At heart I’m a tomboy, and I would be shocked if anything changes that.
However, over the last few months, I’ve been making an effort to get in touch with my own femininity.
For the longest time, femininity always felt so superficial and performative, reduced to just knowing how to wear makeup, curl hair and giggling at things (and men) who aren’t actually funny.
Obviously I’ve always known I’m a woman, and I never begrudged being a woman. I’m not going to sit here and curse God for giving me a uterus and a menstrual cycle. After all, if He’s the creator of the universe and everything is by His design, then there’s a reason He made me a woman instead of a man. But at the same time and for the longest time, I also couldn’t relate to the stuff other girls or women seemed to enjoy.
Middle school and high school me loved dystopian novels and politics – nothing about young adult fiction or teen-girl-centered books interested me. I wasn’t much into makeup and still don’t know how to curl my hair (nor do I care enough to learn how), and I wasn’t particularly social. In college I started playing with hair and makeup, but that was mostly about leaving the ghost of High School Allison behind more than anything else. Post-college life was better, albeit busier and eventually I stopped doing anything to my appearance beyond showering and skincare. In between work, training cycles and the errands that never seem to be completed, I didn’t have time for any extra stuff.
However, I felt a shift over the past two years.
At the start of 2019 my mental health started to decline. This was the result of major changes at OldJob and not having the help to get through them. Unfortunately, the depression that was lurking came to a head in February of 2020 following a professional blowup. I couldn’t stop crying and feeling like the world was trying to swallow me whole. My sadness became my new face and work uniform, and unfortunately, I don’t have a poker face.
The only upside to the pandemic was working from home for most of 2020, since I could at least relax in the comfort of my own home during stressful work days. But unfortunately that didn’t last long. From August until I lost my job in October the stress ratcheted up. I was experiencing heart palpitations and dizziness, as well as extended crying fits that could leave me frozen on my couch.
At the same time as the job stress was my relationship breaking apart. I don’t want to constantly rehash my former relationship every time I’m on here, but the final stretch from October 2020 to this past July took the depression from unemployment and amplified it. I crumbled even further into darkness. My ex went above and beyond to be unsupportive and frankly was pretty cruel towards the end, and I was nonfunctional. My house was never cleaned, I wasn’t eating well (and getting flak for eating “too many carbs” – can’t be seen with a chubby girl at the pool, you see) and half the time I wasn’t showering either. Every part of me was disconnected and defeated.
So by this point, you all are probably wondering what me being Not Like Other Girls as a teenager to the past two years being crappy has to do with reconnecting to my femininity. Well, here it is.
After the breakup I stumbled upon some YouTube channels about femininity and hypergamy. Hypergamy is a practice that basically means dating and marrying up financially or socially. So if I married a guy who made more than I do – regardless of whether it’s $10,000 or $100,000 more per year – then that’s hypergamy in action. At this point, securing a man/the bag isn’t a priority, so I was initially tempted to move along. But something in me compelled me to click one of the videos and watch it while I was cleaning up my kitchen.
And in the process I learned a lot about myself, my former relationship and my own concept of my woman-ness. I realized in my depression and trying to keep up with the life I had created, I lost that connection with my femininity – the peaceful, nurturing part that lives to create and cultivate.
Several videos talked about women being in their masculine and muling, which is working the stressful job with the long hours and then coming home to take care of the house, the kids and the man. I realized my stress from OldJob was the changes coming a million miles a minute and feeling unsupported when I asked for help, and that my body and mind were just plain tired. It also didn’t help my ex had this idea we might get married if I paid off my credit card, my car, had absolutely no debt at all, and would work to support him for the first few years of a potential marriage so he could get his side business going.
Everyone is going to be different on that last part, but to be blunt: if I’m going to be married and expected to grow, birth and raise small children (be the woman), I’m not going to work long hours outside the home (be the man) when the kids are under five. And I’m definitely not muling to support a man either, especially when the ones who insist their wives be mules are the first ones to bitch about how the wives have “let themselves go” for not having the time to dedicate to their looks and eventually leave for the (younger, thinner, hotter) preference once they come into some money.
Unfortunately the expectation women work like men but look, act and carry on as stereotypically feminine is nothing new. While I appreciate the work of early feminists and egalitarians to open doors for women to make the best choices for themselves – instead of being limited strictly to getting married and having babies as a security hammock – I resent the pressure on Millennials to be always hustling and particularly on Millennial women to be boss babes.
It’s an investment to smash glass ceilings at work. It’s also an investment to marry and especially to raise children. So to work like a man with a wife at home, completely invested in climbing the corporate ladder, but then go home and be the wife and mother who is completely attached and attentive to the needs of her children, and somehow have time to maintain a home and lifestyle to make other women jealous? I’m asking in earnest here – where did my generation go so wrong? When did “you can be anything you want” become the quiet pressure of “you must do it all in order to be worthy of praise?”
It’s all bullshit.
I realized I was tired of working like a man (in the office) and having the expectation of fulfilling the role of woman at home, of being expecting to carry on like I’m just like a man but with a uterus (in my relationship.)
Thankfully the job I have now is in the same industry, but less stress and with leadership that encourages the employees to take care of themselves first, no matter what. Ironically, after swearing that rising through the ranks wasn’t worth the heartache, the career goals that I abandoned are back. I’m feeling peaceful at work again and look forward to the future.
The femininity channels have also reinforced the importance of having boundaries, which honestly I wasn’t enforcing for myself. I’ve learned to not tell every single part of myself to just anyone, after years of priding myself on being my good ol’ blunt self. I had to learn to guard my heart and headspace, because God knows there’s plenty of people who want to get in there and live rent-free.
And I’m investing in my appearance for the first time, and that’s not just referring to filling in my eyebrows and wearing lipstick either. I’m food journaling to make sure junk food isn’t trumping real food. I’m getting all my annual wellness appointments scheduled so I can get myself in the best shape possible for running and life. I’m focusing on my skin and hair to get those in the best shape possible.
Going into my 30s, I’m sending a loud and clear message: I love myself enough to invest in me – physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. If you’re an energy vampire, a fearful pessimist, a woman looking for another crab to join her in the bucket or a dusty man looking for a mommy-maid, no-maintenance come up broad – don’t even bother. I’m not wasting time on you and you can’t afford this energy.
For so long I used to think being feminine was a superficial, performative role other older women would push on younger women because men/men’s egos/men’s feelings/men men men something or another. Now that I’ve experienced that disconnect and reunion with myself, I understand on a deeper level it’s not about men or really anyone else’s preferences.
It’s about me knowing who I am and feeling connected to all that makes me who I am. It’s about knowing that part of myself who wants to nurture the little girl within me and doing so. It’s about taking something from nothing and creating something beautiful, meaningful or helpful for the world around me. And really – it’s about resilience.
Last week I said I hate the phrase “strong, independent woman.” To put it simply, it’s redundant and unnecessary – by virtue of the fact we’re women, we already are resilient. We’re the ones who have to bear children and we were the ones who fought to become guests of honor at the table. And with that resilience is the intuition to sense when danger or do-baders are trying to come in, and to enforce those boundaries for ourselves. A feminine woman is a force to be reckoned with.
And my friends, I am that force.
Today’s post turned out to be way longer than I was anticipating, so for all of you who stay with me – thank you for being here. May you go forth nurturing and cultivating your own brand of positive femininity or masculinity, and remember the queens and kings you were designed to be.
Yours in reading and running,