Within the past few weeks, I’ve been investing serious thought into definitions of “gender”. I define gender as the persona displayed on the outside, to reflect one’s inner identification with characteristics that a society or culture may attribute to a specific sex (specifically male or female).
A few days ago, I found myself at Ulta staring at a wide array of colorful powders, lipsticks, and cosmetics. My “fairy god-sister” was on a mission to help me look beautiful. As a “cosmetic virgin” I’d never worn makeup seriously in my entire life.
Okay, fine, I did wear lipstick for that high-school play once, and I did smear colorful face-paint for Halloween a few years in a row, but “beauty makeup” was all very new to me. On the one hand, this was all very exciting- finally learning what all that “stuff” was for! On the other hand, I wondered how this would balance with my “masculine” side which I’d been heavily cultivating since childhood.
Rewind back to my formative years. As the firstborn, I had the luxurious honor of actually having baby pictures. Apparently, my parents were very thrilled to have a girl-child and commenced with clothing me in a wide array of flower-print gowns, dresses, and skirts (which I despise to this very day). Looking back at my baby photos, I do look quite miserable… as I don’t remember why, I choose to think it’s due to my flowery attire.
As the years went by, I began gaining a conscious identity that did NOT include the pink, the girly and the Barbie. Dolls given to me were soon abandoned in favor of chasing frogs, wrangling grasshoppers, and taking newts into brief bouts of captivity. Being raised in the relative “boondocks” afforded me the advantage of having a variety of creatures and creepy-crawles just waiting for me to catch them. I remember once capturing a green grasshopper and a brown grasshopper to take with me on my trip to the city two hours away. Fortunately, my father persuaded me to release them at a rest-stop where the grasshoppers would hopefully enjoy similar freedoms afforded at their “childhood” home. Another time, my capture of two especially swift grasshoppers had me running into the house in triumph in order to show Mother my conquest. Of course, as soon as I opened my cupped hands, the grasshoppers jumped away in opposite directions and were soon lost within the house. When we heard cricket music for the duration of the summer, my Mother blamed me for our sleepless nights -despite my defense that I had not introduced nor invited crickets into our abode.
The forest around our home yielded many animals and insects, but few friends of the human variety. So I was pretty thrilled when a family from California moved to the campus where my parents worked. Initially, I was encouraged to hang out with the girl, “Tropicana”, who soon bogged our play with dolls, pink, and girly-girly playtime. At the time, I was willing to trade my “principles” for her company, but soon my inner disgruntlement overrode my desire to associate with her version of fun. I mean, how many times could we possibly redress a doll? And why did we have to do so every single day?
After a while, I found myself hanging out more and more with Tropicana’s brother, “Main”, who was a couple of years older than Tropicana and I. In my opinion, Main was twenty times more fun. We’d climb trees and explore the forest, catch crawfish in the stream and rock-climb. And when we weren’t playing outside and getting our clothes dirty, I’d visit Main at his house to play “Age of Empires”, the first computer game I ever played that wasn’t a Microsoft pre-install.
Looking back, I was pretty lucky. Main didn’t mind hanging out with a “girl”, and I was finally glad to have a friend who shared similar interests. Growing up, I continued to identify more with friends who were guys versus friends who were girls. Girls, I soon found, spent most of their middle-school years mooning over boys and dating, and kissing, and other conversation points I could care less about. Guys would discuss new games, superheroes, awesome movies, and argue the finer points of weaponry -much more interesting in my opinion.
At some point, I distinctly remember thinking that I wanted to be a “boy”. And despite my mother’s protests, I would wear pants instead of dresses or skirts, I refused to stop hanging out with my guy friends (yeah, don’t ask why it’d be a problem, I didn’t get it), and I sat with my legs splayed.
In fact, I wasn’t “girl” till guys randomly started hitting on me. Which was weird, since one day, I’m “one of the guys”, and the next I have guys asking my sibling if I’m single, and awkwardly failing at asking me out. Honestly, I was really clueless and didn’t know they had crushes on me till my sibling filled me in…many years later.
So now, here I am, many years later, perusing a cosmetic store with my Fairy God-Sister, and trying on stuff called “concealer”, “blush”, “cover-up”, and “nudes”? And I’m wondering, how exactly does this fit with my “masculine” identity?
The only answer that comes to me is “Don’t think so hard about it. You will always be… You”.
In case you're wondering, I do have makeup now. Just gotta figure out what to do with it, aka get application lessons. And I'm terrified of poking my eyes out with the eyeliner pencil...