When I hit puberty, I felt an urge to tape my chest down with packaging tape. I contemplated it over and over again, but decided that I'd be crazy to actually do it. I tried to understand where the impulse even came from and decided that at age 12, I wasn't comfortable with being a woman yet. I started thinking about it all the time and became obsessed with what being a woman would mean and whether or not I would want it.
I even went to speak with my bishop about my concern. Whenever he spoke to the young women, he told us that we could meet and talk with him about anything, so I took him up on it.
"So, what did you want to talk about, Laura?"
"I'm not even sure how to say it; I guess it seems like everything considered feminine in our society implies weakness, and that there's not a whole lot of difference between women inside and outside the church. . ."
I went on to explain that a woman is generally only considered attractive if she is thin and that it also puts her in a societal position of being weak and childlike. I explained that long or fake nails inhibit one's ability to work with their hands, that high heels make it easier for someone to trip or be tripped, and that long hair is easily pulled. I told him that I noticed that women (outside of my family) were often silent in the face of political and academic discussions. That all and all, men seemed to prefer women who looked and acted like children, but still did a lot of housework.
"I think you're a perceptive young woman," he said; and that's all I can remember.
I was shocked with his response. I thought he'd tell me that I was wrong, that I'm not seeing the point of it all, that I would get it when I grew up.
After that, I resolved to be the best woman I could possibly be. If I rejected my femininity and took on more masculine tendencies, it would only support the supremacy of males. But I didn't want to fall into the subservient trap of other woman. I wanted to be completely female, yet, respected. I wanted to be a girlfriend, wife, and mother, who was valued for my individual characteristics and not for my appearance or housekeeping abilities (but of course I still wanted to look incredibly beautiful and have amazing housekeeping skills.) I told others that my ultimate goal was to become the "essence of femininity."
Oddly enough, I think that's how I got into fashion. Appearance became a creative endeavor more than an attempt to homogenize with my peers. I wanted to get away with everything, just so long as it was modest. An over-willingness to expose one's body struck me as desperate, and therefore, weak. I wanted boys to appreciate this about me.
Of course, looking back, I think I've made almost every stereotypical female error in existence. I've definitely come off as desperate, ditsy, catty, and I've certainly allowed myself to be controlled by males. As much I hate that, I am more comfortable with my identity as a woman now than ever before. I still feel like I'm constantly examining how to be the best female possible; to exhibit my innate girlish tendencies and strength simultaneously.
Really, I am more girly than ever before as I have become more comfortable with myself. I unabashedly enjoy my Vogue magazine subscription, (but always with the disclaimer that I really just enjoy the couture fashion spread) I started quilting, and I even took my eylelash curler on my latest backpacking trip (but no make-up...wait, I think I took some mascara.)
I love to ask others what their perception of my femininity is, since I'm so unsure of how it compares to culture around me. I feel like a boy when I'm at a hip-hop show or on BYU campus, but in smaller groups among friends and family, I feel ultra-girly.
Miriam and Whitney say that I am "the essence of femininity." They said it independently of one another with no coaching at all and I felt very complimented. When asked if they felt that I was androgynous they both said,"No way."
But my favorite remark on the topic came from Wayne, who told me that I could "skin a cat and wear it." I consider it one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.