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09 March 2013


Our relationship was broken - it wasn't working, for either of us.
I wonder if talking about these things will ever get easier? Practice doesn't seem to be making our communication perfect. It's better, though. I'll give us that.

Last week, my therapist left me with this question, to ponder til the next time: "What does it mean, to you, to be feminine?"

I had no idea. Not really. I knew it wasn't the uncomfortable, fragile and nebulous thing I felt it was, but what else could it be? Women who are powerful are somewhat masculine, at least, right? Well no. Obviously that's wrong. I couldn't find the middle of the spectrum, the place where a woman could be womanly and still be strong, or competent, or assertive, but I knew it existed. I'd seen it in other women, just never in myself, and I couldn't imagine it myself either.

I've noted before - even discussed it as a guest speaker for gender education at the local college - that my gender expression tends to be about balance. I feel more masculine when I'm surrounded by feminine people; I feel more feminine when I'm surrounded by masculine people. Archer, in particular, tends to make me feel uber girly. There's more to this balancing act than just that, but that's the important part. I thought it was the only important part. Even though I'd noticed that I tend to dress more 'covered' - which typically meant more masculine - when I'm more depressed, I had only just begun to fit that into my larger puzzle.

One of the larger missing pieces was this: when I felt vulnerable, I put on more clothes. I put on baggy clothes, which happened to be sold in the men's section of the stores, because they made me feel safely hidden. Thus my expression of my masculine side wasn't that at all. Instead, I was using that mode of dress to hide the very lonely, frightened girl inside me. I was dressing like a guy, but I wasn't feeling masculine at all. I was feeling depressed, and I was expressing it in a way that had escaped my attention.

So here I was, hiding my female body and feeling at the same time that it was pointless to try to "dress up" because - and here's another important piece to the puzzle - Archer seemed so uninterested. He had been under so much stress, and had been so distracted by work and other life issues recently, that I felt as though I were waiting on the outskirts of his life, waiting for him to notice me again. And in the meantime, being 'pretty' seemed unimportant.

And at the first mention of his honest appraisal of his waning attraction to me, I was indignant. How dare he be so shallow! And lead me on so cruelly! And-!

'But Bones, I'm a straight man. I'm attracted to women, not guys, and you don't do the little things women do to take care of themselves anymore, things that are attractive to me because of their role in women's lives. It's like you've given up on your feminine side. And I'm sorry, but as much as I love you, I can't force myself to be attracted to someone who seems to be signaling that they're a dude.'

Yeah, that's not verbatim because I was crying and thus distracted when he said that. But that's the gist. He was right. I hadn't been taking care of myself properly, regardless of what gender I might be expressing.

Comprehension blossomed. With his words, I understood that I'd been hiding, and that I didn't really know how to be feminine while feeling not-frightened. Suddenly I wanted to. I wanted to be a strong woman, regardless of Archer's or anyone's attraction. If he'd left me right then, I felt, I would have been miserable for missing him, but I wouldn't have been broken. I would have been strong. Or stronger, anyway.

I needn't have worried. We found the resolution we needed, in order to repair our relationship. I need, for myself, to take care of me. That includes learning what the feminine side of me needs, and acting on it. On a impetuous whim, I went shopping for clothing that was strong yet distinctly female. It was the most genuinely empowering thing I might ever have done for myself (though my bank account might disagree later this month). While I do this for myself, I do it also to see the lust in his eyes that sparks as soon as he sees me in my brand-new, subtly sexy and totally womanly outfit. And that makes me happy.

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