unladylike #SOL2022 12/31

I think I was about 11 years old when my aunts and uncles and grandparents from the UK visited my family in Toronto one summer. I remember lots of sitting and lots of talking — heated discussions — though the heat vented mostly from my mother. I fidgeted in the dining room chair after the meal imagining the next game of hide and seek, moved to the sofa waiting for my opportunity to burst from the house.

Once signalled for release, I saw friends in the court and ran to the screen door with abandon shouting, “Hey there!”

I caught a few titters of laughter, sighs from my mother, accompanied by a reproach that I should be “more ladylike, Melanie” on my way down the front steps. Of, course, back then, at 11, I didn’t understand what they meant. I was just me, at peace with my body, my way of moving through the world, climbing trees, playing hide and seek, and yelling out loud with the neighbourhood kids. They called me a “Tom-boy” and warned me to cross my legs when I sat.

Now that I’m older, having mastered the art of wearing makeup, and styling my hair, and choosing fashionable clothes, I realize I’ve succeeded in playing the superficial part assigned early. Yet, it’s taken a while to memorize the whole script. The hardest part are the lines, the speaking part. My head and heart resist.

I keep speaking lines not assigned. “Hey there!”

Others, including women, lob reminders and reprimands saying “it’s just a clash of personalities” turning my words inward. I translate them. I let them travel down my throat to my stomach converting to gut-wrenching poisons. I never understand the lines assigned and why my words should weigh less, be smaller. The content of my speech is irrelevant when you’re “ladylike”.

Tyler Wallace of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at my school recently sent out an order form for hoodies. The design is remarkable and he asked what name I want printed on the sleeve. I replied, “unladylike”.

7 thoughts on “unladylike #SOL2022 12/31

  1. I am fortunate to have had strong women in my upbringing and in my life. They educated me about patriarchy and the misguided and unfair norms imposed upon women. While I received criticism growing up about my impulsiveness and directness, it never had anything to do with my gender. I can only imagine how women and girls must feel in these instances.

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  2. Bravo! I wish I’d worried less about conforming to certain norms while growing up; the pressure came more from extended family—except my grandfather—and my stepmother. I love that sweatshirt. I want one. And I’d love to have “Unladylike” on the sleeve. Have you thought about getting that tattooed on your body?

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  3. Dude! If you and Glenda are getting those sweatshirts, I’m in, too. (Laugh if you will, but I was thinking I should get one before I even saw Glenda’s response.) I love these lines, “I never understand the lines assigned and why my words should weigh less, be smaller. The content of my speech is irrelevant when you’re “ladylike”.” YES – and can you please remind me of this next week – and the next, and the next…

    Liked by 1 person

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