This is not so much about femininity as it is about being female.
I was raised by a man that wanted a son more than anything. My mother was told she was unable to have children, but that certainly did not stop my dad. He was a military policeman in the Army, so rushing home when mom’s temperature was prime for reproduction was not a problem. Lo‘ and behold, mom got pregnant with me.
When I was born on Valentines day in 1958, to say he was disappointed that all of that hard work produced a female child is an understatement. Though my biological sex was female, he did not hesitate to raise me in the late 50’s early 60’s defined pink and blue gender assignments by raising me like a boy. The time of wearing dresses was short lived and playing with Barbies was a guilty pleasure even at a young age. It was Tonka trucks and matchbox cars, climbing trees, overalls, and being friends with the boys. My mental training was don’t cry, it’s a sign of weakness, don’t embrace the girl in me because it can lead to trouble, more weakness, and so on.
As I grew up, I didn’t quite know how to be a girl when it came to intimacy and femininity, how to feel comfortable with displays of affection, or how to trust men not to hurt me. I’d venture to say, dad scrambled my brain quite efficiently. It took many years to understand that being a girl, a woman, a lady, was perfectly okay.
To this day, I have a hard time feeling like I can be soft, gentle, trusting, or able to embrace my womanhood fully. I know I don’t always have to be hard and ready for a battle in order to feel validated. It’s confusing and one of the many things that defines my duality. A dress does not a woman make, so what does? Can I be strong and vulnerable at the same time? Can I be hard and soft at the same time? Can I possess both sides, masculine and feminine, and still be called a woman?