My grandfather said once, “Women have to be better than men – they are the mothers, the ones who carry the culture. So, they have to be better than men and behave differently.” But I just couldn’t seem to do it. It made no sense to me.
As a little girl, I was alternately convinced I was not actually a girl — I could detect no evidence that I was one, other than my biology — and furious at the world for trying to cram me into some gender role that didn’t fit me.
I was an angry kid – not at all oblivious to the pressures of growing up female. From the very start, it was like that. And all the television shows that showed girls being only one way, that showed boys having all the fun doing what they wanted to do, and all the incessant messages about how NOT to be… Yeah, I was angry pretty much every waking hour.
Unless I was alone. Unless I was away from other people. Then I was happy. So happy. What joy!
I still feel pretty much like that. I’m reclusive. I’ll go out, if I have to, and I can interact effectively with others, in ways that make them believe I am normal, oh so normal. But it’s not my first choice. I prefer to move about in times and places where normal people are nowhere to be found. I go for long walks in the woods. I shop late in the evening, so I miss the crowds. I commute in off hours, so I don’t have to interact with all the crazy people on the road.
When other drivers don’t follow the rules of the road, it’s not only disorienting and dangerous, it also annoys the living daylights out of me. It’s far safer for everyone to follow the rules and behave predictably. But maybe that’s too much to ask.
Anyway, yes, girls are supposed to be better than others. We’re supposed to be the standard-bearers of our culture and keep people to the straight-and-narrow. Lord knows, other NT women do that with me. It’s nearly impossible for me to have a conversation with an NT woman and never be subtly corrected about something I’ve said or done wrong. Clothing, hair, voice inflection, gestures… it’s all very subtly corrected by women when they are together, and to anyone not familiar with it, it would never be detectable.
Maybe that’s by design. Or maybe it’s just so intertwined with the standard American female psyche, that it’s just there. Maybe that’s how women are naturally supposed to be. I wouldn’t know.
But not knowing doesn’t exempt me from the expectations of others, who only wish that I would toe the line on being ladylike. I still have to deal with the daily bumps in my social road when there’s a subtle critical reaction to a way that I talk, act, dress, move, or interact with others. If you’re not intensely sensitive to the emotions and reactions of others, it’s no big deal, but if you are intensely sensitized to it, it’s just a huge pain in the ass.
And I’d rather not have to deal with it.
My grandfather has been gone from this earth for a number of years, now, but his legacy remains — the legacy of expectations, of definitions, of social requirements. They still weigh on my mother. And my sisters, too. Because they weren’t only his … they came from everyone, everywhere. Inescapable. Inevitable.
And I’m still not sure I’ll ever be okay with those requirements. Or that they’ll be okay with me.