Just Be Yourself!…Unless You’re a Woman
Women are encouraged to be the exact opposite of who they are, and strive for things that may be completely different from what they actually do.
At the dawn of my 36th year on this ball of dirt and hydrocarbons, I’ve had many realizations about my own existence, the human experience, and social constructs in general.
Quarantine will do that, especially when your friends were already gentrified out before this and you’ve decided to change course when society reopens.
My conclusion? Women are basically told to be the exact opposite of who they are. Who we actually are is never enough.
You’re told to lose weight until you fit some arbitrary standard, even if your thinnest is still considered fat in the grand scheme of things. But if you’re also deemed too thin, then you’re told to eat a cheeseburger.
Got stick-straight hair? Grab that curling iron and get some supermodel curls! But ick, CURLY hair? Go dump a few hundred bucks worth of product on it so it’s straighter and flatter than an episode from a 1990s white teen drama!
Boobs too small? Get a push-up bra, but we’ll shame you for stuffing. “Real women” have curves, don’t ya know! But oh please, cover up those big naturals if you don’t want men drooling over you and you should get breast reduction surgery just to fit into clothes not properly fitted for diverse bodies anyway.
Get eyelash extensions, a $4 tube of Great Lash from Target won’t do. But hold up, don’t wear too much makeup! Who are you trying to trick?!
Lighten or darken your skin, can’t be arsenic wafer white but also can’t be too dark. Racism is precisely why we can’t have nice things in this country, and you bet your ass it shows up in beauty standards like an overly perky Type A sort who lives for their soul-sucking corporate job.
The list goes on forever. But all of these annoying things women hear about their looks, there’s one thing in common: they all tell us to be anything but what we actually are. That to be our unchanged selves is this shameful thing that must be fixed at all costs, no matter how unfeasible it is or how much discomfort it causes you.
Looks are a major undercurrent here, but it also extends to personality traits, desires, and life plans. It’s not just what we are physically that must change, but *who* we are.
You know what I mean: “Ew, why are you dressed head to toe in black leather? Boys won’t like that! Be girly and cheerful!” Then that cheerful girly-girl is told she’s TOO feminine, and to be quiet and serious. I think Millennial goths and former cheerleaders can unite on this one in pushing back and relentlessly being who we are.
Have your own business or a successful freelance career? Get a real job! Hate your job? Start your own business!
Then I CONSTANTLY hear, “Why do you want a boyfriend/husband? Your life sounds awesome!” What, you’re telling me my life has to suck in order to have a partner after women already spend years being told they have to build lives they can love by themselves, and work on themselves in therapy, before being worthy of romantic love? Er…there’s couples who end up marrying because of errant tweets or meeting when the other’s car breaks down on the turnpike, or some other minutiae by pure chance, and the Self Help Industrial Complex hides this inconvenient truth and tends to put the onus on women who date men more than any other group.
But the point stands that when I was happily single in my twenties, patently didn’t want a relationship, I was told to settle down with the first man who was halfway nice to me after I took him home from a hardcore show.
So yeah. I spent years being told to settle down before it was “too late”. Now that I’ve apparently crossed this arbitrary degree of lateness, I’m told to just be happy being single now that I’m finally emotionally ready for a real partner? I can’t decide the terms for myself?
I don’t want kids, a life choice that makes some people utterly froth at the mouth. Not only have I been told that I’d change my mind, and that I should do so, but I was aghast to hear from women my age who do want kids that they’ve been told to reconsider and they’ll scare away a man by wearing their baby-craziness on their sleeves.
Uh…on what planet does this make sense? If he’s going to be scared off by your desire to have kids, especially if you’re over 33 or so, THEN HE ISN’T THE ONE.
You get back out there and find a guy who really wants to be a dad. I’ve turned away some pretty swell guys (gasp! Yes, if you can believe it! Alternative women over 35 who aren’t the thinnest HAVE OPTIONS! Oh my god the sky is falling!!!) just because our life plans didn’t align, and I’ll see if I cross paths with a childfree guy with similar values who’s down with toads and giant lizards.
Getting back out in the world when it’s safe, and keeping an open mind? That’s what you do. Not pretend to be someone else, or keep your desires tamped down, just to land a man. Any compromises you make on those desires should come from a place of practicality, not sacrifice in the service of heteronormativity that doesn’t even give us anything in return.
Why does society tell women to basically do and be the exact opposite of who we are, then has the audacity to trash us for being fake or disingenuous for taking this advice to heart?
Look, I’m closer to 40 than 20 at the time of writing. I’m out of fucks to give here. I just started blatantly vocalizing what I want and live how I want, magazine-speak and naysayers be damned.
Alternative women have had parents, negging men, and total strangers tell us we’d be prettier if we didn’t “ruin ourselves” when we don’t exist for their gaze. There’s more cross-culturalism these days and our kind of aesthetics and values that used to raise eyebrows 20 years ago don’t do so as much as they once did, plus there’s less internal factionalism, but the tenets have remained the same. We’re told to meet some standard we don’t give a shit about. But even if we met that standard, the goalposts still shift for what’s considered “beautiful” and “acceptable”.
Yet you will also be accused of trickery for complying! Or being fake because you’ve internalized this message that you’re not good enough and need to downplay yourself. But don’t get TOO confident, or else you’re egotistical and just talking yourself up!
Screw that. Who is this benefiting?
You are you. You are enough.
Yes, even if I made fun of your TRL and pop music in high school while I hung out at record stores in the Village, looking for the most obscure 77 punk and doom metal that crossed my formerly great city’s shores. Today, we must set aside our differences in lifestyles and cultures to unabashedly be ourselves.
A loud socialist solopreneur childfree frog slut who wanders more freely between the alt tribes these days