“What did you do at the weekend Jane?”
I am surrounded by five women I work with, all eating kale salads or spreading avocado on crackers. I suddenly feel that my chicken and stuffing sandwich on white bread with a side of crisps looks embarrassingly out of place. I hesitate. Should I tell them that my boyfriend and I watched the 2000 WWF Royal Rumble while eating kebabs? Given that the majority of them probably spent their Saturday attending their bikram yoga classes, I choose to lie:
“Erm, I went on a cycle.” I had doubted that they would have been as enthused about The Rock’s victory that year as I had been. I sat there, frustrated with myself. Why lie? Was the truth really so embarrassing? I knew the issue I had wasn’t with the women surrounding me, it was with myself. Over the past few months, I had started to feel… abnormal. These women were everything I had envisaged I would be as a woman in my thirties: they knew the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot, they had children whom they took to ballet, they were all slim, fit and attractive and had an air of maturity about them that was slightly intimidating. Don’t get me wrong; they treated me very well. It wasn’t anything they consciously did that made me feel uncomfortable in their presence. I guess it was what they didn’t do.
Compared to them, I felt like a silly, immature little girl who would never have life figured out. I spend my free time playing PlayStation games, watching horror movies and rugby, eating Nutella out of a jar, teaching my cats how The Macarena and sending decidedly ridiculous Snapchats to my friends. Maturity wasn’t the issue, however. Besides all evidence to the contrary, I am actually pretty mature….
Well, okay… I know when to be mature. So that wasn’t what bothered me. The issue was what these women represented to me. They represented an ideal of feminism I felt so alienated from. They reminded me that I was quite far away from being the graceful, high-heel wearing, hummus-eating, almond milk-drinking lady I had once envisioned I would magically become. They reminded me of the woman I am not; the woman I would never be.
I don’t bake. I don’t have children. I hold babies like I’m about to drop kick them for three points. I drink to get tipsy, not because I notice the citrus aroma in whatever white wine I’m drinking. I watch wrestling, reality TV and violent films. I don’t know how to sew. I can’t wear high heels. I don’t enjoy looking at photographs of babies, weddings or curtains. I DON’T KNOW WHAT A TRACKER MORTGAGE IS.
You’re probably thinking, so what? Aren’t all of the above antiquated stereotypes about women’s interests anyway? Perhaps. But it was difficult to sit amongst these women, day in, day out and not feel so uncomfortable in myself. Whether I liked it or not, these were their interests. Which, of course, they were entitled to. They weren’t the anomaly, I was. I know that I’m not better than these women, and they’re not better than me. I actually liked them very much and they showed me nothing but respect and kindness. It was just that I was so so different to them. But why?
I suppose I can’t really answer that. I know everyone is different, but I was like a black sheep in a sea of pink flamingos*. As time moved on, I begin to accept myself for who I am, and who I am not. Just like they’re not wrong for their personal tastes, I’m not wrong for mine. Okay, so I would prefer to see Stone Cold Steve Austin perform a stunner than look through a book of carpet samples. Each to their own, right? They might appear more traditionally feminine than I do, but so what? We’re all women. Our differences need to be celebrated. They nurture us. They teach us. I cannot be someone I’m not. Why would I force myself to eat avocado or learn how to sew when I just don’t want to. That doesn’t make me any less of a woman.
And what exactly is femininity anyway? It doesn’t necessarily mean pink stilettos and prosecco. I can look to all the wonderful qualities these women at work (and all the women in my life) possess. They are nurturing, they have empathy, they are sensitive and gentle. They are strong. And while I won’t be hitting up the nail salon with any of them anytime soon, I appreciate why they like the things they do. They make them feel happy. Just like Wrestlemania makes me feel happy.
I do love being a woman. I also love a hell of a lot of random crap: makeup, Jurassic Park movies, owl ornaments, cats, UFC, poetry, flowers, anything involving Hannibal Lecter… I can be a woman and like all of these things. There’s no set of rules that we have to abide by. It’s not like you turn thirteen and have to level up to the next woman level by passing a cross-stitching exam.
Anyway, labels can confine us. They often present us with barriers and prevent our growth. In the traditional sense, no, I’m not very feminine. That’s okay, it would be a little stifling to be defined so easily. In today’s world, gender roles are not as clearly defined. We are being restricted by them less and less. I am as feminine as I am masculine in many ways. Except when it comes to dealing with spiders. Don’t come near me with that shit.
So yeah, I’m going to continue watching Storage Wars with my terribly chipped nail polish and my Seth Rogen donkey laugh. Sure, there isn’t going to be a Disney princess based on me (unless Disney suddenly envisage their princesses with terrible hand-eye coordination and a penchant for leggings) but did Snow White ever knee-slide across a floor while managing not to spill two pints of cider?
Didn’t think so.
*Gives you time to mentally picture that. Enjoy.