Lately, I’ve felt slightly agitated; angsty even. Kind of nervous, because I wasn’t aware that I had completed my right of passage. That I was officially a grown-up woman. 20. A lady, even.
*barf* This coming of age wasted no time, and crept up on me very sneakily and startlingly. It showed up in children calling me aunty; in flight attendants calling me ‘maam’. In salesgirls refering to me as “the lady over there”.
Maybe there is something mystical about turning twenty. And something very sudden. I imagine that in Princess-world, this is the point where I would receive my fairy godmother.
It came with a sigh, however. A relief; as though I had culminated a painstaking process that I was unaware of. Someone else’s project, methinks. Because I didn’t sign up for it. My identity prior to this was slightly muddier, I feel. It was somewhere on a walkway connecting girl to woman; and it was very comfortable. It allowed me to be eccentric. To walk and sit however the fuck I wanted. Oh yeah, also, to insert ‘fuck’ wherever
the fuck I wanted.That was before, of course, every single one of my female friends announced of their engagements. Before the ‘graduation’ question crept in. Before the children and the flight-attendants, and the salesgirls.
This was also before the 3 a.m. panic attacks about my career going nowhere, before the wardrobe overhaul, and before the word ‘mortgage’ awoke an agitation.
So, fastforwarding to maybe, I don’t know… three months later, (yes, things went from 0 to 100 real quick) the pressures of being a woman surfaced in a very real way. Okay, I’ll stop being an alarmist. Maybe it wasn’t as action-packed. However, within a very short span, I began the negotiation process of what kind of woman I wanted to be, because women were described in such terms. They came in types. The fairytale god-mother in my head flashed coloured images of each category, and that bitch pressured me to gravitate towards the ‘Woman of substance’ prototype. But that was elusive. What would I be signing up for? … and let’s not forget that given the intersectionality between race and gender, I would not only be signing up for woman of substance, but also ‘black woman of substance’ I didn’t ask questions.
It was very problematic and it made me nervous. This prototype didn’t allow for any deviations. It would be required of me to be very successful, yet extremely humble and always subordinate to my male counterpart. Attractive, but never vain. Sophisticated, but never flamboyant. Cultured, but never eccentric, Confident, but never outspoken. Sexually attractive, however, never sexually liberated and never a prude A ‘strong black woman’ who is ‘no-none-sense’, yet still nurturing, and never vulnerable. Desiring of children, however not having too many, because that echoes ‘ghetto’ A good net-worker, but never a flirt. Never ‘white-washed’, but never an Afrocentric; ambitious but never aggressive. It would require me to be white; or the closest approximation, and so on and so for, and the list goes on, and if it did, wordpress would collapse.
However in a nutshell, it would be a very stringent agreement. This negotiation in its completion would strip me of an identity that I had taken years to build. It would never cut me slack; ever. It would require me to juggle many things. I would have to betray my eccentricity, to appeal to the language police, the fashion police, the managers, those who hold the ‘decency’ yardstick, and my existence would revolve around getting a man, keeping man, and nurturing a household, while simultaneously navigating a competitive business climate and securing an admirable career. A feminine one, of course.
…. So, in part two, after my exam, I will continue this in part two where I will posit my resistence, my solution. And how I’m coping.