I was reviewing my life recently and realized that I have never really fit neatly into those categories that most people label as “feminine,” “girly,” and so on. I thought, “What does it mean to be a woman?”
I’ve always known, from an early age, that I was different from most girls and later on from most women I knew. When I was really young, I couldn’t figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing, but at that time it seemed it might be a good idea to try to make at least some effort to be “feminine.”
I started wearing lipstick at age twelve, to my mother’s consternation, and demanded my first pair of high heeled shoes not long after. I liked lipstick (and still do), but I could never quite get down with the nylons and high heels. I hated long fingernails because I played piano and they would always break on the keys. Nail polish annoyed me because it was always chipping off. Perfume made me sneeze. I wasn’t really a tomboy, though, because I wasn’t good at sports. I mean, to be a genuine tomboy you have to like sports, right? Still, I liked boys as friends more than girls when I was in school, because to me they were more fun, they and didn’t gossip and talk about silly things.
Even in grammar school I never cared about the things girls liked, except for dolls — I loved dolls. But I liked trucks, cars and tools just as much. Most of all, though, I liked genderless things like books and painting and music.
A few years ago I pretty much stopped wearing skirts for the simple reason that I find pants more comfortable. I also started buying a lot of my clothes in the men’s department, even though I’m small, because at least they have pants that come up to my waist instead of starting at my pubic bone the way most women’s pants do.
I’ve finally whittled my wardrobe down to what you could call a set of uniforms: long pants and long-sleeved T-shirts or sweaters in the winter and men’s boxer shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts or tank tops in the summer. Shoes? Sneakers in winter, flip-flops in summer, and a pair of sandals for special occasions. I’ve also pared my jewelry down to earrings and a silver ring.
Some years ago I started cutting my own hair. I wear it very short, and figured out a way to give it a nice trim by using two mirrors. Ever since a girl in a Korean salon cut my hair into a perfect square, I have steered clear of beauty parlors. I also buy the cheapest possible cosmetics and have never had a manicure or pedicure in my life.
So does this make me any less a woman? I looked in the mirror today, and I don’t think so.
This is a section that I removed from my book, although I may reinstate it later.