It’s supposed to be the ultimate experience of What It Means To Be a Woman™. Supposedly, I would never feel more feminine, more attuned with my innate womanhood, more fully female than when I was pregnant.
And… pregnancy was wonderful. And I mean that genuinely, probably to the grimacing jealousy of hundreds of other women. My pregnancy was textbook, no hitches, no gestational diabetes, no medical scares, no swollen ankles or insatiable cravings — hell, no morning sickness. I enjoyed the prospect of having a child and marveled at what my body could do.
But, feeling Like a Woman? Feeling “fully feminine?” I… I don’t know what that means. I didn’t know pre-pregnancy, and two-and-a-half years after the fact, I still don’t know.
Of course every woman’s experience is different; not everyone is going to feel like the radiant Madonna during their third trimester. I’m not saying I’m unique. I’m just saying, there are certain seminal experiences in life that people tell me are supposed to make me feel “womanly.” And I just haven’t made that connection.
Part of it, I’m sure, is that it’s so ill-defined — what does it mean to “feel” like a woman? Sometimes I watch Tampax commercials, graceful women clad in white traipsing through fields of daffodils like gazelles, and wonder if that’s what womanhood feels like. I read Cosmo (because it’s hilarious; to be fair, they actually have some genuinely good feature stories, but you have to read it for the sex tips, I swear to Christ some of those things would put you into prison for crimes against humanity of you ever put them into practice) and turn page after page of fashion tips and make-up regimes and “How to Get Over Him” and “Hot Tips That’ll Make Him Hum,” and I think, maybe this is feminiity, maybe this is what being a Woman is like. Often times I’ll look at other moms, watching them as they hold their children close and think, well, surely, this must be what womanhood is.
But I hate to think that that kind of love between a parent and child is gendered; I know my husband loves our son as much as I do, beyond words, and if I happen to be more demonstrative, it’s because my family was always very physically affectionate and his wasn’t – a result of upbringing, not of gender. I sometimes like makeup, but I also balk at the idea that it’s still a taboo for men to wear it as well, because I don’t feel like looking good or self-expression should be gendered either, and while I wish I felt like a prancing woodland creature when I was bleeding from my vagina, I know that it’s just a cheap tactic to get us to buy tampons in the hopes that sweet Jesus, it’ll make this shitty time of the month just a little more manageable.
I know media portrayals of stereotypical feminity aren’t the portrait of femininity. I I know there isn’t one true picture of womanhood, because all people’s experiences of their lives, including their experiences of gender, are different, and unique, and valid.
There is something in my that balks at being called “lady.” There is something in me that feels that the expectations of womanhood – societal and biological (yes, even after having a child – are obscene. There is something in me that feels like femininity is too confining, that I’m wearing womanhood like an ill-fitting costume that it’s sometimes fun to play dress-up in, but that I need time away from, that I need to take off to breathe. There is something in me that accepts that, yes, womanhood is vast, and there is no wrong way to be a woman — if you feel, innately, that you are a woman.
In the end, there is something at the core of me that likes to dabble in femaleness, but had never felt completely at home there. I’ve called myself genderfluid, demigender. I’ve finally returned, after seventeen years, to genderqueer. It feels like it might be right.
It feels like it might fit.