Do I think I’m sexy? Have I ever oozed sex appeal? At what point did I begin to really strut my stuff?
It’s funny how so many of us women will look at each other and immediately jump to conclusions. Oh, I don’t like her. Oh, she’s definitely drama. Oh, she thinks she’s hot shit. I do not trust her at all. Right? As women living in the patriarchy, I’m willing to bet we have all had one or more of these thoughts by the time we hit our mid-twenties.
Because inside patriarchal culture, where men tend to rule, by default and design, women inevitably are pitted against one another and competition propels us into fighting over scraps. We get into the habit of thinking there is not enough for all of us. Not enough men, not enough jobs, not enough standards of beauty, not enough money, not enough food, not enough love, not enough ways into better living …. not enough anything. But more than anything else, not enough men.
And when you feel as if you are always on the outside, looking in, as I had felt for years, you often vacillate between feeling combative and feeling apologetic. Combative because territories need defending (including the territories of respect) and apologetic because you feel guilty if it appears you have more than someone else.
I was rarely an angel with some of my life’s choices, even when I donned personas of meekness and utter patience. In my private thoughts, swallowed rage made me buck like an untamed horse. For years, the world’s groundwork often felt as if it was peppered with landmines, no where felt safe for stepping. As I progressed into young adulthood, feeling little to no love at home, I discovered that the outside world tended to be just as lacking in love as my home was. Friendly enemies, friendly friends, hostile enemies and hostile friends. It was all pretty confusing.
In addition to trying to figure out how we women were supposed to relate to each other, there was also the conundrum of figuring out how to interact with men. Some you wanted to date, but most you simply wanted to share a parallel existence with sans feeling ogled, accosted or misunderstood. What did I know in my twenties? My peers and I could only speculate at answers between the sexes and I had no older woman to guide me.
What was this thing called sexuality? Did I have it? At first I thought, nope. Not even a little bit. I was too skinny, especially in black culture. High school friends sometimes teased me about it. Boobs? Umm, nope, not much to speak of anyway. Thankfully, I always had my butt, not that it helped with my confidence.
It always felt like everyone around me understood more than I did about sexuality, while I seemed to frequently be running on late or empty with my own awareness. As a girl missing her mother’s involvement or interest, I was fixated on all the other women around me. Especially if they seemed confident in their own sexuality. I thought, fascinating! I couldn’t figure out what they had that I didn’t. So I mimicked, trying on and taking off attitudes like makeup.
Thirty years on into adulthood, I have finally learned how to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s all still new but I am working the hell out of my gifts before they fade away with age and disuse. No more shrinking. No more making myself smaller in hopes that women will appreciate this and like me more as a result. Fuck that.
My journey has been a long one. Life has not been easy, and though the current seasons are now kinder and more love-filled, I am mindful of this fact, it wasn’t always thus.
I am fifty-two years old. I already lost enough time neglecting to preen and revel in my own beauty and sexuality, thinking that society — and women in particular — would pat me on the back for appearing humble and/or chaste. Phfft! These days I have banished such thinking.
I rock. I rock too much to go on pretending that I don’t. It would do more of us good to embrace the entirety of how we actually rock.
I don’t rock because I look like someone else’s idea of beautiful. I rock because when I look in the mirror, I can now behold my own reflection without feeling the shameful pull to look away. I rock because I can finally lock eyes with myself and say the words, I love you. I rock because I finally love the skin I am in.
What changed? I stopped taking my cues from the outside world and finally began listening to the wisdom from within. I changed. I burned it all down to begin again. It was the only way for me to find myself, the only way for me to figure out who I really am.
So am I sexy? Oh yes indeed! So sexy, I radiate. But this is a different kind of sexy. The sexy that I am radiating is not restricted to the fuckability definition of traditional patriarchal fare. Nah! That’s silly locker room, I-wish-I-had-a-bigger-dick-cuz-I’m-embarrassed-by-my-small-dick, trash talk.
The Sexy that I am talking about is rooted in the sexiness definition I discovered in middle-age. My Sexy is primarily loaded with sober intelligence, open heartedness and more often than not, my Sexy is devoid of shame. My Sexy doesn’t hope for acceptance or approval, my Sexy just is. My Sexy is beautiful on the outside because of the vast beauty which exists on the inside.
How did I figure this out? I burned down my mental house and reconstructed my thinking from the ground up. It is a process which continues. And like everyone else, as long as I am alive, I am never done. I am a work in progress.