Embracing My Femininity

 

At some point between 5th grade and 8th grade, I stopped liking the color pink. Pink was for little kids, and I didn’t want to be a little kid. Being “girly” became something to be ashamed of. Boys didn’t like girls who wore too much make up, so that must mean that boys don’t like girly girls. Girly girls were high maintenance, and that was bad; so being girly is bad. Cool girls were slick and clean and mature, and not childish, so I must try to emulate that as well. I tried with all my might to avoid being Childish Girly. At least… publicly avoid it. At home, I just tried to hide it from my parents. It was something I was ashamed of, and so they must not know about it.

What is interesting about the whole thing, is at no point do I remember being told these things. My mother never cared that I was still playing with Barbies at 16; she had been the same way. She didn’t care that I liked Taylor Swift (she paid for the CD’s, lol), or what my favorite color was. I still haven’t fully figured out why I assumed she would judge me, but I’m working on it. Most of my friends were fairly feminine, and they even had boyfriends, so I don’t know why I thought that being girly meant I couldn’t have a boyfriend. But anyway. Purple became my safety net. My secret girly outlet.

I decided my favorite color was purple after reading The Clique series. My favorite character was Massie, and her favorite color was purple. I’ve also always loved Queen Elizabeth Tudor, and had read that purple used to be a sign of royalty. My favorite Disney Princess was Rapunzel, and she wore a purple dress. You could also make purple with pink, so it was kinda like I still had pink, even though I wasn’t “allowed” to like it anymore. Purple was good.

My bedroom for years was blues and greens and purples. My school supplies were purples and blacks. Nothing too dark and masculine to be tomboyish (god forbid), but nothing feminine enough to be childish. My love for all things Parisian was just for home. My love of poodles was only brought up when discussing intelligent dog breeds (they’re like, the 2nd smartest dog breed y’all, stop acting like they aren’t superior to your silly drooling Labrador…. I’m only slightly kidding). Glitter and frills were subtle in my fashion choices. I never really brought up any of my girly insecurity to my friends, and now I wonder what they would have said. We’ve talked about it a little now, and knowing I wasn’t the only one who went through a pink drought makes me wonder if we could have saved each other sooner. Anything that screamed Sandy I tried to avoid. I stopped reading young adult fiction and children’s books at school, only at home. I pretended to judge girls who liked pastels and flowers even though I was secretly salivating for more.

There was an interesting balance though, to what was childish girly, and what was sexy girly; the latter being completely acceptable. Instead of reading Seventeen magazine, I would read Cosmo’s and laugh about the silly sex advice with my friends, using words and lingo that I didn’t understand and felt crude on my tongue. I listened to Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha, chanting lines that I didn’t really comprehend. You couldn’t go overboard to slutty sexy though, because then you were slutty. That made shopping for special event dresses difficult. I wasn’t confident enough to wear the bondage dresses, but I managed to find one that was made out of ruffled fabric, just innocent enough that I didn’t feel like a boy would look at me too long, but sexy enough I didn’t feel like a fairy princess (even though I really wanted to). I gave away some of my Barbies to my neighborhood friends who I felt like I couldn’t play with anymore, because they were all in elementary school and I was 15 (even though I didn’t have any school friends that lived nearby, and I still really loved playing outside). In high school I hid all my stuffed animals in my closet, except for my giant stuffed unicorn which I left in my little sister’s room when friends came over. My beautiful fairy ceramic dolls were put on display in a communal family room instead of my bedroom. I was ashamed of my stress bitten nails, but at least they weren’t long and didn’t scream high maintenance. I took pride in my long mermaid hair, but hardly did anything with it except braids because otherwise that would be too girly, and people would judge me for taking too long to get ready in the morning. On my very first date ever, I wore a pair of jean Bermuda’s because I was too insecure to wear a skirt or a dress because I was worried the boy I was meeting would think I was too childish. I rarely wore summer dresses with sandals to school because I thought I’d be too girly, even though my friends were wearing them. For some reason wearing dresses in the winter with knee socks and boots was ok. I wore heels too, heels were mature.

I think part of the shame came from being blonde. Whenever I thought blonde, I thought of Elle Woods and Barbie, blondes who were seen as silly and girly and who loved pink. It would have been a cliché to be blonde and like pink. And I think part of the insecurity came from the fact that people have always commented on how young I look. It felt like all my peers looked so much older than I did, that by not looking girly, maybe it would make me look a little older than I was. If liking Selena Gomez hadn’t been such a childish thing to like at the time, maybe that would have boosted my confidence, because she’s got baby cheeks too. Liking Taylor Swift would have helped with my nail insecurity, because she has short nails. Oh well.

I was in my senior year of high school when I joined Tumblr. It was the beginning of the internet for me, because I could access it through my iPod. Before my first iTouch, I only had internet access if I asked to use the family laptop, or snuck my entire desktop computer into the unused office and hooked up to the Ethernet cord. Tumblr was the beginning of my feminine metamorphosis. All the sudden I had tons of people who I could follow and they liked the things I liked! They liked pink and candles and lotion and flowers and glitter and Taylor Swift. I could follow nature blogs, and art blogs, and Parisian blogs. It was incredible! Senior year was when I started experimenting a little more with nail polish, and earrings, and make up, and lace. NOT too much though, can’t be too girly. I found multitudes of strong imposing female role models, who happened to be girly! And they weren’t celebrities, they were just normal girls from all over the world. I also got introduced to Gossip Girl, who’s leading ladies are decked out in every episode, and they were considered popular and cool. Cool girls could be overly girly!? And it was because of all of this that when time came around for prom, I was brave enough to get the fairy princess dress of my dreams. Granted there was a plunging neckline which matured the dress a tad, but not so revealing that I couldn’t wear it. We did add a sheer privacy panel however. I was only 17 for goodness sakes.

The summer after I graduated I worked at a Girl Scout camp. At camp I was surrounded by so many different kinds of Girl, that it was overwhelming. There were the girls who shaved their legs, and the girls who didn’t shave anything. There were girls who got up early to do their make-up, and girls who forgot to change their underwear. There were girls who actively followed “camp fashion” and girls who didn’t realize that that was even a thing. There were girls who were all of these things, and none of these things. There were people who weren’t girls, but dressed “girly”. There were girls who kissed girls. There were girls who kissed boys and girls. There were girls who didn’t want to kiss anyone. But for the most part, and this was the most important and alarming bit, no one seemed to care what kind of girl you were. They just cared if you were fun, or not fun. I felt like Alice, getting lost in a fairytale world, and thanks to my camp name, Salmonberry, I had the full reign to have as much pink in my life as I liked. It was the first time in a long time, that I was truly and completely myself (ironically, it was also my blondest period thanks to all the sun).

After camp, I went to college. In two of my classes there was this girl. A blonde girl. A blonde girly girl. And she was so unapologetically girly, and so genuinely nice. Meeting her was a crucial step in embracing my own femininity. Not only was she so overtly girly, she had a longtime boyfriend (ha, lil Raelee. Some boys really don’t care!), and even though I had begun working through my internalized misogyny, this was an important observation for me. It was when I began to realize that the right person won’t care how you look or how you dress. They’ll love you because you are who you are. She always had nice nails, and always had soft looking pastel clothing. She was what I envisioned the true me as. Her bedroom was even full of Eiffel tower motifs. Crazy.

I had dyed my hair a red color, and was feeling braver about wearing pink now that I wasn’t blonde. I was even painting my nails regularly, and biting them less. I bought myself a nice smelling candle, and played with make-up more. I explored the world of cute undies and pretty bras. I went into stores that I’d been too insecure to venture into before, and slowly tried on the clothes that I’d been to insecure to try. I developed a love for curling my hair and putting on perfume. I started taking selfies that I really loved (and still love). I lathered up on lotion after I took a shower. I started taking bubble baths with candles and ice cream and Marilyn Monroe movies. It by no means was an overnight movie-worthy transformation, it’s still happening right now. I basically used Galentine’s Day as an excuse to bust out my mermaid onesie and my giant pink unicorn, and I still feel overdressed if I wear make up with a dress. But I’m working on it.

Being insecure about my femininity made coming out difficult too (an unforeseen complication back in middle school). The only gays I knew were in theater or at camp. In theater, they were mostly male. At camp, all the girls who kissed girls followed, or were similar to, the general lesbian stereotype and some of them were stuck in that mindset as well. I very clearly remember a conversation with a gay friend, a week or two before I came out, who informed me I couldn’t possibly be gay because I liked pink and Taylor Swift. No self-respecting lesbian could honestly like pink or TSwizzle. Apparently. (Well, joke was on her because I’m not a lesbian, I’m bisexual, but anyway…).

The first couple months of dating my girlfriend, I was insecure about my girly-ness. Did dating a girl mean that I needed to shed my femininity once again? I had literally just gotten it back, and I really didn’t want to redecorate my room again. I was suddenly self-conscious about wearing skirts and painting my nails all over again. My gay friends and I joke about my straight-looking self, and it’s something that was frustrating at first but I’m learning to take more pride in it now. I am living proof that you can’t predict someone’s sexuality by how they dress. But then again, there are “gay trends” that I wear mainly because it’s a part of gay culture. It’s a balance that I’m still struggling to find, even after almost 2 years. Maybe finding myself the perfect pink flannel would help. Learning about Lipstick Lesbians and Femmes helped my confidence in the LGBT community quite a bit, to know that there were, once again, hundreds of other women who love and look like me. I found comfort in not being alone.

Ultimately none of this means anything. I am no more a girl now then I was when I “hated” pink. I still get insecure when I’m too lacy or pink or floral. I still have to talk myself into being myself. But it’s an easier process now, and it keeps getting easier. Do I like how easily influenced I am by media and the people around me? Not really. But I know how to work with it. I follow people on social media who like those things that I like, and I find more ways to make my life pink every day. Not everything is going to come painlessly, and not every lesson gets learned quickly. Am I mad at our society for creating such a stigma around simple colors and the layers of implications that can be put behind them? Yes, but then again my struggle with femininity is nothing compared to what some people go through. As a “straight-looking” gay living in a über liberal bubble, I’ve never been bullied for who I love. Beyond that, being insecure and pretending I didn’t like pink kept me out of the dating ring in high school for the most part, which meant that I was mentally more ready and mature when I finally did start dating. It kept me from making poor decisions in effort to be seen as “cool.” It meant that I got a longer childhood than some of my peers, something I’m increasingly grateful for. If anything embracing my “girly-ness” has helped me feel more comfortable being “sexy” and wearing tighter dresses; while feeling ok with it and being proud of myself, it is such a new concept for me.

To find happiness, we have to find ways to live our own individual truths. And the truth is I love pink peonies. And I dream of retiring in the center of Paris, with a poodle in one arm, and macaroons in another. I love watching old movies, and listening to Taylor Swift. I love young adult fiction books, and I love fairy tales. Disney Princess movies are the best Disney movies, and I have twinkly lights above my white bed frame. My stuffed animals are as in the closet as I am, which is to say not at all. My makeup is splayed all over my vintage vanity, and I purposely add a blur filter to my Instagram photos to make them look softer and older. My most used highlighter is pink, and my washi tapes have bows and cupcakes on them. As I write this I have pastel nail polish on, and I’m wearing a pink dress. Yesterday I stalked Lauren Conrad’s Instagram, and jotted down a recipe for lavender honey lattes while watching the most recent live action Cinderella. My tarot deck is full of fairies, and my mother bought me Eiffel Tower champagne flutes to replace my broken Eiffel Tower wine glass. I took my morning medication with pink lemonade today, and ate my sandwich on a floral ceramic plate.

I’m here, I’m queer, I’m so girly its nauseating.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~Raelee

 

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