If you didn’t read that in a calming, soothing voice akin to Counsellor Diana Troy’s voice from Star Trek: Next Generation, then you have failed me. Go back, read it again, and come back to me with a fresh perspective and better attitude towards the piece I’m about to write. Back? Okay, thanks for that. If you’re male and/or slightly squeamish and are reading this with increasing trepidation that I’m about to go into a Vagina Monologue style rant about my first period or the first time I touched myself, then don’t worry, because I probably won’t. But then again, I might do, because I’m cruel and also because I’m trying to practice literary improvisation.
A lot of the things I read online tell me that gender roles are established very early on in life, depending on what toys you play with, thus, modern parenting techniques advise that parents don’t force their kids to play with toys depending on what part of the toy store they’re in; let kids be kids and choose their own way in life is the mantra. Anyway, I never had that. I played with Barbies and dolls (well, I smacked their faces against walls) I played with prams (ran over bees with the wheels) and played with toy make up and jewellery, as well as girly arts and crafts – I never grew up feeling that my place as in the home or in the kitchen (unless the fridge was fully stocked) and I don’t hold any kind of resentment towards my parents now for me playing with gender specific toys. Granted, I had both of my parents telling me on the daily that I would be a smart, career driven, independent woman who would be able to drive, tell the time without getting confused when the afternoon rolled in and never forgetting which way is right and which way is left, meaning I would just point in directions and say ‘over there’ by the time I was twenty six. Parenting successful, you guys, you can retire now… Anyway, I never felt that my toys were a suggestion of my future to come, nor did I think they were sending me subliminal messages, telling me that I’d make a great home maker/mother/wife, because my parents screamed even louder in my face that I would be AMAZING and BRILLIANT and high fived me when I didn’t wet the bed… In a way, I’m pretty pissed off that my toys didn’t have more of an influence over the adult I’d become, because my favourite toy, Barbie, had an amazing life and other than the subsequent body/self esteem issues I’d undoubtedly acquire by being too influenced by the blonde babe I played with daily, I’d still have been pretty happy with the outcome.
My Barbie dolls were awesome and their lives were pretty sweet. They lived in a giant mansion, all together with their best friends and enemies alike and they’d go on all sorts of adventures and divorce and marry people within a week. Imagine that life? It’d be like Dyansty! More to the point, I’d have been married to a Ken doll and we would have been amazingly well dressed and matching at all times. He would have enormous pectoral muscles, which I don’t agree with, and a questionable crotch region, which I agree with even less, but with the wealth of Barbie and Ken and the abundance of available plastic in the world, we’d be able to sort that kind of thing out, no problem at all. Life would be sweet. I’d also have an entire wardrobe style house full of clothes and every single day would be my first day at a new job. It would be like that first scene in Clueless where Cher is sorting out her outfit du jour via her amazingly technologically advanced computer; the only difference being, that my outfit match would be what I’d be doing as a job that day. My work week may have even looked like this:
Tuesday: Canadian Mountie
Wednesday: Yoga Teacher
Friday: Ambassador for World Peace
Saturday: NASCAR Driver
I mean, that’s way better than any of your careers, right?
Unfortunately, my toys had very little influence over my life. Unless you count my Speak and Spell which taught me how to spell swear words correctly and maybe my doll pram for killing all of those bees.
Do you remember watching ‘coming of age’ movies and TV episodes in the likes of Sister Sister, where they’d discuss womanhood like it was some kind of amazing journey we were about to go on, filled with love and romance and in the end, a tub of ice cream and laughs with our best friends for life humans? Then, as it got closer, all it really entailed was a lot of general hysteria at not only your perpetually changing body, but at the entire world around you for being so selfish by not realising your CONSTANT DAILY STRUGGLE WITH EXISTENCE!!! I was expecting magic carpet rides and new found responsibilities that had absolutely nothing to do with shaving my arms or legs, or being metaphorically thrust into the world with new squishy bags on my chest, thus suddenly agonisingly aware of my SELF and the perpetual gaze of the male ascending on me every time I chose to leave the house. It was awful.
Suffice it to say that I didn’t enjoy growing into a woman very much at all; I mean, I love it now, because I’m a woman and I firmly believe that is a great thing to be. I can’t think of anything that wields as much power as a woman’s vagina, except maybe her cleavage in a bar. Or more important things like what a woman has to go through to bring life into the world. There are some people who champion the sheer genius behind sperm and go into advance scientficit discussions about how far the sperm has to travel and out of the millions and millions THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE that assists in the creation of new life.
I’m not sure about you, but when I hear that, I’m sitting there metaphorically patting the head of which ever idiot has come out with that one, before retorting with what actual reproductive heroics actually entails. Firstly, women only have a certain amount of eggs and they start depleting from the moment we start our periods – did you guys know this?! – so when people start talking about biological clocks ticking, they don’t mean that one day you’ll wake up and have an overwhelming urge to reproduce and maybe, potentially steal a baby off the street, like I thought happened… Oh no: It means that you only have a certain amount and that the more periods you get, the more you lose them, because they just disappear. So if you only have like thirty eggs in your uterus and you’ve been a woman since you were like, eleven, then maybe you won’t have eggs in you at all and you’ll be BARRON. Which is really unfair when you think about it, like men can just wank incessantly on the daily for their entire lives and even when they’re like, ninety, they can still use that sperm to impregnate someone. I’m foaming I can’t do that with my vagina eggs.
I genuinely expected that becoming a woman would bring with it some kind of epiphany and that my entire life’s purpose would suddenly become abundantly clear, but other than the fact that I woke up in a pool of my own blood wishing I was born with a penis and that I could now house babies in my womb (ones that were grown there, not just put there as some kind of horrifically upsetting babysitting service) and that the concept of ‘babies raising babies’ suddenly became very clear to me, nothing else really changed. I still liked cartoons and I still believed in Santa Claus and cried when I didn’t get my own way. When I think about it now, I think of it in terms of history and how women throughout life were treated once they began menstruating, relief washing over me when I realised that upon having my period, my dad didn’t trade me in for a few goats to a middle aged man, I was lucky that my dowry remained very much non-existent. I was also lucky that my period coincided with the new millennium; otherwise I may have potentially been procreating for a well over a decade now and making food for a much older man, whose sweaty body had no concern for mine at all (what? The nineties were weird, man!). In a way, becoming a woman for me, meant staying a child, and I found that pretty awesome.