Thursday, August 27, 2009

Battle of the Sex(es)

(Sometimes--okay, most times--I sit down to write with a few jumbled thoughts rattling around in my head and I'm not quite sure how they're related but somehow I know that they are. Today is one of those times, so bear with me.)

The hair on Zoey's legs. I noticed it the other day in the sunlight, tiny wisps of blond like wheat and soft. The first time I shaved my legs I didn't even do it. I was 12 and my friend Lisa said I had to, that it was disgusting. She sat me on her bathroom counter and shaved my legs for me with her pink razor and a bottle of Jean Naté bath oil. Later she gave me her colorblocked sweater with the oversized buttons and sent me home, insisting she was the Jessica to my Elizabeth.
The other day I had to get my tires aligned and rotated and sat in the office of the mechanic for two hours with a book that turned out to be boring. There were 5 men working at the place--I counted. 5 men in the office of the tire shop talking and joking, razzing each other, which is maybe why it took 2 hours to finish my car. But that is not the point of this story. The point is that these men in the tire place reminded me of an all-male Designing Women, and as I sat there I cast each man in his role. The one with the greasy ballcap and the pen behind one ear played by Dixie Carter, the large one with the railroad stripe overalls totally Delta Burke. I always wanted to work at a place like Sugarbaker Designs; too bad I know nothing about radials.

I am so Annie Potts.

If forced to choose I'd say I'm a girl's girl, the kind who will tell you if you've got a poppyseed stuck to your lip, the kind of girl from whom you'd ask to borrow a tampon. Growing up I always had guy friends but that is who they were: a guy first, and then yes, my friend. We flirted, the back and forth banter of the language of maybe. To this day when talking to a man I am always aware that it is a man. I feel it, that undercurrant of other and then some. (This sometimes makes me sad, although if pressed I couldn't say why.)

Zoey loves boys. Men. She watches Bryan's friends, repeats their names, Chris, Chris Chris until they listen, then she has nothing to say and so she laughs. She does funny little jump twirls at the playground when there is a boy, and Bryan and I look at each other and smile oh no. Maybe I should be worried, my own adolescence a cautionary tale of how not to act, not to feel, not to be, not to breathe. But I'm not not. Worried. I turned out fine. I love my father, my brother, my husband, my cat (although we did have him fixed and in doing so found out he only ever had one ball in the first place).
Yesterday I took Zoey to ballet class and she loved it, as expected. There were magic wands and tulle scarves, plastic daisies, at the end: miniature pink cupcakes. Miss Rachel, the teacher, wore a glittery stiff tutu with appliqued roses and spoke with a thick Canadian accent, so thick that it might have been faintly Eastern European, I'm not sure. Let's meke a slice of pizza with owr feet! And then gobble it op! From first position to whatever no position is called. Have you ever seen a three year old try to point her toes?

(Maybe none of this related, I don't know. But this is what I have been thinking about lately before I fall asleep.)

I'm a girl's girl, true; you've got a poppyseed on your lip and I support you in creating your life, family, work, a Lifetime channel of a house with no glass ceilings in a room of your very own. But I don't trust you. There, I said it. And I hate it, this feeling. I have my friends, girlfriends, woman friends, whatever, they are few and I love them to death and trust them, yes. But you? I don't know you, don't know what you want from me, something ineffable between the sexes when there is no sex but this. This, what is this? I hate this, this thing that I feel when I smile. I am a hard person to get to know and I wish this was not the case. I wish I were a Ya-Ya traveling with jeans and a sisterhood, a bad book and an even worse movie, but I am not. I am a girl's girl who once had to make a New Year's Resolution to touch people more, on the shoulder, the hand, hugs; I broke that resolution in early February of that same year, and this is what worries me most.

Not boys. Okaay everyone! Hold hands weth eh partner and dance like eh butterfly! Only Zoey refused to hold hands with the girl next to her, choosing instead to dance by herself, flit and twirl and collapse in a heap on the floor, a very loosely interpretive dance of a metamorphoses into something else, the hair on her legs glinting like the fine powdered scales of a butterfly's wings.


Alexsandria said...

I have this same problem with women. I have lived in L.A. for three years now and still have no female friends that I love and trust.
I was beginning to trust one of them, but then she moved to Scotland.
I think my distrust comes from watching other woman do backhanded, despicable things to each other. And also from haunting memories of those horrible girls in the 6th and 7th grade who's main hobby was tormenting me.

cathi said...

I love your stories and the picture of Zoey is so adorable!

I have a few girlfriends that are the best - they are very hard to find, but once you do they are forever friends...

Erin said...

Zoey looks SO cute and happy in that picture. She is totally in her element.

Mrs. Blandings said...

I am this same kind of girl. I saw a, well, more than a psychic really, a mystic sort of, who just told me this is my first life as a woman and that explained everything. It is the excuse I use now when my good girlfriends don't understand when I don't take to someone. It is nice to have something to blame it on.

Petunia Face said...

I like that: "pardon me, but this is my first life as a woman." This would explain my lack of wedding fantasies, the fact that I don't care much about cooking. I'll take it further, though, and say that this is my first life as a person. In the past I have been a cat, a sunflower, fish, cilantro.

Lisa said...

First of all, kudos on the Sweet Valley High reference--loved it! Second of all, thank you so much for bringing up a topic that I've discussed with one (yes one) of my good girlfriends--we thought we were somehow strange, but now, perhaps not.

mosey along said...

I used to trust every person I met, and as a child would knock on strange houses in my neighbourhood asking if there was anyone there I could play with. I think perhaps I was a golden retriever in a past life - happy-go-lucky and eager to please and unconditionally loving anyone I met.

I've obviously been kicked a few times since then since I'm similar to you now - a few close friends on whom I lavish love and affection, and everyone else gets my squinty suspicion.

Thank God for a daughter who talks to every person she meets and forces me to at least make the attempt to do the same.

krista said...

i think i'm definitely working at the first round of being human. although i wish i had been cilantro. i have a feeling i was dill. i only went well with certain dishes and smelled somewhere between good and sorta gross.
and it's GOOD you don't trust us. you shouldn't. i have no issue with not trusting people implicitly. there's only so much of that to go around and i can love my friends without placing all of my trust in them. as long as i have approximately 4 people i can call at three am, i'm good. and i don't care what genitalia they have.


oh, i used to be so obsessed.

Rosalie said...

Ah...this is a good subject. It reminds me of that old saying about the difference between raising girls and boys. Girls mess up your head, but boys mess up your house. Not sure why, but it does. With boys, most of the time, you get what you see. It sounds sexist, but girls ARE more complicated and it's probably why you feel cautious with them. Anyway, of course this doesn't relate to me AT ALL... of course.

Petunia Face said...

Sweet Valley High was my Bible from 9 to too old to care. matching gold lavalier necklaces and Todd Wilkins, Bruce Patman, Lilah Fowler, poor Enid Rollins. God I miss me some SVH.

And R--no, this doesn't relate to you. You, my dear, are one of the few, the proud, the brave.

JJ said...

I always wondered - and still do - how do you pronounce Lilah?
Lie-la? Or Lee-lah?

I am not touchy either. I maintain some high walls. I pretty much trust 2 people. And I really dislike all that about myself.

Anonymous said...

You touch us everyday and few of us shy away. You obviously trust us enough to share yourself, your beautiful daughter, your cat and even a little bit of your lovely extended family. I think you are a relistic optimist. namaste

The Lil Bee said...

I get it. You see glimpses of yourself in her, and yet she's her own person, and all of that is kind of amazing and maybe a little scary, too. Personally, I have very few friends that I feel 100% totally myself around. With most others, I'm guarded, though I don't think they realize that.

topsyturvydays said...

It is amazing how kids can force you out of your shell. I've always been somewhat of a loner. Very few people that I let in. Suddenly, I'm spending afternoons with women I wouldn't have normally interacted with. I'm still guarded but I'm trying to put myself out their more often.

Oonafey said...

I wish I had one girlfriend. Just one is all I ask. Once you get to that weird age over 20, but not in college, no kids... where do you meet 20, 30-something women who are fun and average and not freaks? And why are all the girls I went to grade school with still in touch with each other, but not me? Do you ever feel like you alienate people on purpose, but you're not sure why?