“You’re so girly.”
I recall the first time he made that comment – a comment in passing to him, but one that struck such a conflict of emotions in me that it took me back a bit.
Being called girly was a slur for much of my life – an insult that meant you weren’t smart, weren’t independent, weren’t articulate, weren’t anything more than the pretty you brought to the table – nothing more than the makeup and the hair and the cute coordinated outfits that seemed more important than anything else. And girly meant overly emotional, not logical.
Girly was bad.
I aimed to be a tomboy. A tomboy had messy hair, dressed for function and comfort, skipped the makeup, debated loudly with boys, and competed with them in every way. I had scrapes and bruises and gravel in my hair. I was called bitch, and I embraced the word. I swore. I stood up to others. I rejected the norm – what girls were supposed to do and supposed to be.
I could clean up. I could look nice in a dress though I would rather not wear a dress. I had dress shoes, but mostly flats. I had boobs but hid them or cursed them being in the way. I viewed being a feminist and all as rejecting all girly things. Embracing “the guy way” if you will.
And for me, I found success. I went to the college I wanted. I entered a male dominated field that I wanted. I was the catcher on the softball team – a position of control and authority and bumps and bruises and scrapes. I did it all by rejecting the girly.
When I became pregnant with my oldest DJ, I so wanted it to be a boy. I knew how to raise a boy, I thought. I remember right before the ultrasound, my friend at work looked at me and said, “you are going to have a girl – and she will be girly”. Another cohort said, “you are going to get the child you need.”
“I think you’re having a girl” were the words the ultrasound tech uttered.
I was excited more about the fact my child was healthy. But in the back of my mind, I wondered – what am I going to do with a girl?
While I gathered clothes and toys and books that were not pink – not dolls – not gender specific, G told everyone he wanted her to wear pink frilly clothes. I bought her trucks. G bought her tutus. DJ went through her various phases. She dressed in a purple flower dress for seriously 9 months straight. It was like in the commercial where the dad is trying to bribe his daughter to wear something else so he could wash her favorite outfit. It was like that.
She wanted ballet lessons – she wanted to wear dresses every day – she wanted her hair pretty in ribbons and barrettes. And I tried to add balance – realizing that I need to let her be her – and not make girly bad.
Hard when for 25 + years girly is bad.
Then we had a second girl. And I knew the universe was trying to tell me something.
A lesson about girly.
While I could undo the meaning where my girls were concerned – I could never undo it in my head. I remember when I had a chance with my job to stop always doing the jeans and tshirt thing – no longer needing to crawl under desks and under production lines to hook things up. I wore a skirt one day – and got shit for it. So I went back to the slacks and shirts – the uniform of the non-girly girl.
After the kids were a certain age, I lost all of the pregnancy weight and a bit more – and upgraded my wardrobe to the new uniform – bit more feminine but functional. But I still struggled. When we opened up our marriage, I seemed to attract those who loved that I was rough and tumble – that I was not easily hurt. It’s really no wonder I became kinky.
Switching jobs and all helped me be able to change things up a bit – be a version of me that was more a melding of all sides – female in dress but me.
Though call me girly……sigh.
He noticed I balked the first time he said it. “Sweetheart,” he started, “your energy is most definitely female.” And that surprised me – pleasantly but also tongue tied me. To undo all of what girly has ever been to me – for me – was much harder than undoing it mentally for my kids.
Funny how that works.
Daddy calling me girly is something I try so hard to embrace. I appreciate the fact he is letting me be all of who I am – no facade – no labels – no negative connotations. I can be female. And with him – being female is being smart and beautiful and opinionated and all of who I am.
Because to be a feminist is not to be male. It’s to show the world that a female can be all of who she is without the stereotypes. It is to challenge the norm – the notions – the preconceived.
And honestly, that can be done with perfect hair, perfect makeup, a dress, heels, jeans, tshirts, using cuss words and having bumps and bruises.
At least that’s what I say – that’s what I remind myself – when Daddy calls me girly.
I embrace it yet struggle not to reject it. Funny how both can be true.
When he calls me girly, I have to remind myself – girly, to him, is good. To him, it’s positive. To him, it is not a slur. To him, I should say, “thank you Daddy”. I shouldn’t cringe. I shouldn’t worry. I should just be.
Because he is seeing all of who I am – all of whom I have always been. He has just used a word that give me a reaction – a reaction that is not his fault. A reaction that I need to challenge – and he is the one to do it.