In the era of my birth babies were turned upside down and spanked on the bottom to get us breathing. At the same time they would have held me up and announced, “It’s a girl!” I was born a female. That defines my sex. I am traveling a journey to discover the kind of female I was destined to be.
I’m not sure how my parents felt about having a girl. It’s a discussion that never surfaced. I’m left to put together bits and pieces of story and ponder what their thoughts may have been.
My mother was recently graduated from high school and a new bride of just a few months when she birthed me. My grandmother, the person who would have had the greatest impact on my mother’s growing up years died when mother was young. Mother learned to navigate her identity on her own while being vigilant to escape the harm of an angry step-mother.
My father lost his father, left for war, returned home and married my mother, all in a short period of time just prior to my birth. He was an only child and had few cousins, none he spent much time with. I wonder if he looked upon me and wondered how he would hold up to the task of parenting a baby girl.
Stories and circumstances of my birth and growing up have formed me. Some represent the truest “me” and others have not. When the words “sexual abuse” are written among the scenes of one’s story, that person’s sexual identity has been marred and distorted. Those words apply to me. They have added to my struggle to find the kind of woman I am meant to be.
I’ve chosen the words “self-aware” and “self-care” for my journey through 2016. For too many years one of my navigators was what others expected of me or thought. Holding that expectation added to my struggle of finding “me.” I’m committed to releasing that hold.
My mother had a great deal to do with the foundation of how I would appear to others by the way she dressed me. Mother was a tailored woman with her own unique sense of style. She was an excellent seamstress and made most of her own clothes and mine. She hand knitted many of my winter sweaters and made pleated wool skirts to match. Our clothing budget was quite limited and as I look back, my mother had a gift of taking a few supplies and creating something lovely.
When I became aware of my own desire for style, several things created barriers between us. As a teenager the last thing I wanted was to stand out from my friends. I already felt different, but not in a positive way. Store bought clothes were the rage, and many of my friends enjoyed shopping trips with their mothers to purchase them. My home-created wardrobe was adequate and well done, but different. I longed to fit in.
With the stories of sexual abuse in my life, my body image was poor. I was extremely thin and had little curve and definition to my body. Mother’s choice of patterns accentuated my stick figure, adding to my feelings of not measuring up as a developing teenage girl.
Another barrier was the extreme difference between my mother’s taste for style and mine. Mother’s style was simple and tailored with little frill. My taste is romantic with flair and couture — to be unique.
The transition from wanting to fit in and not be different to embracing and expressing my desire for uniqueness has come slowly.
I’ve needed to ask myself who I want to be, how I want to look, and how I wish to have others experience the different facets of who I am. I have learned to offer those expressions of myself with confidence that I’m okay whether others agree or not. God says I’m good.
It’s been a process to embrace the emotional and physical sides of my sexuality and find my style. I’m blessing my desire for an outward appearance that fits my personality. I’m also offering myself opportunities for self-care of my emotional needs of being female.
Yes, to be uniquely female. How revealing and affirming. It’s fun being a woman and finding my truest me.
Valerie Avery treasures the journey of embracing all God has gifted her with including creating art and beauty using fibers, beads and nature. The bond of 46 years of marriage has created a legacy as mother to 5 and “Grammie” to 20. She is venturing into the world of writing and is grateful for a place to share stories of growth and hope. You can read more here.