I have been wondering, lately, about my womanhood. It is not that I question the existence of the identity — I know I am a woman, and thank the universe every day that I was fortunate enough to be born in the right body. I embrace my “femininity” and feel the pain that comes with it. This much, I have a hold on.
But it is the womanhood itself, its quality and nature, that I wonder about. Because sometimes I feel that I am so spread thin, a woman existing in so many spheres, that I am not quite a whole of anything. I am trying to make sense of myself — of who that self is, because I do know I have one. I know I have a self but struggle to define exactly who she is.
Because sometimes I feel that I am so spread thin, a woman existing in so many spheres, that I am not quite a whole of anything.
Here is what I know:
1. When I was three I started dancing. I wanted to be a ballerina, which I realize is entirely unoriginal for a three year old. I begged my mother to enroll me in classes for weeks, and once she finally brought me to the studio I refused to let go of her leg. I clung to her until the teachers dragged me off and sat me down and smiled at me. I only stopped crying when we practiced leaps across the floor – I felt like I was flying. Sometimes I still feel like I am, but never so much as I did gliding across the floor at age three.
2. At twelve, I told my English teacher I wanted to go to a conservatory and dance as my career. I think I said this because I did not know how to separate love from productivity, and in my mind dance was equivalent to love.
3. Now, I am twenty-one and I wonder: am I Woman Enough? I dance, still, and feel a euphoria indescribable except through the very movements my body completes. Except that I am not a ballerina. I am not thin, or demure. Occasionally poised. I still love my art more than I can say. But I pushed it aside to make room for life and learning and jobs and work and extra things to put on a resume. My body quirks in odd ways. I forget technique. I cannot move the way I used to. My hips are tight, my feet sore. Part of me knows it was for the best, that I never achieved the dance company dream. But then I wonder: what if I had gone that way? Could I be thin and elegant or even still quirky, but in a way more conducive to being . . . Because I am a dancer still, though never quite enough.
4. When I was nineteen I joined a sorority. I was entranced by the glitter and gilded edges and the perfection because I had never been that. Those girls, united by letters that in any other context I would be unable to read, had a presence that I craved. It was a sense of majesty, a chance to be the golden girl I had never been.
I was entranced by the glitter and gilded edges and the perfection because I had never been that.
5. Now three years have passed. And I wonder if I am Woman Enough? Because yes, I can gild myself for them, and sometimes even for myself. But when I am gilded I am only half-so. My gold leaf chips at the edges. I am not demure. I am not poised. I am political and outspoken and subvert expectations. I do not wear my letters, except on stained t-shirts around my house. I do not claim the institution, much. I worry about the finances and view it all as an outsider. And so the gold leaf chips some more. And I wonder, if I had pushed harder, could I have been entirely golden? Because I am a sister, but never quite enough.
6. When I was twenty (almost) I finally decided that my love of books was enough to choose a course of study. I did some paperwork and declared myself every parent’s worst nightmare (an English major). I liked the bookishness, the physical heaviness of a bag full of tomes, an endless scribble of words on lined notebook paper. I liked the idea of being that cliché mysterious woman in a corner with a book, intently absorbed.
7. I am older now, and I still love books. But now I wonder if I am Woman Enough? I still love the scrawl of my messy handwriting when it fills a page, the indentations pushing through to the next blank space. But then I realize that at night whenI have a book on my nightstand, I scroll through my phone instead. I do not have a favorite Jane Austen novel and I do not read mysteriously in corners. I do not do much that a mysterious reader-woman would do. I am bookish, sure, but never quite enough.
I do not do much that a mysterious reader-woman would do. I am bookish, sure, but never quite enough.
That is what I know.
But I still do not yet know if I am Woman Enough — the question remains. Have I spread myself so thin that I can never fully exist in one sphere?
Perhaps I am thinking about this the wrong way. Perhaps there is no Enough because there are no true bounds of Woman. Perhaps womanhood, for me, is this freedom, this litheness that allows me to slip in and out of identities, becoming free and flowing and a little bit of everything. Perhaps I am not one Something, but many fabric pieces stitched together with yellow thread in a patchwork quilt, ineffective alone but together something warm.
Perhaps there is no Enough because there are no true bounds of Woman. Perhaps womanhood, for me, is this freedom, this litheness that allows me to slip in and out of identities, becoming free and flowing and a little bit of everything.
And yet, even still, I know.
I think I will always wonder if I am Woman Enough.