how to be a woman (or something like it..)

I have a pretty feminine name for a girl who is not what you’d consider ultra feminine. I’m not complaining. It’s not like you know these things ahead of time, though I did learn on my last birthday that my parents thought I was a boy until I was born and they saw my.. well, you know.

I’m not a boy, but my interests often lean in that direction. Outside of work, I still prefer to dress in a way that reflects my tomboy roots. My favorite christmas present this year was a football. I hate when family events (weddings, in particular) separate the guys and girls in our family for extended periods of time because usually the girls do something a lot less fun. I don’t watch a lot of real-time television (netflix got me), but when I do it’s usually  sports, news, or sports news. Those are all things learned from growing up in a home with only older brothers. They’re facts about me, but they don’t define my womanhood.

In college two of my roommates loved ‘Say Yes To The Dress’, a show which I still don’t get. They’d watch it together on the couch and sometimes when I’d come in from class they’d very kindly change the channel to something else. Maybe they did that because they were nice, or maybe they did it because they didn’t want to hear the type of questions a person who doesn’t watch ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ will ask during an episode of ‘Say Yes To The Dress’. I’ve since learned more about the show. Do you know the guests/contestants/brides.. i guess.. don’t even get a free dress? I thought AT LEAST those girls were getting a free dress after going through that whole obnoxious ordeal. Good grief. Regardless of all of that, my roommates loved it. And the fact is, I loved my roommates.

They were my best friends and we could not have been more different. College was the first time I ever lived with girls. I’m not counting my mom, because while she’s as woman as any woman will ever be, she grew up with six brothers and builds houses for a living. Moving into a dorm, then two subsequent houses with only female residents was a whole new world for me. Petite, glitter-loving, jane austen reading Rachel; And Artsy, calm, under-the-radar Ginny made our apartments pretty diverse. When I look at it now, it’s from these women that I really learned about femininity. Part of that is due to the particularly developmental years we spent living together, the rest because I realized sometimes the most interesting people are those who are most different from me.

I didn’t take to the internet to be yet another self-proclaimed tomboy saying things like “I just don’t get women” or “I don’t get along with women”. Quite the opposite. Are there things a lot of women love that I don’t particularly enjoy? Sure. Are there things about raising hypothetical future daughters that sometimes really freak me out when I think about them too hard? Yep. Are there entire genres of movies and television I’ve completely shut out of my life because they’re just too girly? Guilty, but I’m not going to feel bad about that one.

The truth is, the women who’ve made me who I am aren’t just the tough, fierce, and not particularly girly female figures in my family. The women who’ve made me who I am are all the women I’ve ever met. They’re the roommates who loved to bake and watch television shows about dresses. They’re the friends who taught me that putting on make-up and curling my hair can sometimes fix a sour mood. They’re the ones who really know how to handle a tough conversation in a way that leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to work toward a solution to whatever is the problem of the moment. And they’re the Mom who showed me that a woman can be a contractor and construction work any day of the week, if that’s what she wants to do.

There are all these blog posts, lists, editorials about how to be a woman. They’re circling the web daily. They pop up on facebook, or on those crazy millennial produced listicle websites I regretfully browse on a regular basis. They’re everywhere. It’s funny to me, though, because I’m pretty sure the only damn thing you have to do to be a woman is have two X-chromosomes. And the only thing you really have to do to be a good woman is have two X-chromosomes and the ability to appreciate that all the other women aren’t exactly like you.

My parents didn’t just haphazardly pick my name. It’s a solid name, no one ever mispronounces it, and it was always easy to find pencils/bags/bicycle vanity plates with ‘Elizabeth’ printed on them. I’m just guessing they didn’t expect their Elizabeth to be the fifth grader who only wanted Adidas breakaway warm-up pants for her 11th birthday, or the high schooler who refused to wear anything but t-shirts. But still, solid choice. I have a name that everyone can spell… and the two X-chromosomes necessary to pull it off.

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