Tina Fey’s Bossypants at one point explores the identifying moment when women realize they are “women.” The women she spoke to realized they were women when some guy noticed or cat called them. Later, I reflected that
my the inability to place this revelation could be the result of one or two things: the awakening might have simply never happened (perceived kid-feelings persist, because of actual extended adolescence, or simple obliviousness) or the lack of a necessary juxtaposing “man,” whose absence, by the book’s and personal anecdotes, precludes the Real Adult Woman Defined by Man-state from ever being fully realized. What follows is a short history of how I became conscious of the fact that I’m a woman-kind of grown up.
Part I: Elementary school.
I am amused and appalled by the evidence I found of the internalization and construction of Woman in my young psyche: a series of short books written ages 6-8 as school projects from grades 1-3.
Book 1, age 6: “My Trip to Six Flags,” is about how going on rides at Six Flags is awesome and how when I went with my family we got home at an impressive 1am and I went to bed late like a tween or a badass.
Book 2, age 7: The overarching theme of this touching juvenilia is how I consider my older brother my friend.
Book 3, age 8: Displaying a certain maturation and growing cognizance of pop-culture, I was no longer blatantly a character in my books. This work is about a “girl” with modest means who is visited and taken away by a prince-like character.
The mundane and discernible progression makes it seem redundant to state that a year later I was obsessed with Nick Carter.
Part II: Middle school.
I place my becoming a conscious (human) being around 11. I had developed a comprehensive understanding of the importance of being pretty before I understood the socio-political relevance of dismissing God and that one day I was going to die. Before 8th grade it seemed obvious that I should focus my attention on being smart and funny because I placed little faith in the future development of looks, a thing believed to be greater value.
Part III: High School – College.
Nona Willis Aronowitz quite brilliantly asks:
“What’s with this still-dominant narrative that all teen girls should want a monogamous, snuggly, worshipping boyfriend? I wanted relationships from fantastic fucks all through high school and college, but something tells me that I repeatedly confused lust for love and convinced myself that I wanted a boyfriend, when really I just wanted a screwfest…”
Part IV: Post-college/prolonged adolescence/self-indulgence/Denial.
Blogs about being honestly self-critical and in your 20s in New York bore me.
Oh right, cat calls.
Part V: I must be wearing my boobs today.
So where do I place conscious woman-ness? I still struggle to pinpoint a moment. Tina Fey’s point was that it’s this sexually oriented thing and basically guys TELL us we’re women by being all gross at us. Which, yeah, partially, but examining the subtleties in this history made me feel like other people had expectations of what I should want for myself and I felt pressure to conform, sometimes less consciously than other times. Take my mother’s concern over my skin, or weight, or short skirt, and her reactions reveal a sad mastery at anticipating others’ reactions. Does it have to be this way?
It’s probably relevant to note the underlying separation women feel from themselves and themselves as sexualized object. I’m too old to be naïve about it, and women who put on as such tend to come across as mean or childish, in my experience. I mostly like to ignore it, to not think about how being in my body is like, its own sexually relevant thing and that people are ascribing meaning to my body parts.
But then like, everyone has to struggle with being themselves and perceptions of themselves. And sometimes that means being perceived as someone to follow around and masturbate to from a car at a gas station. Right?