Reminding Myself to be Feminine

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….

                       

 

Finding the Divine Feminine

As I sit and flip through my latest stack of chick magazines, I find myself wandering through the world of today’s woman and the concept of “divine feminine”.  I wonder what that means — not only the “divine” part, but the feminine as well.  I can see the divine in books and magazines, but where do I fit in?   Where does the world of flowing gossamer and satin and lace meet spandex and terrycloth?

            One of my favorite magazines caters to the “over 40” generation of women who want to believe they are still a viable, strong contribution to society.  I can identify with that feeling.  I want to believe I’ve not outlived my usefulness now that my children are out of college and beyond, that the job market is more considerate of middle-aged women — that there is more to life than a nine-to-five job and frozen pizzas for dinner.  There are many women tripping over the big 4-0 mark and the even higher 5-0 mark, trying to make a difference in the world.  I read about glamorous movie stars, corporate women, restaurant owners, writers, doctors, and others doing things they only once dreamed of.  Antiquing through Europe, opening their own restaurant or bakery, rehabbing rundown parts of cities — all of them doing things that are somehow bigger than life.  Closing the magazine, I wonder — where do I fit into all of this?  Where does my revolution, my evolution, fit in?

             In this age of airbrushed images and designer wardrobes, I often wonder where a Renaissance woman such as me belongs.  Where are the articles that coddle mid-life, mid-waisted women?    Where are the look-good, feel-good articles that cater to billing clerks or waitresses or shipping and receiving workers? Where are the dress-ups and weekend activities that address basketball and football moms and women who take kindergarteners on field trips and others who milk cows every day?  Is it possible to be feminine and divine in a world without dress sizes?  Is it possible to wear sweatshirts and uniforms and still sparkle in the divine feminine? 

            Sometimes it seems that the more liberated I feel, the more confused I become.  In some ways that’s good, for it helps strengthen the connections between the synapses in my brain.  Eternal confusion is eternal fodder for mental longevity.  I love being female. I love the world offered to our species alone.  Femininity comes from within; it is a state of being that comes from our very souls, our very thoughts.  It is a pride in our sex, in our ability to feel and react in our enhanced sort of way.

            But what about the next step?  What is “divine feminine”?  How are we supposed to find the “divine” in our green computer screens or packing boxes on an assembly line?  Is it possible to be divine and feminine and not be on the pages of the latest trendy magazine?  To find valued even if we are not on the board of directors of some giant corporation or running a four star restaurant? 

            Inspiration comes in many forms, but it begins with a wisp of an idea, a flutter of a heartbeat that beats to a slightly different rhythm.  There is a seasoning that comes with the over-40 crowd, the wonderful reaping of the harvest that has been fertilized and nurtured and growing inside of us for the last 30 to 40 years.  It is fueled by heartbreak and ecstasy, by hard work and curiosity.  Divine is not dictated by the color of your skin or how big your paycheck is.  Divine feminine is also enhanced by menopause:  pre-, actual, and post-.  There is something to be said about the shuffling of hormones as they start to decrease in a woman’s body.  So many physical and mental changes trickle through our being, some real, some imagined, that we can’t help but redefine our feminism.  We applaud the fact that we can no longer get pregnant, but mourn the fact that we can’t get pregnant.  Our emotions run the gamut from high and energetic to scraping along the bottom.  We have best friends, we have no friends.  We love being alone, we fear being alone.  Is this what the divine feminine is all about?

            It is this and so much more.  It is the beauty of being female, the freedom of experiencing our emotions up close and personal like no man could (sorry guys…but take it into consideration with your own divine feminine female).   It’s the adventure of finding the self, the creativity that lies just below the surface, playing with the child who’s always been there.  We cry, we laugh; we take estrogen if we need it and vitamins even if we don’t.  We wear the jewelry our mother’s used to wear or make our own. We become mentors and advisers just because we’re here, and we walk in marathons instead of run.  We realize that a job is merely a means to an end, an end that is just a beginning. 

            The divine feminine is who we’ve always been.  She is a goddess, she is a nymph.  She is a crabby middle-aged woman and a playful school girl.   She loves men and is tired of men.  She sparkles in gym shoes and brightly patterned shirts and well-worn flannels.  It doesn’t matter what she loves, as long as she loves.  As long as she feels feminine — as long as she embraces what she is.

            And the “divine” part?  Used as an adjective, divine means “of such surpassing excellence as to suggest divine (god/goddess/God) inspiration.”  Combined with the powerful feminine (a gender that refers chiefly, but not exclusively, to females or to objects classified as female), that makes for one kickin’, sparklin’, inspirational being, doesn’t it?

            If that’s what it’s all about, count me in.

©2012 Claudia Anderson