Earlier this year I participated in a social media campaign where women shared their #worstwords – after giving it a lot of thought I realized a word I just about despise for all its unspoken judgement and suggestions is the word ladylike. I was raised to be a “good girl,” a proper lady. Though I didn’t know what it meant I knew not to be a bad seed about things. What I gleaned was a series of rules, in behaviour and appearance, I ought to live by. These were imparted to me by the media I consumed and heavily from my upbringing.
Perfect politeness. Be polite all the freaking time, even in the wake of incomparable rudeness from others.
Mad manners. Don’t cross your legs in Church. Don’t chew with your mouth open. And manners – you may not know – extend to your appearance. Don’t walk around with messy hair. Don’t wear ripped jeans or dress tackily or show your boobs too much.
Control. Always be in control of yourself. Rare – very rare- occasion will arise where it’s appropriate to let loose. You can embrace it then. These events include family weddings and such. This may have been the lesson with the biggest impact on who I’d become.
Fast forward. The lessons have been taught – both through observation and explicit instruction – and I’ve shed some things and maintained others. My hair is always messy and a loud colour of some kind. You won’t catch me chewing with my mouth open -no one likes see-food. Do I always maintain a firm grasp on myself?
Hells yes. So much so that at 27 I got, for the first time, what was even a bit close to being drunk. 27! People don’t believe me. To clarify, I don’t count being drunk as any kind of accomplishment. But by my mid twenties I felt what I can only imagine to be a toned down midlife crisis of sorts, battling with myself to shed the cumbersome regulations I’ve held myself under thus far in my adult life. Because you know what? You’re still a professional person if you get silly with your friends every once in a while. And you’re still cute if your hair is a jungle that bees sometimes fly into.
But there exists this layer of what it means to be a so called proper woman that was harder to shed than anything. My personal style was informed by being a woman of size. I didn’t think it worked to dress in the feminine way I ought to – frills aren’t flattering after all – or put myself together in the lipstick on, put together way one had to to be a proper girl. Because until you wake up and realize being fat isn’t the equivalent of being a Leper, you treat yourself and your body differently. You dress it differently, you hide it. Or at least I did.
Here’s what I’ve decided. There’s a different between being a proper HUMAN and a good girl. This isn’t 1948. I measure myself according to my internal benchmark. Being a proper human; treating people well, working hard, being honest, trying not to smell and following the social cues that I deem worthy are important to me. But what does a façade of good girl-ness give me? If I dress better or dream about having the body the frilliest clothes are made for am I being myself?
Am I happy? Productive? Interesting? Nope.
So much of what’s beautiful about the time we live in is the freedom to shed the superficial behaviours that bogged women down generations before us, though admittedly we may live in a time that’ll one day be looked at as intensely superficial.
Being a real person is interesting and if you don’t like me the way I am, well, I’m not proper enough to care.Tags: LadyLike, Real Person, real talk, Self Identity, Self-Control, Women's Rights, Worst Words