We are in a weird place in womanhood. We are all seeking to be a bastardized version of Wonder Woman, both strong and delicate, while simultaneously spewing insults and bravado about the unity of women. We create a pinterest-positive-persona with barnwood signs on our hearts that say, “strong women; may we know them, may we raise them, may we be them” while in the same pulse throwing side-eye at that girl. We seek to feel empowered in our own skin, while tearing away at the flesh that unites us. We start a series of sentences with “we”, hoping to force ownership on others, hoping to uncover sorrows for sins against self, hoping to unify us, if by no other means than by showing our equal instinct to other ourselves in hopes of fabricating identity.
Women are strong. We are driven, focused, kind. We are brave. We are un-apologetically apologetic, and we are(n’t) sorry if that bothers you. If it’s not too much trouble. Sorry, it was just a silly suggestion. Whatever it was… I don’t know what lean in means. I forgot to read the book. I was probably reading Cormac McCarthy, who some people accuse of only writing weak female characters, and that is why I need to go to grad school, so that I can defend my literary boyfriend. But I digress. I’m so sorry.
Hindering that strength and bravery is this toxic need to look at each other in the way we accuse men of looking at us, not in the sexual sense, but in the less-than sense, the “she deserved that” sense, the “well maybe if she hadn’t” sense… and we have to stop.
I’ve been “jokingly” accused of working the corner, while wearing running gear, by a woman cloaking her disdain in modesty. I’ve been told to “put some clothes on” by a woman too scared to look me in the eye when I asked if she was addressing me – me who was wearing a sports bra, tank top, running shorts, perspiration, and the smell of hard work and self-confidence. I myself have judged a woman proudly rocking a mini-skirt and full leg hair, and I have side-eyed an older (but wicked hot-bodied) lady wearing an evening gown that plummeted to the base of her muscular back. The point is, under this umbrella of toxic womanhood, I have received, and thrown, more shade than a hundred year oak can provide at noon.
So, here is what I see in me.
I see legs longer than any girl 5’2″ should have, that can carry me over hills and rocks and roots, to the tune of 30+ miles. I see quads and hammies that squat, and lunge, and deadlift, and say good morning whether banded or barred. I see legs that beat an Army sergeant at a PT drill, while wearing wedges, that squatted more deeply, and ran with more speed than a man in combat boots. I see legs that can dance in heels, backwards and spinning, that can lift me onto toes to reach the lips of the man who loves me. I see legs that turn into a lap for kids and kittens and books, and this laptop. My husband (and Zac Brown) see pretty legs [that] go to heaven every time.
I see a set of God-given breasts that nourished and nurtured a baby for 20 months, that created and maintained an immune system that has kept that child illness free for 5 years, that have limited our use of antibiotics to two ear infections, and one bout of strep, in a child that has been in daycare since he was six weeks old. I see luxurious lumps of love for heads to find solace on, that have caught tears, hidden eyes from things they fear, and warmed a man’s heart when he needed solace. And, I won’t lie, I see power. And pleasure. And I’m not sorry for feeling sexual, because being sexual is my choice. Being sexualized is not. Sorry.
I see, reflected in the mirror, eyes that can discipline, console, and tempt. I see through these eyes to the soul of myself, where tempests blow one minute before turning into a placid sea. I see the blue of my father and the fire of his mother. I try to see, through these eyes, the goodness in others, and joy in God’s little things.
I see hands that can manage wrenches, sewing needles, the delicate blood vessels of a rat, and the spirit of a wayward mare. I see hands that can be manicured on top to hide dirt packed underneath. I see hands that are willing to pick up a frog to show my son, a snake to save my husband, and a flower for my mommy. I see hands that hold, and are held, that give and receive.
I see freckles that remind me of the greatest love story ever told, about an English boy who loved a Scottish girl, to whom he would write war letters always ending in, “I hope you still have your freckles when I get back”. I see other freckles that are mirrored on the flesh of my mother, sometimes the only physical similarity between her olive-complected beauty and my rusty barbarianism. I see freckles that remind me of days in the sun, at the lake, or in the mountains, running on legs that are strong, seeing God’s creation with eyes that are blue or green or grey depending on the mood of a spirit that cannot, will not, apologize for being sexy, and strong, and confident. And, hopefully, a little brave too.
It’s rare, but important, for me to see myself in this light, and not under the unnatural glare of other’s illumination. I cannot live my life on my stage, if I’m seeking spotlights from outside sources. Those lights will only show my flaw, my wrongs, my moments of not enough. I am enough.
If, you know, that’s ok.