Tuesday, January 13, 2015

'The A to Z List of Being a Woman' by Wendy Kennar

I tend to look at the world and want to alphabetize what I notice.  I attribute this unique quirk to the four years I spent working in a public library and the five years I spent teaching kindergarten. 
There is no easy definition for womanhood.  I need the whole alphabet to try to explain the concept.  But, here’s my disclaimer:  my perspective is different from another woman’s.  My list is general.  While women share many similar experiences, each woman is living her own life, on her own terms.  With that in mind, I offer the A to Z List of Being a Woman.

A         Ambiguous.  Being a woman isn’t easy, because it’s confusing.  Womanhood isn’t defined as one thing.  It isn’t “just do this” or “don’t do that.”  We are women, some of our habits and mannerisms may be the same, but being a woman is an individual role. 

B          Beautiful.  Beauty is multifarious.  There is beauty to be found in a woman’s voice, beauty in the way a woman plays with her child, beauty in a woman’s posture as she waits in line at the market. 

C          Committed.  We are wholeheartedly, completely committed to our children, our partners, our girlfriends.   We are earnestly, sincerely committed to our careers, our families, our passions.

D         Demanding.  Women wear many hats, at home and in the workplace.  There are expectations to meet, both our own and society’s.  We’re supposed to “do it all.”  However, we need to give ourselves the freedom to say, “I don’t want to do it all, and I don’t have to do it all.”

E          Emotional.  The stereotypical woman is “expected” to hug exuberantly, laugh giddily, cry unabashedly.  But in reality, not all women will be moved to tears by the sight of an infant or a sentimental greeting card.  

F          Flexible (in terms of clothing choices).  We can pretty much wear it all.  Women have options that men don’t.  Pants or shorts.  Skirts or dresses.  Suits or basketball jerseys.  Hairstyles that can be changed daily. 

G         Groomed.  Women are the predominant patrons in any salon.  Women are waxed, plucked, and polished.  And there’s always more to do and buy.  Just take a look at the first floor of most large department stores and the multitude of cosmetic counters waiting for female customers.

H         Hectic.  Women are busy.  We’ve got a lot to get done in a limited amount of time.  Many of our days, and nights, are non-stop.  And much like Sisyphus, no matter how many items we check off our to-do lists, there is always more to get done.  The list is never-ending.

I           Inequitable.  “We’ve come a long way, baby” - that used to be a well-known slogan for a cigarette company.  And it’s true.  But, let’s be honest.  Things will never be fair (at least as long as a man can walk around without his shirt while a woman can’t).

J           Journey.  Being a woman is an on-going journey.  As a woman, your body changes from young girl to woman.  It changes from before motherhood, during pregnancy, and then after childbirth.  Your body changes again during menopause.  During these transitional times, it’s not just your body that changes.  It’s all of you. 

K         Knowledgable.  Women are intelligent -- which includes book smarts as well as street smarts.  Women are well-informed and can speak on a variety of subject matters, whether it be sports or politics or cooking.

L          Loyal.  As a friend, a woman will be wherever a friend is needed - whether a party, a doctor’s appointment, or moving day.  As a parent, a woman will be her child’s strongest advocate.  And as a customer, a woman will loyally purchase the same brand of apple juice or toilet paper for years.

M         Mother.  It is the role that many women will fill and will find fulfillment in a way that no other role can duplicate.  And it is the role that most women are expected to fill, though being a mother is not directly linked to one’s womanhood.

N         Nurturing.  Many women are natural nurturers.  They will soothe and comfort someone in need.  They will offer food and encourage rest.  They will provide a hug, a tissue, and a pat on the back.

O         Omitting information.  Generally speaking, women choose to withhold certain information; namely, their age, their weight, and their pants size.

P          Perceptive.  Many women are quite good at deciphering tone and body language.  They know when a child is afraid before the child has said a word.  They know when their best friend is troubled before anything has been verbalized.

Q         Questioning.  We want to know “why.”  We want to know “what’s wrong” and are not satisfied with a shrug and a mumble of “nothing.”  

R          Reformer.  Women get things done, make the changes necessary to guarantee her children are at school on time each day or her business runs more efficiently.  Mothers are reformers on every stage (think of MADD, for example).

S          Sentimental.  There are items in every woman’s home that have no utilitarian purpose.  They are kept because of the memories and emotions associated with the particular object. 

T          Tiring.  I don’t know one woman who tells me she’s rested.  Certain days, she may be more rested than others, but generally, women are tired.  We’re doing too much.  We’re on the treadmill of life, afraid that if we do slow down, we’ll fall off completely.

U         Unappreciated, Undervalued, and Underpaid.  (enough said)

V         Vain (to a certain extent).  Most women want to look good.  That means using storefront windows to make sure your skirt is down in the back.  That means using the reflection in your cell phone to make sure there is no lettuce stuck between your teeth.

W         Waiting in line.  Most public restrooms do not adequately meet the needs of women.  There are never enough stalls and never enough counter space. 

X         X’s and O’s.  Most women are affectionate.  We hug and kiss.  We touch arms, squeeze shoulders, pat heads.

Y         Yearning.  For our youth, for privacy, for wisdom, for peace, for quiet. 

Z          Zealous.  Women are passionate - about our families, our friends, our causes.  The list of synonyms for “zealous” applies to almost every woman I know:  enthusiastic, eager, energetic, intense, and dedicated