A few months ago the editors at the Huffington Post invited bloggers to contribute blog posts and videos about "the moment I knew I was a woman - not a girl." OMG, I thought. I've totally got this one. I'm 27, fast approaching 28, so I figured there had to be a light bulb, flash in the sky moment in my short history. Or at the very least, a christening involving loads --magnum sized bottles -- of champagne. I tried to remember a recent moment when someone raised a glass in my observance, "Here's to you, Woman." Nothing came to mind, and the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with even saying the word -- woman?
What does it even mean? Is it remembering to mail things? Opening an IRA account? Is it similar to the feeling you get when you cross the finish line in a race and realize that you totally just beat a bunch of people? Is it an exclusive club, like Costco, that requires me to apply and wait anxiously for acceptance? Is there a juniors division? Perhaps a "Womanhood Too?" for those of us who still prefer to wear crop tops rather than work-appropriate separates?
Once you get there, are you able to make food without the assistance of a microwave? Do you stop sending boys (er, mans) text messages after one in the morning? Is it still acceptable to get vaguely intoxicated and make regrettable dance moves, or is that the sort of un-womanly behavior that can earn you a detention and possibly expulsion?
As my contemplation continued, I realized that no one had ever drawn me a detailed road map -- I have had a better shot at arriving on time if I'd at least been given an address to plug into Google maps. Nothing. For me (as I imagine for most), there was no Clair Huxtable hosted "woman's day" celebration.
So like the best sort of lost person I decided to ask for some directions. I started with immediate family since they've seen me pass Go about 15 times:
According to my stepmom -- who happens to one of the better grown up ladies I know (she keeps my dad in line,) it's seeing the world with a little more compassion and being able to juggle more than one thing at a time.
"Knee jerk reaction for now" she wrote "I've got Byran's graduation party today and a house not put together and need to get finished at this client to make my 4 p.m. deadline to have everything done. Yikes."
So being a woman is... yikes. Got it. Perhaps some juggling lessons are in order.
Next, a friend who is my age (a few years older), lives where I live and in the past year (at least in my unprofessional opinion) has grown leaps and bounds. She finished her second degree, quit the job she'd been working at for five years, accepted a lesser paying but better job, and traded in a series of romantic dead ends for a genuine relationship. In spite of having almost crossed the threshold, she explained that she is still hesitant to fully trade her curiosity and optimism for the responsibility and pragmatism that she feels accompany womanhood:
"I think I will be forever in between; I can support myself, and I feel strong and confident, unlike in my childhood and teen years. Yet there is a girl/childlike quality about me that I don't want to give up. Women, now, are now expected to give life and be the breadwinners. We are supposed to be strong on all accounts...it's exhausting."
So being a woman is...exhausting. Maybe add a good mattress and some Melatonin to the packing list.
I decided to cc: my best friend/pen pal on my inquiry. We first met in Chicago and became instant and inseparable friends due to our shared refusal to let anything be good enough: a job, a city or a boyfriend. At almost 30 and after bouncing around the country, she said she is starting to see things differently.
"I think being a woman is that: staying present and letting go. Being aware and receptive to the moment and yourself. Not chasing after what you don't have, but celebrating what you do."
So being a woman is...having 20/20 vision. Good thing I eat a lot of carrots.
Yet, I couldn't help but think hard about this one, since -- similarly to her -- I have always seen womanhood as a set of external features: A glossy job with a health insurance card, a 6-foot plus-tall guy who reads Esquire and elicits lots of Likes from my friends, a French bulldog, a good dining room table. I figured that if I acquired the right trimmings, I could pass -- without actually having to truly grow up.
Appointed with the great job and the cute boyfriend, I would be like the girl who got out the door in her mom's slightly too-big pumps and ineptly applied red lipstick. But lately I've started to realize that these good on paper items are a lot less comfortable than my Converse sneakers (and I look like a drag queen in red lipstick.)
What's a 6-foot-tall gentleman who can't remember to call you? What's the theoretically perfect job if the reality of it makes you dream of doing something else? And what's a dining room table that's currently being used as your third closet (besides sort of brilliant)?
So maybe that's when I will know that I am a woman not a girl: When I finally let go of all of the good-on-paper (or good-on-screen) items in favor of something real. Whether on purpose or by accident, I've started to. I've realized that I want a man who makes me laugh and genuinely wants to be with me, not one that looks picture-perfect next to me in my Facebook photos. I've realized it's probably not a good idea to quit/get fired from my current job until I figure out a better way to pay my rent. I'm seriously thinking about cleaning off my dining room table. And as for the French bulldog -- she can wait-- unless anyone is looking for a dog sitter.