Judithheartsong's AOL Artsy Essay Contest for September--LINK
If you could be any animal in the world, what kind of animal would you want to be?
I'm sure that some people will choose one of Dr. Dolittle's collection of creatures, from the Pushmi-Pullyu to Too-Too, the Listener. I expect to read about mythical creatures, from unicorns to centaurs. Or the kings of the jungle, like lions and tigers, oh my. And there will be those who want to pal around with their dogs and cats as, well, dogs and cats.
However, if I had a choice of animals I could be, I would choose to be a male human being.
This always makes my friends wince and change the subject, but they've heard me say I hate being a woman for so many years that they just roll their eyes and ask me if I've taken my medication today.
Of course, having said I'd rather be a man, I have to clarify a couple of things. My disgruntlement isn't a gender identity issue. I'm not a male stuck in a female body. Or a lesbian. I have always been a female attracted to males, but I have hated almost everything about being a woman for years now.
Instead of trying to figure out why, let me tell you what that means. I hope by finally writing this down that I can understand more of why I feel this way.
For me, with very few exceptions, being a woman has never had anything to recommend it. Except as a way to attract men. Even that eluded me, since I grewtaller than all the boys and couldn't grow a set of hooters to save mylife. I remember wondering if I was supposed to live as a female who was attracted to men, couldn't I at least have something that made them attracted to me? So those became the personality development years.
I could also try to make a joke about having to sit down to pee, but that would reduce my aggravation to one small detail in a much larger picture.
We should probably start with the sociological implications. In our culture, as in most cultures, from the time I was born I was considered "Eewwww, a girl". A wussy, inadequate, badly put together version of a guy.
All my accomplishments in other areas were diminished with sarcastic comparison, "Not bad for a girl." I was a fluke. I think that all the legislation of political correctness has only meant that the real opinions of men about women have gone underground.
Growing up, there were rules wrapped around US as tight as a choke collar that never applied to THEM.
I also had to hear my psychoanalyst father suggest that I had "penis envy." As if I longed to have one. Missed having one. Needed one. No, Dad, penis envy is something guys experience in the lockerroom. Leave it to the Freudians to project their own fears of castration onto what women think.
I never wanted a penis or considered myself "broken" in any way; I wanted what having one symbolized. No periods for starters. If I envied anything it was male privilege, assigned to their gender by an accident of fate.
There was and still is a list of things I cannot or should not do because I'm female, if not in this country, then certainly across the world. There continue to be cultural barriers I cannot cross and degradation I have experienced for no other reason than I don't have a Y chromosome.
But the cultural issues are nothing compared to the daily physical and emotional crap I have had to put up with because my body is female.
For forty years I had to endure having a period. Biology is destiny became a truth I still can't swallow without gagging. I remember the day "the curse" arrived as if it were a catastrophe of insurmountable proportion. The new thinking is that women should not call it "the curse." Whatever. By any name, it sucks. The process was messy and disgusting. The belts and pads and stains were utterly repulsive to me. I remember saying to my mother, "You mean I have to do this every month for the rest of my life?" Until I was in my fifties, she said. Might as well be the rest of my life.
She failed to mention the whole day of awful flu-like cramps that arrived like the grim reaper as regularly as the full moon, causing me so much pain and nausea I was medicated with a morphine derivative and a muscle relaxer for seven years. Luckily I wasn't an addictive personality.
All along my mother said "it" would get better after I had kids. She was right, but then the PMS went off the charts. Followed by peri-menopause, which in my case meant twelve years of personality changes that cost me a job I'm sure. As my fifties finally neared, I told my OB-GYN I couldn't wait for menopause, that magical golden time one year after my last period, when I read that the ocean of emotion would finally calm down. He thought it was funny I felt that way, because it meant I was no longer fertile. Hah. Who needs that? Actually, it meant I would no longer be insane once a month.
And it has been peaceful. No more raging [well, except for this], no more fire in my eyes, no more threats of bodily harm to others.
I knowthat my experience is not shared by most women. But I am not alone, just the only person whining about it.
I do remember just staring at some girl in college when she said that getting her period was one of the most exciting moments of her life. She was all into the old fashioned symbolism of it. For her it was like a milestone, a spotlight on her emerging femininity. It meant she could have kids. She had become an adult. All the discomfort was just part of the romance.
As far as I was concerned she had been totally brainwashed, her mind rendered into a bowl of oatmeal. She bought into all the b.s. and thought it was wonderful.
I did listen however and had fancy cakes made for my daughters to celebrate their first periods. "Mom, what are you doing?"
Meanwhile, as I grew up I was stuck with the reality of living in my body. That monthly event was like dragging a ball and chain through my life. It was certainly something the boys didn't have to go through. They could continue with all their activities, while my vision, my speed, my coordination, and my life were constantly being assaulted. As time passed, I just considered it another handicap of being female that I had to overcome.
I've mentioned Serena Williams' erratic play in the past, noting that she was probably dealing with female stuff, having difficult periods, etc. Turns out she had menstrual migraines, yet another debilitating monthly reminder of what it's like to be female. Along with the attractive menstrual cold sores. And have I mentioned acne? The huge zit or forehead break outs that announce your impending bloodletting.
Birth control. another female issue, was ridiculous.
Having an IUD meant ten days of "heavy flow," translation: Hemmorhaging. The pill turned me into a madwoman, with tantrums of a two year old. One of my children is the result of the rhythm method, because I missed a beat. The other resultedfrom a diaphragm that failed. My husband wouldn't let me have my tubes tied and there was no way he'd have a vasectomy. Condoms for anything? For a one night stand maybe. But I don't do auditions. If I did, I'd bring my own protection. Oral sex is probably the most entertaining way to avoid babies.
As for hormone replacement therapy, which doesn't prevent pregnancy, but does prevent the symptoms of menopause, why delay the inevitable? Plus, if you think it's anything more than a huge marketing effort to make money for pharmceutical companies, then slap yourself upside the head.
The hot flashes and night sweats weren't fun, and I felt possessed by a frightening anger at times, but all these symptoms, even though they lasted years, at least signaled that the end of all the craziness would finally be near. I just wanted it to hurry the hell up.
Having spent most of this time bemoaning my fate as a female, there is one reason I never minded being a woman. I loved being pregnant. I felt the moment of conception each time, truly a miracle to experience. I was exceedingly lucky. I never had morning sickness. Or stretch marks. When the time came to deliver, I am proud that I went through childbirth without any anesthesia, except novocain for the episiotomy.
But I would give it all up in a heartbeat to be a man, because as experiences go it represented only a moment or two in a lifetime. I fell down a lot late in my pregnancies. My body looked like it had been taken over by aliens. And boy was childbirth a pain. Not so much the hours of contractions.. But the indignities of losing control of bodily functions. And, afterward, with my first child, there were weeks of nursing where it felt like thousands of tiny needles had been injected into my nipples for a long and painful thirty seconds.I almost switched to bottle feeding, but made it through.
Women who breastfeed also suffer sleep deprivation on a level commensurate with Chinese water torture. As if that weren't punishment enough, let me leave you with two words: Poopy diapers.
Time to take a breath. As I re-read what I've written, it's beginning to seem to me like I'dlove to be a man mostly because i can't stand what I've been through as a woman.
Is it just that the grass seems greener? That my wish to be a man is based on my naive assumption that without all the dysfunctional female issues, men must have it easier?
Did it start with the old cliche that their bodies don't bloat? Is it because they are bigger and stronger and don't have to ask for help? Because their hormones are easy to understand and not nearly as volatile? Because their behavior seems more straight forward? Their gray hair and wrinkles are considered attractive? And have I mentioned they can eat anything?
Over time I've also noticed that men may not show the wide range of emotion that women do, but I believe they feel things more deeply. In another ironic twist, thanks to the women's movement, men can enjoy sex without responsibility, and they've always been able to make babies but not have to push them out.
To add gasoline to this fire, while I consider myself a feminist, I dislike almost all the female cliches. The male bashing, the conniving, and the power shopping are things I have no use for. I have never been a woman's woman. If anything, I'm a man's woman.
I do have an appreciation of all things male. From sports and cars to the food, liquor, and other things they like. I do not think it's because I covet what they have. It's more like I identify with them. Empathy? Sympathy? Attraction? I still don't know.
I know that I truly love solving the mystery of what makes men tick. Most women want men to figure them out. I'm fascinated by everything about the male of my species, their bodies, their minds, their feelings. I think I have been able to understand them in ways most women don't even attempt. Stockholm syndrome perhaps? Identifying with the "enemy?" Just kidding.
Regardless, don't you think I deserve a chance to see what it would be like, just once, to put a lawn mower together without having to read the directions?
Or drive somewhere without asking for them?