Sunday, October 19, 2008


I don't know if it's a bad thing to wear your heart on your sleeve. I suppose it's a bad thing if your heart is one that causes others grief and frustration because you're always on an emotional roller coaster. That could be dangerous, I suppose.

Fortunately, I'm not too much like that. But I do like to wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe it would be more difficult if I didn't have such mature friends, but I'm very free to be myself. "I love you. Be around." I don't like to make big deals out of nothing, but I don't like to let something pass without recognition, either. People are a priority for me. If someone is a good friend, thoughtful and intelligent, compassionate, affectionate, intriguing, compelling, admirable, or even just enjoyable, they should be praised and acknowledged. (Hm. That sounds familiar. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Am I plagiarizing Paul?)

But at the same time, people are very individual-oriented. I guess it comes with being human. Everything is about how it affects me and my life. I hate to admit, but even among my friends there's a degree of that "out of sight, out of mind" poison. My mom is full of wisdom: "Always remind people that you're in their life. Because they'll forget." And they will. So I remind them. "You are important to me. Thank you for everything that you are."

Sometimes the combination of those two desires of mine--to be myself and to love people--can be misunderstood, I think. Some people may think I'm too interested and be freaked out. Perhaps people are too used to a hyper sense of reservation. Maybe people will misread my intentions and think I mean more than I do. But maybe that's better than letting them think I don't care at all.

"You want people to know that you think they're special." It's not easy, but it's always worth the effort. And the risk.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Treatise pt. II - Aristotle and Sexism

Philosophy presents so many brilliant ideas and Aristotle's sexism is hardly to be discounted because it's dated.

That was meant to be an inflammatory statement. Heck, I'm a girl, er, I mean woman--and I'm hardly sexist against my own sex. Even so, lots of "outdated" ideas--including the idea that a man should be the leader in a relationship, in the church, in what-have-you--still ring true with something in me.

A solid half of me wants to be an egalitarian because then I would not be confined to roles that might never satisfy me. I honestly don't know if I'm cut out to be a mother. I love children. (I love them even more once they develop rational and growing minds.) But could I raise some of my own? I'm not the most sympathetic person. Be confident that if I express sympathy or concern, I really do mean it because I'm bad at feigning that. But kids need and want compassion even when their troubles are minuscule and insignificant in light of life as a whole. And they require a devoted audience for their sometimes uninteresting stories... I know--I have little sisters (whom I love). But of course I digress.

Really, my strongest desire to have children comes from the idea of sharing something like that with a man I admire and respect. And that's the half of me that is very attracted to the idea of complementarianism. I like the idea that I could trust someone to be a leader, to tend to the needs of others, and to be a partner whose strengths and weaknesses complement mine.

So once I am able to discern the nature of "femininity" as a quality (whether of the soul or something else), the major question will be, what does this mean for me as a woman?

I hope femininity manifests itself in many different ways. What are the implications of my role as a woman? Does femininity require that I be submissive or relinquish some of my liberties? If my femininity is demonstrated in my role as a mother or a wife or by my taste in movies or books or music, how does that restrain me? How could I be feminine and run a company? Or listen to metal music? Or be inspired by war movies? How can I tell men what to do and reject the overly emotional examples of women that my culture throws at me?

At the same time that I ask these questions, I'm very comfortable with the idea of a man (a wise, godly leader, mind you) taking charge. If I was in a "relationship," I imagine that I would trust him to judge the progress and direction of that relationship. I would trust my life to him. And if I didn't I wouldn't date him.

How can a woman be "strong, independent, and utterly feminine" as someone described Sarah Palin recently? How does that strength and independence mesh with utter femininity?

What? Why are you waiting like that?? I don't have the answers. I just ask the questions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Study in Form and Qualitative Definition

I was recently speaking with a 21 year-old male friend who described his interactions with “women,” meaning other females on my college campus. My internal reaction was, “Oh. Does that include me now, too?” Have I reached that point where I’m now a woman? When the hell did that happen??

When I was little, I avoided calling myself a “woman” because I always thought it demonstrated immaturity to presume to be more mature than you are. I guess I still think that. But the problem with “woman” now is different and more significant.

If I’m going to call myself a woman, I’d like to know what that means. I would state the obvious to say that society offers us skewed examples and inadequate (and sometimes downright false) definitions of woman and man. So where does sexual definition come from?

Am I “feminine” because of my physical composition? Is it because I have ovaries instead of testicles? Is it based in appearance? Here I am, sitting in jeans and a hoodie with no makeup on. I don’t think I look “feminine” today. Yet I retain that quality somehow.

Is it mental then? Is it related to maternal instinct? What of the women for whom motherhood is not instinctive? If this quality is mental (inherent to the way a woman thinks), how does that fit into the assertion that women can behave and perform as well as a man?

Is this quality emotional? I’ve always feared that possibility. People often scoff at females for being overly emotional. I scoff at women for being overly emotional. I hate most chick flicks because they encourage the emotional roller coaster that many women put themselves on.

*If I may take a moment to rant, I have to say that Grey’s Anatomy is one example of the self-imposed emotional overload. Sex, love, affairs, infidelity, flings, drinking binges, putting people’s lives at risk because someone can’t put personal desires aside…

Anyway, if femininity is emotional quality, can something be overly feminine? If an object can be too much or too little of something, is the quality itself inherently neutral?
What about the etymology of the word? WoMan. Is femininity merely a complement to masculinity? (I confess, sometimes I’m nearly convinced of this and it frustrates me. It doesn’t bother me so much that my significance or some essential part of my soul is incomplete or unrealized without the presence of a man; the struggle is that I may be incomplete but he isn’t. If we are both incomplete without each other (here I speak of woman and man as general beings, not any two people specifically), I could see some bigger purpose in that, some design, equality, and intention.

Perhaps that brings me to my final option. I’ve left one possibility for last. What if femininity is spiritual? What if it is a quality of my soul and therefore, part of my ultimate purpose in life? The question that follows is, how does that impact my goals, relationships, role, and desires?

So I cannot define this thing that I am or soon will be: feminine and woman. Even so, I cannot help but desire it and admire it. Perhaps my desire is an element of my femininity. But I confess, when my friend--someone I indeed deem a man himself--spoke of "women," I felt pride. I was proud of this quality and entity that he holds in esteem, of this thing that I have spent my entire life coming into (to whatever degree I have attained it at this point in my life).

This is merely an introduction to the thoughts that concern me regarding my own identity as well as this thing/quality/characteristic that God designed but society has skewed to the point that I no longer understand it. I don't know if I can answer these questions. I don't know what "experts," other women, men, or God think about the answers to these proposals. I may have to content myself with non-answers; maybe I'll even come to the answer by simply discovering what femininity is not. Whatever my odds for success, this is an exploration that is worthy of my time and energy and I think I want to really invest myself in it.

More to come?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One of the best moments of my life came to my mind the other day.

I was standing on the roof of an apartment building in Washington, DC. I could see the Capitol building just in front of the sunset. I brought my Bible up with me and just read for a while. I opened up to one of my favorite chapters, Romans 8 and remembered something from this summer.

I was walking along the beach at night on Grand Traverse Bay. I could see the lights of the docks across the water. I had seaweed in my pants. Dad was up by a picnic table with his Bible. I was mostly alone. The waves drowned out all my words. It was excellent. I stood with waves soaking my pants up to my thighs. Sand and seaweed.

I shouted at the very top of my lungs, "WHAT THEN CAN WE SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?!"

I was very tempted to shout that again from the apartment building.