I will preface this post by saying that I love being a woman – I wouldn’t give that up for anything in the world. Well, maybe I would, for a day of walking around shirtless in the heat of summer and peeing wherever the heck I want. Other than that, I love the things that make me different from those wonderful, studly men. I love that it isn’t deemed weird that I like shopping and cooking up feasts and crooning over babies and wedding dresses. I love that.
However, there are things that men will never understand about being a woman. Even still, there are things other women who’ve been blessed to live very sheltered lives may never understand about being a woman, from my point of view.
Being a woman means that when I’m frantically searching for housing, I don’t just settle for the first place I find. I think about the environment – whether I feel safe, unthreatened. This might mean that I turn down an otherwise cute little house downtown because the landlord is an elderly, slightly strange man who would be living below me with a key to my place, and my gut ties itself up in knots thinking about that. Or I might have to turn down another equally decent apartment because it’s on a dead end street with numerous windowless vans and burly men milling around, smoking cigarettes at noon.
Being a woman means that as I walk around Old Town with my friend at night, I’m forced to multitask. I’m paying attention to the conversation, yet at the same time keeping an alert watch for shifting shadows and shifty people. For drunken men who throw leering glances as we walk by, and for other men who promptly cause us to cross to the other side of the street for safety’s sake. There’s more thought given to what I wear at night, if I know it includes walking around without any male companions. Because that cute, harmless, little dress I’ve had on all day might be the cause of unwanted attention at night.
Being a woman means thinking twice before letting the snide responses roll off my tongue as the drunk tools on their front lawn yell at my friend and I as we walk home. After all, if I tell them what I think of them, if I stand up for myself and my worth, they might get angry and come after me. And even in my feistiest moments, I couldn’t fight off two drunk men. So I keep walking, pretending not to hear them till we’re out of earshot.
Being a woman who’s experienced far too closely the effects of a man’s strength used in cruel ways means that I immediately question the intentions of even the best men. It means that I wait until you fully prove yourself before I relinquish even an inch of myself. It means that my heart is constantly at war within me whenever you’re concerned – struggling between giving you the benefit of the doubt because you love Jesus or holding more tightly to the fact that the ones who broke me said they loved Him too.
Being a woman raised by a single mother means that I have to learn, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, to let myself be taken care of. It means learning to let good men open doors for me, carry heavy boxes, and, carefully place themselves between me and the road while walking. It means letting the presence of the good ones slowly begin to erase the memories of the bad ones. It means swallowing my pride and independence enough to learn how to respond to a good man, instead of insisting that I can take care of myself. Because I can take care of myself; but chivalry isn’t about making women feel incapable, rather, it exists to emphasize our worth. After all, what good man wouldn’t want to exhaust himself on behalf of a good woman?
Being a woman is a risk. But it is a beautiful risk worth taking. And if we’re not risking, we’re not living, and that would be a great dishonor to the One who gave us the gift of life. And if we get hurt in the risking, it is not without a purpose neither is it unredeemable. If I could do this all over again, I’d still choose to be this woman – strong and beautiful, scars and all.