I think most women will agree with me that, being a woman is hard. Don’t get me wrong fellas, I’m not proclaiming one sex has it easy and the other has it hard. I just feel that, in the battle of the sexes, women generally get dealt the shorter end of the stick. You’re free to agree, or disagree, with that statement. But, as you’ve probably figured by now, I’m going to explain why.
Women in general, have a lot of negative stereotypes. And we’ve had these same negative labels associated with our gender for thousands of years. I could get into plenty of detail about the history of women and give you countless examples but let’s face it, not many will disagree about the struggles women and our rights have fought for. When it comes down to the basics, in any culture, in any society, women always have much harsher and higher demands placed upon our heads. And sometimes it does costs us our heads if we fall below those standards.
That’s not to say that being a woman are without their perks. I know there are people who would argue that women today have more unfair advantages then men. But I’m not here to argue which gender has it better or worse than the other. On that note though, one thing I love about being a woman is, we as a gender are amazingly resilient and are always finding a way to push through the envelope. We are always looking for way to place a toe beyond the forbidden line of standards and push our boundaries further and further back till one believes these lines are non-existent. For instance, did you know that since Chinese women weren’t allowed to know how to read or write, for thousands of years they created their own secret code of writing? They wrote poems and letters as they developed their own system, they passed down through generations.
But sadly, despite wishing for equality, the boundary line of expectations and standards women are supposed to have are always still there, and they quite never disppear, no matter how hard one tries to wish otherwise. The tricky part of these standards for women are, they can’t really be blamed on men anymore. I mean sure, the jokes men still make about women making them a sandwich are enough to roll your eyes at, but it’s not really what holds our gender back. But I’m getting ahead of myself here and excuse me while I back track a ways.
For my boyfriend Chris’s thirty-first birthday, I decided to buy him a bike. I don’t know anything about bikes. I spent some time nonchalantly acting like any girlfriend does, asking advice months in advance about bikes as if I were shopping around for one, and what kind of bike he would get. And so forth. I was successful in my plan of utterly surprising him but the hitch was, he would be slightly delayed in receiving his present until I could finish paying off what I thought was a good Trek bike from a pawn shop. I was told I could switch out the bike, or bring it back, if anything was wrong. Finally, five weeks later, I finished paying off his birthday present. Three days later, the bike’s gears wouldn’t stay and worse, the bike seat came flying off while he was riding it home from work one night.
Two days later, I took it took the bike back to the pawn shop, hoping I could switch out bikes. But no such luck. The bike seat had gotten lost after Chris almost crashed and had to run to catch the last bus home at one in the morning. The pawn shop told me that no seat, no credit, and that was final. To say I was upset, is a understatement. I tried putting my foot down and pleading for humanity, that it had taken me five weeks to pay this off of my pitiful salary. I tried explaining the sacrifices I had made but none of it made any difference. They were unmoving and unsympathetic to my plight.
I left the store feeling defeated and stupid. The moment my feet were outside, I wanted to run back in and try harder, fight harder. I didn’t feel like I had truly left all stones unturned or tried hard enough. But I didn’t. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid, it was more that, I was afraid of not looking like a lady.
Little girls are told to be good, but above all, to act like a lady. What exactly a lady is, or expected, is tricky to explain and different in many people’s eyes. It’s typical for a lady to be portrayed to be as old-fashioned, conservedly dressed, well spoken and usually found drinking tea. Stepford Wives comes to mind. But honestly, I find that concept a little dated. Because a woman and a lady aren’t the same thing. One is born a woman, and one becomes a lady. But how? And if what we define a lady is no longer so black and white anymore, what makes a woman a lady? It’s bad enough that women degrade ourselves, and each other, to make such an ideal of becoming something as simple as a lady, nearly incomprehensible.
For I knew why I didn’t press harder in the pawn shop. Because deep down, I may not feel like a lady, but as nuts as it sounds, I am always fighting myself to reach that ideal. I’m always trying to teach myself to be more graceful, poised, charming and as much as I don’t like admitting it but, complacent too. And if I had argued back and pressed the issue, till I had thrown a huge scene, like my mother would have, was just something I didn’t know how to pull off. I never reach the lady like ideal, at least not completely. It’s like that quote from Sex in the City, “I know I’ll never be the girl with the perfect hair, or be able to wear white without spilling anything on it, but that’s okay.” And it is okay, at least for the most part. Because I’m not striving to be perfect and honestly, nor does anyone really expect me to be.
The thing is, trying to act like a lady isn’t as arcane as it’s perceived to be. I think there is something to be said about how little we put into our appearances or manners today. A lady doesn’t have to know an entire twelve course place setting, knowing how to use each and every fork. But she does know how to eat gracefully, without slurping or spilling food onto herself. A lady knows how to dress for her body, so therefore there are very few wardrobe malfunctions (but nobody is perfect). A lady is articulate and chooses her words wisely. She debates rather than argue. A lady doesn’t have to raise her voice to be heard, nor does she yell, throw tantrums or often swear. A lady has direction in her life, or at least a life, but does not over dramatize every bump in the road. A lady is comfortable with her body and doesn’t sweat over a few measly pounds.
I know I have trouble with a lot of those sentiments but, for the most part, I do try to live up to what I just said. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty though, the problem isn’t about trying to be perfect or act like a lady. Because having a little tact, a little charm and a little grace in today’s society are sorely lacking. The problem is among our own gender. The boundaries we should be pushing are for less hate and more acceptance among women. Because honestly, we are the ones who label too many of ourselves negatively. She’s too fat. She’s a bitch. She’s a slut, prude, weird, nerd, drinks too much, etc. So, let’s stop being in such a rush to grow up as we’re missing steps along the way and just let, Luck Be A Lady.