I was too girly to be a tomboy, but I wasn’t girly enough to be a girly girl.
When I was younger, before I could remember, my mom would dress me in pretty dresses or outfits with matching hats and sometimes gloves. I was not her little doll because I liked to be dressed like this. She would tell me that I wouldn’t leave the house unless I had my hat or gloves. I would be very proper and act like a little lady at the age of three and four. My mom has a lot of cute pictures of me all dressed up during this age.
As I got older, grade school age, I would dress like the kids around me. I would still wear dresses, but honestly, wearing pants and shorts was a little more reasonable to run and play during recess. This age is pretty impressionable, and I was growing up in the early 2000s. The media was very shallow and lots of movies, shows, and news revolved around what the perfect woman is like, appearance wise. Stick thin figures, eating disorders, and diet culture were all the rage.
I grew up watching Disney princess movies. The stories were great, but all the princesses had thin bodies and were petite. I was seven years old when I started to think about my body. I got my yearbook and saw a picture of myself, and the immediate thought was I should’ve held my stomach closer to my body.
When I was about eight or nine, I had a big growth spurt and was suddenly the second tallest in my grade. There was another girl that was taller than me. I have a full figure and it was starting to take shape. I felt bulky. It took years for me to wear heels comfortably again without feeling like a towering oaf. The school I was at had a uniform and I refused to wear the pants, even when it was freezing outside. I would wear the skirt because it made me feel like a girl. My posture started to get bad because I would slouch to not draw attention to myself. It wasn’t until I was about 11 or 12 that everyone started to catch back up to my height. I stopped growing at 13 and others kept going, especially the guys.
I am Mexican-American. This means I have very dark hair that can be very prominent all over my body. I started to shave my legs in middle school because I knew girls look prettier without hair on their legs. I would wear long sleeved shirts or jackets even if it was summer in Texas because the hair on my arms made me self-conscious. I would see men in movies that were hairy and began to compare myself to them while also comparing myself to the spotless women.
Around this time, I began to care less how I dressed. I would wear basic clothes so as to not draw attention to myself. I would purposely make myself small and forgettable. This continued well into high school. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I stopped feeling the need to wear long sleeves and began to feel comfortable taking up space.
I have never been super interested in makeup. I only like to do eyeliner. I don’t really like the way a lot of makeup feels on my face, nor do I really like the idea of wearing it. It makes me feel like I’m hiding myself or fixing what’s “wrong” with my face. My mom would ask me, “Why don’t you ever put makeup on and take care of yourself?” I would just reply that I didn’t know how to do make up. She would say that is what practice is for. Why do I need to practice hiding my flaws? I know that is not what she means when she asks. She cares about me and wants me to put my best foot forward, but that’s what my brain interprets it as.
It made me feel less like a girl when I would go to school and see the girls with full faces of makeup and they would look pretty. “Was I not beautiful if I had a bare face?” I wasn’t envious of them, I just felt out of place. I know for some that it is their armor or what they need to feel they can go about their day. It helps them feel presentable or happy and that is absolutely wonderful, it’s just not the case for me.
My time in university has really changed me. It has only been nearly three years but so much has changed. No longer do I feel the need to hide or silence myself. I am tired of silencing myself out of fear for what others may think about me. Let them think about me and watch as I still smile.
Being feminine is not just how you present yourself.
It is a mindset of being kind, gentle, strong, protective, and graceful through life.
It is knowing the great power you are capable of and knowing that you don’t have to be gentle and soft but choosing to be anyways.
It is having the strength to be in your darkest days and still look for the light.
It is feeling comfortable in your skin when no one is looking at you or when everyone is.
It is wearing what makes you feel beautiful because you like it, not because it is what others say you should wear.
It is looking at your body with love rather than hate.
It is looking at the people around you and your environment with love and compassion rather than indifference and hate.
It is having confidence in your abilities and not letting anyone diminish your power.
It is speaking your voice even when everyone, including yourself, is trying to silence you.
It is not being ashamed to take up space, be loud, smile, laugh, cry, or be angry.
It is laughing and stumbling through life while taking all the lessons and experiences that come your way with grace.
It is being completely and authentically you in every moment.