Monday, April 20, 2009

Ironically Female.

Several things have happened to me in the past three days that I am not sure how to address. I've been depressed, angry, sad, and embittered, and felt a bit trapped all at once. Mostly, I just want to curl up in bed and stay there for a very long time.

Let me first be clear. I like my hair. I think it's pretty. I think it looks graceful and wise, and ultimately, I think it looks like me. I like that I don't have to take care of it much. I like that it brings out my eyes. I like that it brings out my cheekbones. I like it. Period. I think that, contrary to instinct, it is very feminine looking.

Saturday I went shopping at Walmart.

I'm working on getting rid of my baby pudge through running, and it's going relatively well, so I grabbed two bikinis off the rack to check out. I've never worn bikinis much, but I figured, hey, what the hell, right?

I also grabbed a cute blue sundress. I own zero dresses, so I figured I should get one.

I went to the changing rooms. I was wearing a relatively tight fitting black t-shirt with Irish writers on it, and my ever faithful grey yoga pants. The woman glanced up. I told her I had four items. There were a few people sitting in chairs waiting for fitting rooms to open. The woman gave me the number four, and I looked around, figuring maybe I had been mistaken, and there were open rooms, these people were just waiting for friends. I went over to the women's side and noted that all of the rooms were full. I turned back to find a seat to wait. The woman who had given me the ticket said "You can just go over here if you want." It was the men's side. I wasn't sure what to do. I had never been faced with a situation like that before. I had always been told that the women's rooms were full and I would have to wait. Now, looking back, I should have said I would be more comfortable waiting for a changing room on the woman's side, but instead, I swallowed the lump in my throat and went over to the men's side.

Maybe the woman thought I was a lesbian. Which is fine with me. If people want to think that then they can think it. If they bother to get to know me then they'll find out I'm married to a wonderful man and have two children with him and am not interested in women in a sexual way. Whatever. But even if I wasn't straight, what the heck? How dare she assume something like that? And please, I'm obvious not male. I have boobs. I'm carrying a sundress and two bikinis. Give me a break.

I went over to the men's side and changed. I'm still not ready for a bikini. I bought the dress.

Today I took my son to the doctor. We've been having a run on visiting the physician here at our house between my son and daughter. It was a really tough visit. Maeryn is getting better, and so back to her VERY active mischievous self, and Jonah is puking and pooping and lying around whining most of the day. I didn't sit down in the waiting room because that would've been impossible. I chased Maeryn and tried my best to check in with my sick little boy as much as possible.

In the waiting room, there was a mother and her son. The son looked to be about twelve years old. After they had been there about five minutes the boy looked over at his mother and said, "Mom, that lady is ugly. She looks like a boy." The mother looked up at me from her magazine, scanned me, and looked back to the magazine. She didn't say anything more to the boy. Didn't correct him, nothing.

It hurt.

No one has called me ugly since second grade. And then it was a girl. It felt the same. It hurt as much. It's a cutting thing to say to someone.

It's honestly possible I've been called ugly other times but don't remember. The time in second grade was the first time in my life. This time was the first time in years.

It was not a good appointment. Jonah ended up with all sorts of physical ailments and I needed to drop by CVS to get his prescription filled.

I pulled up to the drive-thru pharmacy because there was NO WAY I was taking screaming Maeryn who didn't want to be put down or held in my arms and whining, sick, barely able to walk on his own drama king Jonah inside the store.

I pulled up, grabbed the prescription, rolled down my window, and pressed the button for service.

Much more quickly than usual, a young, African American woman came to the window. She smied pleasantly at me and I smiled at her.

"How may I help you, sir?"

I fumbled all over for words. I wasn't sure how to respond.

When I cut my hair, I expected people would stare. I expected people might think I was gay, or had cancer or something like that.... but to be actually mistaken for a man? To be called...sir, by a well meaning pharmacist? I just...there are no words.

"Uh, I'm just dropping off for my son." I said.

She looked at me again, and then flushed with embarassment, "Oh, MA'AM, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," I said, "I have really short hair."

When I got home I just felt tired and devastated and generally wiped out. I put Maeryn to bed, which is what she wanted the whole time anyway, and set Jonah up with a day of television and resting on the couch under the Steelers blanket. I tried to call Michael. I want someone to tell me I wasn't ugly. I needed affirmation that I was still feminine, still beautiful, still desired.

There was no answer.

I tried my friend, Summer. I wanted to tell someone. I wanted to talk to someone who knew I was a girl. Knew for sure. Treated me like one.

No answer there, either.

I went into the bathroom to pee.

Lo and behold, my period had started.

It seemed some sort of cruel irony.

I burst into tears and threw the phone across the bathroom.

"WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!" I screamed to the heavens, "What the hell am I supposed to do?"

Today, I will be consuming copious amounts of Dove chocolate.


Peter and Amy said...

I think you're beautiful. And more importantly, a really good person :)

Beth said...

You know, your notes about the hurt you feel, when people make assumptions based on your appearance,take me back to a series of occurrences when I was just about your age. Eowyn had just been born; I had gained weight with her (gone from a healthy weight to having gained 50 lbs-I always gained 'too much' when pregnant, then lost it over the next year of breastfeeding); Osa was in the throes of Test Pilot School,and emotionally missing in action at the time,and I was still struggling with my relatively new "identity" as a naval officer's wife, something I did not take to, and knew even less about.
So there I was, two little girls, a new baby, just thrown into a new life and a new location, and thirty pounds overweight. Now, I had been a beautiful girl. I realize that, now. In fact, at forty-eight, and well OVER thirty pounds overweight, I'd sure like to look just like I did then! But there was this one problem: I gain a disproportionate amount of weight on my stomach. Pregnant or not, I looked six months pregnant. I looked six months pregnant a year after Eowyn was born. In fact, I looked so undoubtedly pregnant,that every week or so, SOMEONE would ask when I was due, was this my first baby, or congratulate me. The first umpteen times, I said, "Oh, I'm not pregnant." They would then either dart away in embarrassment, or apologize, or give me a rude stare. It became so painful to me, to be mistaken for a very pregnant lady, so many times, that I began to try not to correct people, because nine times out of ten, it was a woman trying to be friendly, and I knew I was just going to ruin her day right along with mine!
Then, three years later, Nate was a baby, we were in Japan, and amongst the American community, the same thing happened all over again. I had lost the weight from Eowyn, gained 50+ with Nate,and here we went again-new place, husband gone(out to sea), four kids, foreign country, and people kept assuming I was expecting, and making comments about it, most of them well-meaning. (Well, except the one lady who took me aside in the store, swept her hand out over the children, pointed at me and said, "It's time to stop.")
While it was less devastating to me at 31 than it had been in my twenties,it still hurt. I began dieting and exercising with a vengeance, but all to no avail, as far more serious health problems were already beginning to set in for the long haul.
I wish I could just fix people, including myself, so that we just don't say these things to hurt one another; I wish I could offer up some great word of wisdom, but I don't know of any. The problem is not only one of making assumptions about appearances, it is one of our own inner perceptions of ourselves. I consider myself an 'umble sort of soul, not easily taking offense, and yet, and yet, there is this deep-rooted pride that really has its lunch eaten when hurt.I can think I've gotten beyond all that, and it will come from nowhere.
I believe you will always experience this sort of thing if you are different in a way in which people tend to pre-judge. But you can always come back to yourself, and reaffirm what you have chosen, for the reasons you have chosen it, and know that others do not have to understand.
And know, too, that you are hearing the negative; you will not hear the changes in young girls' self-images; you will not see the difference your influence makes someday, in the way a young man sees his wife; these are the quiet fruits born out of the way you live your life.
Put your hand to that plough,(or set of clippers), and don't look back: the day may come when you want longer hair again, and you may not even be able to have it; don't regret your choices and second-guess yourself! You are living a parable,we all are living parables. The end of the story is a ways off, still.

Missy said...

Thanks to you both :-)

sweet&broken said...

Hey girl! I loved your post. I kinda laughed though - I guess getting your period was your affirmation of femininity! You're a better gal than me (regarding pediatrician's office). You should have told the little boy your not ugly but his mom is ignorant, and that is a big word he can use now! I look forward to following you!

Missy said...

LOL @ Carrie's comment. You rock.

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