my body as we danced. I French-kissed for the first time. I lost my virginity.
I wrote about this before --that summer, the realization that I was a sexual being, a girl who men wanted to be with. Or not a girl -- a woman. I felt a woman because I felt powerful. Never before I felt powerful over men -- they were scary, big, intimidating. They were dad, uncles, shouty TV anchors, the creepy guys who exposed themselves.
The second time I became a woman, was when I got my first birth-control pill prescription because I was having regular sex with a live-in boyfriend. I had a gynecologist. I went to the women's clinic for regular check-ups.
I was in my 20s then and I was drunk a lot but I mostly drank to feel that power again, to chase that magic that struck when I was 15. I danced with my hips swaying, and hair-tossing -- all the biological, instinctive signals sent toward men to have them keep looking. I wore high-heels. Only women wear high-heels or, more precisely: in my opinion it was only women who knew how to wear them without wobbling as if their ankles were breaking.
It was fun to be a woman. I was getting gifts from men, flowers. Men took me on trips and to restaurants and I didn't have to do anything (unless I was in love, then I took them to Red Lobster) I just had to be. A woman. I understood men court women because that's what womanhood is: being courted. Men trying to get you to like them, maybe to marry them. I had incredible luck, I thought, with men trying to marry me or at least secure me, install me in apartments where we'd have dinner parties. Dinner parties were another milestone for this woman: showing all those other men who were invited that I could cook (I couldn't, for the life of me--still can't--but I tried).
Unbelievably, there were some times when I was boyfriendless. Those times were difficult because I was already a woman and without constant validation from some man--preferably my man -- I was only a half of something, maybe a weak little "wo," like a sad burp, since the second part of the word that described me wasn't there.
At 27, I got sober. I was single and I was no longer even a "wo." I was a girl. It felt as if I was 15, mentally, but 15 before that ray of sunshine struck me - -I was insecure, with my identity in shambles.
There were men in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous but I didn't quite know how to relate to them any more -- as a sober, shy girl -- and, anyway, dating was frowned upon during the first year of sobriety.
But I didn't listen -- a man came along! And I was a woman again! I went to restaurants, again, and on trips and had dinner parties and the man taught me how to separate whites from colours when doing laundry, which also made me a woman.
I liked it but around that time, I started feeling anger. It wasn't anger toward men -- I adore men -- but it was anger toward me. I let myself belong to men. No one was keeping me tied up to a bed post (usually) but I willingly defined myself by men, their interest, what they could teach me and how I could impress them. The common denominator of my understanding of womanhood was: men.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, womanhood is "the state or condition of being an adult woman and no longer a girl."
So at 31, I was still a girl -- an angry girl, broken. I loved high-heels still and I loved the attention but there was sadness in me that was infinite because I didn't know who I was.
I gave birth to a baby boy at 32. For sure, that was a sign of womanhood as defined by the XX chromosome. I spent 23 hours giving birth. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. I quickly learned how to take care of my baby but then, later, I failed at that too -- I started drinking because, well, that's how I coped with my lost identity, and I also suffered from post-partum depression. But I was there during family emergencies and I took care of my family best I could with my brokenness. So. Almost a woman.
Eventually, I got better. My son is six, now. I'm very proud to call myself a mom and raising my son has been what finally makes me feel like a woman -- not a fraud who used to call herself that. What else makes me feel like a woman is that I have a lawyer as I go through marital separation. We are selling our house. I am watching family pictures being taken off the walls of my former home and it is like watching (metaphorically) my future being dismantled. It hurts.
Is getting a divorce a sign of womanhood? It is. I've never felt being a woman more acutely than I do, presently. No, it doesn't make me feel amazing at all -- but I am on my own, which is hard but it is empowering. I do feel lonely. Lost. And I still act like a girl and I am undignified and whiny about my uncertain future. But I see other women who have gotten through similar upheavals and learned to be properly independent and who have regained their identities. I am looking forward to developing mine, further.
Happy Women's Day to me and to you.
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