Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

To be honest, I never really questioned if I was a girl. In 1979, if you had the appropriate hardware it was a question that was answered for you. But the thought never popped into my head, “What makes a girl?” I think I just accepted that genitalia was all that was required and went about my business.

Of course, as we continue to evolve, the question expands, what is femininity? I spent a lot of time in my early years being sugar and spice and everything nice. Polite. Kind. Sweet. This actually led to a lot of confusion, as boy after boy assumed I was interested in them, when really that sweet smile was plastered on my face through EVERY interaction good or bad. Sometimes it feels like the first 20 years of my life just happened to me. I tried to be present in everything I was doing. I grew into my intelligence. I was comfortable with my strength, in as much as I was emulating the male role models in my life. And no one was REALLY holding me back, except for myself.

I painted my room pink. I’m a girl.
I like boys. I’m a girl.
I have “girl parts” so I’m a girl.
I feel like a girl, so I’m a girl. Society relates to me like a girl. Girls can be whatever they want,
So there’s no reason I have to be a boy. I like the body parts I have, so I’m a girl.

I don’t know, some of these thoughts still resonate with me at 43, but they mostly just look cute on the page. It reminds me of the student I was teaching who purchased a new puppy. In my naivety I asked if it was a boy or girl, and upon pondering the question the youngling surmised, “I’ll put a pink bow on it, and MAKE it a girl!” to which I responded hesitantly… “Well, that’s something you could do.”

I suppose there are some things to dislike about “traditional womanhood”. Up until my thirties, periods were a hassle, but very tolerable. I hated that almost every man in my life seemed to vaguely interact with me as though I were a sexual object. I still hate that. I hate how much attention I get from my breasts. I hate when men overcompensate, or as one boss proclaimed, “I BELIEVE VERY STRONGLY THAT WOMEN ARE JUST AS CAPABLE AS MEN!”, almost as though he were trying to convince himself. I hate that my mentors and male teachers distanced themselves from me, requesting that I not hug them, and asking me to change my apparel which was deemed “inappropriate and too tempting”.

But eventually I grew into my self-perceived femininity, with little help from society, and lots of help from gentle men and strong women examples. Reaching adulthood I began to question the archetypes the Christian community had set up for me. While I think these were valiant attempts, I find God-given gender to be much less conforming, and more indicative of the creativity and variety I find in nature and in The Divine. Many of my friends in the theater community are gay, so I started to wonder what qualifies as “feminine” and “masculine”. And eventually I became close friends with individuals who were trans, and I began to wonder, “What makes a girl a girl?”

I recently saw an interview where a non-binary individual surmised that there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women on the planet, and that resonated with me. I don’t have a surefire answer, other than the idea that, yes, I painted my room pink, and I’m a girl. But it definitely bothers me that the removal of my uterus would cause my subconscious to question that. I feel sad, thinking one possible definition of a woman is an individual that is designed for the sole purpose of housing another. That can’t be right. But what kind of hole am I creating, carving out a uterus sized void in my previously “untouched” body?

One of my male friends casually exclaimed that getting a hys- terectomy must put me in touch with how old I am. I decided to refrain from reminding him that hair loss would be an analogous challenge for him. Though hopeful I can retain my ovaries for their hormonal benefits, I find that getting older doesn’t terrify nearly as much as “being less of a woman”. Am I a gender mechanic? Am I required to wear a button that says, “Uterus removed, proceed at your own risk?” Or do I somehow become more “valuable”, now that I won’t burst into pregnancy on the spot?

I mostly just feel violated. Wrong. Guilty. My uterus has completely misunderstood the assignment, housing a foreign body of the worst kind. Creating a tumor to fill the emptiness that remained. And rather than treating her gently or with grace, I’m carving her out? She somehow feels like a smaller version of me, desperately trying to complete a task without the right tools, and eventually discarded when deemed ineffective or malfunctioning. Hmph. I don’t know if there’s a way to celebrate such a death, but the rebirth is certainly going to involve some re- labeling. I’m going to have to redefine what I think womanhood looks like. Because it no longer looks like a uterus, or even a pink bedroom. It looks like me: scared, scarred and still here.

by [email protected]

JW has always been impressed with how much courage and confidence it takes to be your authentic artistic self! I have a Masters in Music and decades of professional performance experience. Starting with the Broadway National Tour of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" which I enjoyed for nearly a decade, I'm also a professional voice over artist for Playstation, EECInternational and Achieve the Core, among others. I'm a collegiate professor who specializes in helping clients find their own artistic voice, and connect with a community of other artists to find the hero within! I've recently made my first self-published book available on Amazon entitled "The One With the Hysterectomy" and I hope you'll check it out!


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