Growing up with three brothers, it was never surprising to me when people told me that I wasn’t very “girly.” I was used to being called a tomboy when I was younger and was even applauded by my mother for not being a “girly girl.”
Now, instead of being a muddy sixth grader proudly refusing to wear skirts like the other girls, I’m a college senior who convinces herself that yoga pants and a white v-neck is a perfectly acceptable first-date outfit. I’m the kind of person who will announce mid-sentence, “Hold on, I have to fart,” and depending on the company, leave or not leave the room. I’m the kind of person who fails to go an entire day without using some form of profanity.
At this stage in my life, it appears as if I have evolved from the realm of “not girly” to the even more complicated label of “not ladylike.” Being constantly separated into a different category than other girls has sometimes made me feel like there actually is some part of me that will never be able to relate to other women. I find myself believing that all the things society labels as girly or ladylike are actually true of most women and that I’m awkwardly stuck in some in-between space with the rest of the people who will never figure out how to put on eyeliner. But even while writing this, I struggled to figure out what it even means to be ladylike.
Does it mean that I should wake up early every morning to shower, blow-dry my hair and put on makeup? And am I supposed to know that I should have a “winter shade” and “summer shade” of makeup? Because I have a permanent shade of see-through tinged with pink, which unfortunately is not a shade available in stores.
Does it mean I should chew with my mouth closed while I eat salad and sip Moscato? (Don’t get me wrong, I love both salad and Moscato. I also love eating burritos at 2 a.m. because Captain Morgan is telling me to listen to my heart).
Does being a lady mean that I have to shave my legs every single day instead of when I feel like it might clog the drain if I wait too much longer? (And on that note, does it mean I have to shower every day?) I should be perfectly spotless at all times, right? And speaking of spotless, I should never acknowledge the messy presence of periods, because periods are dirty and gross, right? Ladies don’t announce, “Be right back, gotta change my Diva Cup.” Instead they say, “Sorry, I need to use the restroom,” right? Because anything that may or may not inconvenience anyone in any way should be prefaced with “sorry,” right?
Does it mean I should never raise my voice? Yelling isn’t ladylike, is it? In fact, I probably just shouldn’t be angry at all, ever. Does it mean instead of being blunt with someone, I should smile, nod and try to figure out how to do what I want anyway, but without them knowing? In fact, I should smile more, shouldn’t I? Does it mean I have to get rid of any “extra” piercings and tattoos? Does it mean I should stop listening to rap? What kind of music does a lady even listen to? Seriously. I have no idea.
Should I leave my soccer sweats and Target v-necks at home and trade them in for “form-fitting” (read: cutting off blood circulation) jeans and a lacy shirt? And should I hobble around on heels because it makes me look more feminine?
If these are the things that decide whether I’m a “lady” or not, then by society’s standards, I most definitely am something else. Sure, I love dressing up, getting pedicures with my mom and belting out Taylor Swift songs when I’m driving alone. Heck, I even like rainbows and unicorns and the color pink. I always say please and thank you because my parents taught me how to be a decent human being. But all of these things have zero to do with me being a woman, or a girl or a lady. The fact that I’m perfectly comfortable pooping in public or talking about pooping in public does not make me any less or any more of a woman.
I’m pretty sure the only thing that makes someone ladylike is having two X-chromosomes, and even that’s not always true. This burping, swearing, brutally honest person is a woman. A girl. A lady, dammit.
Rachael Lacey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.