All my life I’ve been surrounded by some pretty interesting women. Some are strong and decisive. Some are submissive and demure. Some are independent and confident. Some are weak and self-defeating. Pretty much most of them are as crazy as me and I adore them, flaws and all. But here’s the thing. I often feel like I don’t have much in common with them.
You see most of my life I have struggled with the idea of being a woman. I grew up in an era where being a proactive feminist and embracing your womanhood was the thing to do. And I’m all for it. But I’m just not sure where my womanhood is or what it actually looks like. It’s as though I put it down to do something else and when I turned around to look for it, I’d forgotten where I’d left it.
I have never categorised myself as a natural mother. It’s never come too easily to me and I was never overly maternal. I’ve always had to work at it and I’m never sure of what I’m doing. Yet I am surrounded by women who live, breathe and rejoice in everything that being a mother entails. They co-sleep; breast feed; playgroup; meal plan their children to within an inch of their tiny little lives like its second nature. I bumble through, speaking to my kids like “real people” because I forget sometimes that I’m meant to be the responsible grown up. And it feels weird and clunky and everything seems wrong and out-of-place and I’m the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea how to raise a child properly. Where was I when they gave out that instruction manual?
The problem is that no-one ever gave me a clear definition of what it meant to be a woman. Everyone gave me their opinion on what they thought a woman was.
The nuns and teachers who educated me through my teenage years taught me that I would be a woman if I learnt to sit with my ankles crossed and knees together. Coupled with ceasing all swearing, wearing skirts 1cm above my knee and never under any circumstances should I speak to, touch, fondle or kiss a member of the opposite sex. Righto. (Obviously I failed at all of that. Let’s move on to the next part of my life.)
Then in my twenties I found myself bombarded with the “successful woman”. I had to forge a career and grow balls and bust other people’s balls all in my efforts to establish a meaningful life. OK. Got it. Become a man to be a real woman. Hang on a minute….wait….what?
Let’s head into my thirties where I was given a bit of a reprieve. Told to work part-time school hours and take up yoga and baking and part of me could actually see some sense in all of it. The most serious thing you had to avoid were wrinkles and the middle age spread and if you do that you’ll be content and peaceful. Ummmm. Still looking for the peaceful part – did I lose that benefit because I let my wrinkles get a foothold on my face? Maybe I should have paid more attention to the cosmetics sales girl at the department store.
Then there’s now. I find myself still as lost as when I first became aware of the fact that I was no longer a girl but becoming a woman. I still feel as though I’m not sure what all the pieces are meant for and where they belong. I’m not really any better at understanding pretty much everything that happens in life every single day. And yet I’m meant to be in my prime. I’m meant to be confident and sure of my abilities; taking control and wowing everyone with my brilliance; knowing my innermost needs and desires and fulfilling them. But I….but…..help….me….
And what about the next step? How can I seriously be left without adult supervision to figure that shit out correctly? You can’t expect me to do that without giving me a decade to plan can you? I seriously need one of those brown paper bags to breathe into right now – that will help won’t it? It always does in the movies. Oh sweet baby Jesus it’s not helping…
Then the other day I had a chat with a lady who was on the downhill slide towards 90. I was meant to be trying to help her out with something and was managing to right royally stuff it up. I apologised and tried to make light of it by telling her that it was obvious that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or where I was heading in this life. Quick as a wink she gave me a smile and said “Neither do I young lady and that’s half the fun of this ride.”
Oh…….of course it is………