It had been a long day — a long couple of days. The dishwasher leaked all over the floor, the dog got into the garbage and threw all the non-edible parts down the hallway, we ran out of shampoo and liquid dish soap at the same time, I was late for work, I did three loads of laundry each of the last two nights, I had broken my favorite glass — yes, a long couple of days. Finally I found time to crash on the sofa and “relax”. I kicked the cat off the pillow, turned on the TV, and, pulling my socks off, observed feet and toenails that looked like they’d been run over by a steel wool pad. It seemed I have to remind myself to be feminine — again.
You say – wait! You are female! Feminine comes from the word female! Why do you need to remind yourself of what you are?
Well, my friend, ask any woman — sometimes the difference between female and feminine is as far apart as fudge and lemons. Feminine is the girly, sparkly part of womanhood. It’s the stuff that Victorian novels are famous for. It is the pseudo-world of high fashion and graceful movements; it’s swishing one’s hips when walking and never raising your voice and being perfectly groomed at all times and wearing satin and lace on a daily basis. It is being gentle and wise, flushing at the first off-color remark, and waiting for men to do everything from open doors to help you into the car/carriage.
A female, on the other hand, is an animal that produces gametes (ova), which can be fertilized by male gametes (spermatozoa). It is the reproductive machine of the planet. Being female is also being a cook, floor scrubber, maid, chauffer, dog feeder and babysitter. It is using the washroom with the longest line, buying jeans that fit in the waist but never in the leg, and being left to do the dishes while everyone else retires to the living room.
As the world around us changes, so does our perception of what feminine and female really mean. No longer content to be docile, frail creatures, women boldly take over responsibilities that were once in the domain of the opposite sex. Driving a forklift, shoveling snow, fixing a leaky pipe — these were things that used to wait until those stronger and more masculine got around to doing them. But somewhere along the line women got tired of waiting and decided to take on the world themselves. After all, waiting for a man to put together a water fountain or carry some boxes upstairs can age you faster than time travel. In the whirlwind of single motherhood and two working parents and family obligations and school activities and domestic responsibilities, the role of the female has taken a new moniker. Women are able to do things we never thought possible. We are stockbrokers, accountants, doctors and lawyers; positions that were reserved exclusively for the male genre a hundred years ago. We have started companies, run for political office, and enlisted in the military. We have done things our grandmothers would shiver to think about. We are proud of the strides we have made and the balances we have found.
But does all this female awareness make one feminine?
The definition of feminine has also undergone its own metamorphosis. The very thought of fainting at the sight of blood or blushing at an off-color word is as alien to us as chopsticks. One cannot swoon when their child has stepped on a nail or their friend has passed out from heat exhaustion. Femininity is not defined by the size of your clothes or the money you make. It is a richer, more complex brew than days of old. Being feminine is finding the core that makes us unique and exploring it, pulling out the parts that make us feel good and keeping them in front of us. It is a more expansive way of thinking: being tough without being rough, creative without being flighty, curvy without being lumpy.
Femininity is a state of mind, a state of soul. To want to be feminine is to want to be softer, smarter, more understanding than the rough and tough ways of men folk. And in order to find that feminine state of mind, we have to take care of the package we are stuck with. You don’t need to be built like a model or have a soft, southern drawl in order to be feminine. You don’t have to sway your hips or be a gourmet cook to bring out the lady in you. It is what you do with what you have that separates you from the world of ova. Being feminine is taking care of yourself so that you are strong enough, wise enough, and mellow enough to handle all facets of the female persona. Being intelligent is feminine; so is being scattered. Being innocent is feminine; so is being experienced. You can be feminine at 15 or 50. After all, that adage that age is nothing more than a three-letter word is just as true today as it was years ago. It’s just now we can shout it from the treetops instead of whispering it behind closed doors.
I feel good about feeling girly. I feel good that I cry at the end of movies and at dog food commercials. I still like to play with jewelry and take bubble baths and collect stuffed animals, even if I insist that I’m not a collector. I also like to mow the lawn and shovel snow, and don’t mind trying my hand at fixing things either. Being feminine is the cream atop the already warm, rich coffee of being female.
Now if I could just work on those feet….