On Saturday I got to go climbing. It’s one of my most favorite things to do, but I just don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I long for the days when I can climb outdoor routes again, but for now, it’s the climbing gym for me, and that’s fine. It’s a time-consuming sport, but with going to the gym, you get to skip the drive and the set-up. So it’s efficient. Oh yeah, and it’s fun, too.
Recently I had an interesting conversation with a new friend of mine. She is a staunch feminist and a compassionate but ‘knows-where-she-stands’ person. She got onto me about calling my agemates “girls”. (We spent a few minutes sorting out the contexts when “girl” is used to mean “friend” or “buddy”, since I use that version a lot. And we talked about the difference between “girl” and “young woman”, etc.).
She said, “A girl is someone who still has to be taken care of by someone, and that’s usually a man – her father. A girl is someone who may not have the capability to make decisions for herself.”
She said calling a woman “girl” is like calling an African-American man “boy”. That hit me.
Several years ago, I would get frustrated with my husband for calling women “girls”, but after a while, I realized it was a term of endearment coming from him, and I let it go. And since I casually throw it around all the time, I had stopped thinking about it. But since I was 20 or so, I’ve always stumbled around when talking about women my age. “Gir-, well, woman, I guess,” is usually what comes out.
I’ve been thinking on this for several days.
A “girl” is certainly not married with two children and a home to manage, complete with daily decision-making that affects many people besides herself.
Calling myself a woman makes me feel like I’m claiming something. My past, my mistakes and successes, and so, maybe a seed of wisdom. My decisions. My age and body. My experiences. My life.
But there is still a little girl inside of me. She reminds me to walk a little lighter. To laugh more. And that this is supposed to be fun more often than I let it be.
Play has always been a non-negotiable for me. Before we had kids, my husband knew not to mess with the amount of time I had to climb or bike or run or just be outside. I needed it, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t quite myself.
As I was thinking about writing this post, I realized that at some point, something happened. I started to feel guilty about taking so much time for Me, about playing so intensely, without thinking of my family. I didn’t used to feel one iota of guilt when I’d go off for the day to play – I could leave my husband (he understands, really.). I could leave my career and it’s responsibilities. Yep, it was when I had Big that I started to feel guilty about taking that time.
I know we’re not supposed to feel guilty. I know we’re supposed to make time for ourselves, lest we all go stark raving mad. I know it is good for us and good for everyone involved. I know we have to retain a sense of identity outside of our kids and our families. But it’s still hard. When the baby’s upset or the 4 1/2-year-old just doesn’t want me to go out the door to run that morning. Or things are just a bit crazy… that’s when I feel like getting some time to play is really just a luxury, not a necessity. Sometimes it’s easier just to stay home.
I think this resonates with so many mamas, and what Lisa Work-Delzer calls the “Mommy Martyr Syndrome” in her blog, Visionary Mom.
To keep from becoming a martyr, I’m going to keep climbing (among other things) consistently. It’s a blast, I get to play around on the wall and do weird things with my body and then laugh about it.
I guess it makes me feel like a little girl.
So, which are you, Woman or Girl?