Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Than Adequate

A couple of months ago, as I was beginning a storytelling performance, I introduced myself as a trans woman. (The audience was comprised of genetic women, most of whom were practicing pagans, and since I have few illusions, I felt it only fitting to acknowledge the obvious.) From nowhere a good line came to me: “In acknowledging my feminine nature, I’ve discovered a whole new level of inadequacy.” It got a laugh, and I’ve used it again since then. It set the audience at ease. Perhaps this revelation that I lack confidence in my presentation allowed them the freedom to say (mentally at least), “big hands, big feet, can’t quite hide the blue jowls, can’t quite make the voice work – you’ve validated exactly what we were thinking.” Or maybe, since these women were of an age with me, my bit of self-deprecation was accepted as a validation of their own status: a sense that, because of any number of physical factors, a woman just doesn’t measure up to those who are younger, smaller, prettier, more graceful, more fertile, ad infinitum. It was a kind and loving audience, and I will accept the latter – that in acknowledging my own feelings of inadequacy I was validating the common lot of women in a culture that values a woman’s surface beauty over the splendor of her soul.

So, in accepting myself and presenting as myself more and more, I have taken on a burden that men (in most cultures) do not carry: that of maintaining and appearance of youth and adhering to an almost
unattainable and certainly unsustainable standard of beauty. And this standard seems to have been ever so. 2500 years ago in the play that bears her name, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata says:
A soldier’s discharged,
And he may be bald and toothless, yet he’ll find
A pretty young thing to go to bed with.
But a woman!
Her beauty is gone with the first grey hair…

And in the 20
th Century Sylvia Plath really nails it in a poem that reads like a Viking riddle:

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is,
unmisted by love or dislike .
I am not cruel, only truthful---
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Okay. So now that I’ve REALLY depressed myself – and probably you as well (especially remembering how Ms. Plath chose to make her quietus), I’m left with the question of what to make of this burden.

I go back to the women who were in attendance when I first decided to make my “inadequacy” remark. Every one of those women had something which I have not mentioned heretofore in this writing but which makes the perceived inadequacy ludicrous, and that is a spiritual base. They were Goddess worshippers who see in all women a
tri-partite deity: The Virgin, The Mother, and The Crone. One contemporary mythologist, Donna Henes, in her book The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife, has added “The Queen” as a fourth archetype between The Mother, and The Crone. If I ignore the obvious implications of referring to myself as “a queen,” and acknowledge myself as a mature woman who has learned from experience and who possesses a spark of the divine which manifests itself in the form of sharing insight through a store of tales and lore, then all the fretting about being overweight and aging evaporates.

I look at the faces of the mature women I know – both trans and genetic, and I see a beauty which is less obvious but much more present than in many women who are physically gorgeous. I like the company of these women. I am honored to be accepted into their company. The inadequacy evaporates.


Abby said...

Beautiful, as are you.

Gillian said...

Same to you, Lady.

Cassidy Brynn said...

Ah the great tuning forks were humming, it sounds...


Caroline said...

I am lucky enough to have a group of beautiful women as friends, perhaps they were once gorgeous too but they are truly beautiful now.

Caroline XXX

Gillian said...

I spent all day yesterday hanging out with these goddess types. My life has been lightened. Caroline, we are very lucky indeed.