Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revival



So upon reflection of a recent obtusely late night conversation with a friend I've gone back to my mental meanderings about the nature of Masculinity and Femininity in our 3 Wave Feminist world.

I've always been hyper aware of gender rolls growing up the single girl in a family of boys. I was always very much a lady but I enjoyed spending time with my brothers so I developed a love for a lot of "boy" things to do. We climbed a lot of trees and hit a lot of tennis balls against the garage and wrestled and cooked outside and made baking soda bombs and and broke stuff. I never really meshed with their video game fixation. I picked up books instead but that's OK. I've learned to love the same movies and TV shows and stories they did. I still thrill at Star Wars and can quote Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles verbatim.

I didn't play with Barbies but I was not without my dose of feminine awesome. It just came out in different ways. I did have very well tended and color coordinated Cabbage Patch kids collection. I always had a feminine instinct. I would spend all day climbing trees but I came home to a meticulously cleaned room and from utero I've always managed to construct a vanity type place with bottles and jars organized in size and frequently-used order. It still remains my dream to have a 3 way vanity like Scarlett does in Gone With the Wind with delicate mirrored trays of beautiful bottles bone handled brushes and combs. *sigh*....

I didn't over indulge in make up or hair exploits growing up because my mother brought me up saying "The greatest compliment a man can give you is 'You don't wear very much make up, do you?'". I was told I was wonderful and beautiful as I was and I grew to believe that. Make up was a luxury but not a necessity and only a performance under unforgiving AP stage lights was an excuse for a full face of make up. Ever.

I read Vogue (and still do) because it was beautiful to me and I'm a beauty routine junkie. I'm not sure you'll find a bigger exfoliant and mask fan than myself. Fashion is an art form and in some cases a huge source of comedy for me. Some people are just bonkers and I love that.

My mother kept a lot of balance to the Force in the house with uber-ladylike tendencies. I received a full education in Vivienne Leigh and Audrey Hepburn film and the virtues of good posture and how to throw a real dinner party and what being a hostess truly means and the virtues of true kindness and soft words, that feeding people is an art form and cooking is magic. I learned to walk in heals, dress for my coloring, write thank you notes, decline an invitation, and generally how to be a Lady despite a 2:1 testosterone/estrogen junction that was my home.

Likewise, as my mom was a Lady my dad is a Gentleman. He had a leather doctor's bag in which shave kit and routinely polished and buffed his shoes by hand, had a briefcase and Cross pens, owned a shop vac and knew how to start a fire. He also never said an unkind word about anyone in front of us, worked harder than anyone I've ever met, loved children and animals, and took every chance he could get to teach us something or tell us he loved us. He never complained and always found a way to make things work, usually including a lot of self-sacrifice. He was the son of a decorated WWII solider, a West Point inductee and my dad. My Old Spice smelling, patient dad.

So, in my young adult wanderings I've been very confused at

1) the lack of true masculinity in my world. Not brutish, immature, unmitigated testosterone that oft passes for masculinity but real Manliness. Tender, comfortable, strong, manliness.

2) the complimentary lack of real femininity. Not the petty, hyper sexualized, rude, loud, shrilly or over silly, bedazzled, flouncy, with fuzzy slippers girliness. Tactful, graceful, confident, bright womanly femininity.

I've done my best to be as good of a woman as I can be and hold myself to a Lady's standards as opposed to the girl that the Modern zeitgeist will let me be. I don't like myself in such stages. I've protested it to myself so much I think that, this year, I'm going to dedicate myself to the acquisition of a lot of amazing dresses and spend the next year in said dresses, or slacks if its too cold. For those who are privy to my rather punkish tendencies as an adolescent this may be a shocker. Yes I've essentially grown up in jeans, docs, waffle weave thermals and band tee shirts this might be a shocker but I'm liking the dress idea more and more. Hobos from the 30's dressed better than we do today. There are just no excuses.

I've been very warm towards the blog The Art of Manliness for a good long while now and I've only just come across the link he's put up for his free Guide to being a Gentleman in 2008 eBook. Yay for mentorship!

I, sadly, haven't found a comprehensive site like this on The Art of Femininity. I'm considering starting one of my own. Since its a journey type thing for me too. I, however, can see how this is a potential mine field because we've been told for a few generations now to "Be a man! That's how you're a great woman". I disagree with that. So maybe I'll speak to it more on here - I don't know. But I do know that the better men are at being Men the better women are at being Women and vice versa. So when one learns we all do.

4 comments:

Rachel said...

I can definitely get on board with this. I am mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl but I am currently wearing a fabulous necklace and lovely coat over the jeans and t-shirt and it's amazing how great I feel.

Also, Gregory Peck, hubba-hubba.

The Other Mary said...

Thank you! I was recently inspired by several blogs (Color Me Katie, and CJane).

I feel like I've lost some of my MEish tendencies, and one of those tendencies is to play dress-up every day! I've only recently become a jeans and t-shirt girl (partly because of my job, partly because it is the easiest way to be modest in a hurry, but also from my own laziness).

So I made a goal to wear more dresses! The weather is no longer letting that happen, but I enjoyed a couple skirted days before the clouds came back and it felt WONDERFUL!!!

Tracy said...

There is definately something to be said for how you stand out in a crowd, male or female, when you conduct yourself in a more traditional role psychologically. And I don't mean making a spash at a party just looking like the traditional - I mean crowd of peers; in your industry, in social circles, by your actions and personal standards.

Now, I must disclaim that I'm currently wearing steel toe shoes and khakis- but I am known by all my customers and co-workers as a lady because I don't put up with cursing, expect a certain level of respect and keep my word. The men I work around know I'm happily married, thrilled to be a Mommy, and that I like to have the door held open for me - but if their hands are full I'll hold it open for them too. I can type faster than they can talk, outmaneuver them on a forklift, talk politics, and site a favorite cut of steak. But that makes me cool, not less of a lady...

So what makes you a lady?

How do you define it?

It's certainly not just 1 thing- Not just how you dress, or how you carry yourself, not just how you act, or even what you say or how you say it. It's a neuance, a look, compassion, heart, gumption... How do so many critical things get boiled down into the label "lady-like"?

Heath said...

I have always been a fan of "lady-like" people...although you probably cant tell my looking at me, since I"m totally un-lady-like. I fully support your decision! Also, if you ever find a blog on the lady version of Manliness, I'd love to know about it!