Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Embracing The Inner Sissy

Looking back, I don't think my parents gave us the impression that boys were better than girls. But I got it from somewhere, and it took a long time to shake it off.

Maybe because I wasn't small and dainty, I decided, in self defense, that whose who were, were inferior. I played with dolls and teddy bears, sure. But I was also a fearless tree climber. Kitty W, our neighbour, used to holler out her window at me, as I roosted with my book in the tree at the end of our garden ---

"You be careful Molly Bawn! One of these days you're going to fall out of that tree and break your arse!"
I never did.

I was also a nimble dancer-over-rocks at the seaside; avid explorer of tide pools; tireless collector of seashells; builder of sand castles and enthusiastic sand dune runner. At home I threw my rubber ball endlessly against the wall outside our kitchen, sing-songing the rhyming litany of tricks to do on each throw, before the ball came back to my hand, whilst my mother yelled intermittantly about the fate awaiting me when I broke the window. Maybe my tall gangliness seemed more suited to a boy. Maybe I was secretly jealous that my mother made cute smocked dresses for my baby sister, but it never occured to her to make such pretty things for me .....

Maybe I dreaded, worse than death itself, that the boys in the neighbourhood might call me a sissy. Boys had all the power and all the freedom. To be considered a sissy by them meant you were a very low life-form indeed. Or so it seemed to me.

Things did not improve when I started to develop what, years later, my youngest daughter would call "pokes", as opposed to full blown bosoms. Oh, the mortification of it all! And the very last straw was when I had my first visit from "Auntie Jane". Not a child given to tantrums, THAT caused a meltdown of mammoth proportions. I still remember standing on the stairs, shouting at my poor bewildered mother about how unfair it all was. How come boys didn't have to endure such indignities? And what do you mean it's going to come back every month for the rest of my foreseeable life? Just kill me now and be done with it....

Of course, in time, I simmered down and resigned myself to my miserable fate. What choice did I have? What choice did any of us have?

Being female meant you were at the mercy of men. Only the most wanton of hussies would dare to ask a boy out. So one waited and hoped. I despised those of my peers who gussied themselves up of a Saturday afternoon, to wander into town and swan around, and sip coffee, which back then, was a very sophisticated beverage, and hope the young lords would notice them. It seemed demeaning to me somehow, like being a heifer at a cattle mart.

So I'd wander off, "lonely as a cloud", to walk along the banks of the Shannon, no doubt harboring a vague dream of meeting an equally lonesome, misunderstood soul of the opposite gender along the way. He would, of course, be stunningly handsome,in an understated sort of way, because, as shallow as I wasn't, that was the top priority. Hmmm. Of course the chances were slim to none anyhow, as the "happening" place was not among the lonely reeds by Shannon's banks, but in town at the Savoy cafe.

Once in a while, in town, some older man would smile at me and say "Hey handsome!" Blushing furiously, I feared I was being made fun of, because women were supposed to be pretty, not handsome. Further confirmation that I was falling way short of society's standards. Besides, of what use were the opinions of grown men, when the ones I pined after were snot-nosed adolescents who didn't give me a second glance?

"Youth is wasted on the young," my Dad used to say. I think he may have been right.

It was marriage, that finally set me on the road to enjoying being female. The long discussions, way into the night, with someone who let me see a side of him that no-one else saw, and who seemed to understand me in a way that no one had before.....That, and having children. That rush of fiercely protective love when I first held my babies in my arms. The wonder and awe as they learned to talk, and walk, in spite of having me as their mother. The realisation, when you have sons, that boys are just as sensitive, just as vulnerable, just as much in need of love and protection as girls, since society still expects them to be more stoic about life's little vicissitudes.

I have finally embraced my Inner Sissy. Since all my children are tall, I sometimes even feel small! I glory in my sissiness. I love sissy clothes. I don't care if my husband and son laugh at me when a romantic movie makes me cry. I'm not embarrassed to have to ask them to open those confounded jars for me.

Because I'm strong in ways that they are not. For which the OC gets some credit. He always expected more of me than I thought I was capable of. He came to me from a mother who was an uber-hausfrau, cook and baker extraordinaire, deft juggler of home, family and job---an act so impossible to follow, that, had I been less naive, I'd have run for my life. He took an enormous leap of faith, considering that I couldn't boil an egg when we got married. A few years into it he let slip, truthful to a fault, that even though I wasn't exactly beautiful, I had a nice face..... And great hips for bearing healthy children.[I didn't have a cast-iron frying pan handy at the time...] Gee, so it wasn't, after all, my stunning beauty and incisive wit? Someone teach that man to lie for God's sake!

Everyone has regrets in life and I am no different. But being a woman is not one of them. I wouldn't trade my Inner Sissy for all the tea in China.

11 comments:

riseoutofme said...

Ah Molly .... doesn't being a Real Woman incorporate ALL the facets of sissyhoodness?? Sissy is such a GREAT word .... Isabelle could probably give you the origin, meaning and correct spelling ... AND it was probably creatures with an "appendage" who invented it ... probably out of some innate fear ...

meggie said...

Molly, I just loved this post. I am so intrigued to read of your growing 'pains'. And you must tell us how you met your OC.
I laughed to read of the 'backhanded compliment'. I have those all the time from the GOM.

Stomper Girl said...

Inner Sissies are very useful for getting out of jobs you dislike such as taking out the garbage. I've learnt to embrace mine in conjunction with my Inner Feminist who insists that men can wash dishes and hang out washing too.

Mr Fixit always gives woeful personal feedback like the OC. Still. Even after 13 years of me giving (less and less) subtle hints about the way he ought to phrase it.

Tracey Petersen said...

The talent of the real woman is to know when to allow the sissy to be shown! Sissy enough to be the soft place for your children to rest, tough enough to never be ignored in a discussion.

It sounds like you have a perfect balance, Molly!

PS Glad that you didn't 'break your arse'. I imagine that would be difficult to place in a cast.

...Kat said...

more power to you Molly and though I am not Irish, my name is....I loved your post, very heartfelt and universal in its theme. we can all relate with the journey to fully embrace ourselves. and happily you found a mate to embrace you as well...
lol 'teach him to lie" that's a good one!
Kathleen

Aunty Evil said...

A lovely post Molly!

But...

"be stunningly handsome,in an understated sort of way"

err..? how can that be possible? Stunningly understated? :)

Molly said...

Good call Aunty! Indicative I guess, of the many inpossible, contradictory things I wanted back in those days!

velcro said...

In my case it took motherhood to allow me to to embrace my inner sissy and take up sewing.

Tanya Brown said...

Thank you for this rich, lyrical post. Tide pools, dancing over rocks, the dreaded visit from "Auntie Jane". And a lovely portrait of what it means to be married, which really resonated.

Walking along the banks of the Shannon sounds almost unbearably exotic from where I sit.

Liz said...

I think I have always been a sissy. I am learning to accept that.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love this post. I was raised in a totally male chauvinist family, and although I was small and feminine looking, I felt a need to be more macho than any boys so that I would be accepted as their equal.

I never had penis envy, but suffered from convenience envy. Everything was easier for boys; no one put restraints on them, they didn't bleed unless they were injured, and they didn't have to undress to pee. It was so unfair.

I also grew to enjoy being a woman, especially the mothering part, but to this day, when I see a man behaving tenderly toward his daughter, I look hard to see if he's just faking it.