I threw that softball with all my might to beat the runner headed for third base. I held my breath hoping that ball would connect with my teammate’s glove and the game would be over. I was really hungry and tired of having dirty fingernails. And then, almost as if it had hit an invisible wall, it dropped from the air flat on the ground a good two feet short of its destination.
I instinctively turned to look at my coach only to find her shaking her head in disappointment. The crowd groaned as the girl rounded third to score. And my teammates stared at their cleats rather than make eye contact with me.
“Geez, that kids throws like a girl.”
I was ashamed. At six years old, I was ashamed to “throw like a girl.”
Those words were the beginning of a confusion that would plague me for most of my life. I’m a girl, but is it OK to act, think, perform like one?
Why was “girl” such an insult?
I grew up in the country surrounded by cotton fields, cattle barns, canyons and big blue skies. Being raised in such an environment meant that I was exposed at an early age to mending fences for 10 hours on a Saturday after the bull tore up Momma’s garden or waking up at 5:00 every wintery morning to bust the ice in the water troughs. I knew my way around loading hay bales, hauling feed bags, and mucking stalls before I even learned how to tie my shoes (I wore boots, duh.) I’m the middle of three girls, and there were no boys around to do the heavy lifting. Daddy didn’t use being a girl as an excuse, and, trust me, I tried it more than once.
With all that being said, one would most likely assume that I would be a tomboy, correct? Nope. Regardless of the many years I’ve spent brushing goats or shoveling pig poo, I am irrevocably feminine.
All of this perpetuated the widening gap in my mind of who I was and who I should be. My entire childhood is defined by pretending to like football or hunting because that’s what the boys did. Who I was in public was entirely different from who I was in private. All because I was ashamed to be seen as a girl.
Throughout junior high and high school my wardrobe never ventured outside of jeans, tees, windpants, ponytails or anything oriented away from drawing attention to myself. I was uncomfortable being a girl because through the course of my life I had been convinced it was wrong.
Boys only added to the maddening predicament. The males in my classes wanted to be friends with the tomboys but date the cheerleaders. I couldn’t find the right balance. I felt awkward and confused. ALL. THE. FREAKING. TIME.
What’s worse is that I am an inherently emotional person. I cry when I’m sad, happy, mad, excited, nervous, scared, and sometimes just to cry. But that wasn’t OK. Whenever tears would threaten to spill over onto my cheeks, the same response would linger in my mind placed there by years of psychological conditioning.
“Don’t be such a girl.”
Good grief. What does that even mean? Why? Someone tell me WHY.
Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this story. Eventually I learned that “girl” is not an insult, just like “gay” or “retard” shouldn’t be.
I am a girl. And I am damn proud to be.
There is no limitation on who a woman can be. For too long femininity was portrayed to be a submissive, compromising lifestyle and disrespectful to the feminist movement. Not true. A woman doesn’t have to burn her bra to be more of a woman, and, on the flip side, she doesn’t have to be a housewife.
God has called women to fill a variety of positions in this world far beyond the limiting boundaries that mankind has manipulated us into believing we belong.
I am woman who loves sweet tea on a pretty porch. I read romance novels and dream wildly about what it would be like to be a princess. Pretty dresses and dainty ballet flats are my outfit of choice. I wish we still lived in the days of handkerchiefs and long love letters. No sound is prettier than jazz on vinyl. I can sit and think for hours about what my wedding will look like and how excited I am to be a wife. I love baseball for me – not for anyone else. I don’t like football or Star Wars, and I can’t pretend to. I cry over sad stories and happy stories. I have a mouth like a sailor for no reason in particular.
There is so much more to me, but all of it is just who I am. Not because I’m a girl, but because this is who God created. I will no longer apologize for being a girl, and you shouldn’t either.
Men, don’t ask the women in your life to be anything other than who they are. To use “girl” or “woman” as an insult is to tear down the person God created. You are manipulating them to think that they must change something they may love about themselves because you are irritated or impatient.
God created all of us to be different and special in our own way. Let’s create a world where God’s creations are accepted and loved for who they are, not who we think they should be.