Monday, September 19, 2005


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? 



gaboatman said...

Mrs. L
I can't wait for the follow up to this entry.  Don't leave us hanging, now.  

bosoxblue6993w said...

don't forget ... we can urinate behind trees.    but if a boat sinks ... WE are rescued last ... if at all.

sistercdr said...

I'm dying to read the rest of this.  I love being a woman.  Heck, I can even appreciate cramps on a certain level.  (This doesn't mean I don't think you don't enjoy being a woman and who you are.)  However, I've wondered so many times just how different things would be if I were a man.  I know that more than once I've said that something would never have happened if I had a dick, and I honestly believe it to be true.  Anyway, I'm really looking forward to more.

robbush6 said...

I used to think it evened out because we didn't have to lug "that thing" around between our legs and we didn't get drafted. Okay, I was twelve.

Are you sure you don't just want to be a giraffe?

kristeenaelise said...

I don't know...I think its a small price to pay for not having to change a tire in the rain, or act tough when you're not, or be too afraid to be yourself around your male friends...or what about the whole out of left field obvious erection for no reason?  Or what about us being able to love pink fuzzy hats and purple nail polish, and being able to wear those things in public?  One of the guys I used to work with is so phobic he lost it when I highlighted his name in pink.  I'm glad I don't have to worry about all that.

I don't think I'd ever want to be male, but I'd sure like to level the playing field a bit.  I'm so sick of being called "honey" and "babe", or being expected to run to answer a phone because I have breasts, or being expected to make coffee for the same reason.  I'd really love to see how a guy would handle having his penis stared at and talked to, like they do our breasts...

I still say we're the stronger sex in many ways, and yeah like Robbie said...sure you wouldn't like to be a giraffe or something?

=) Kris

suzypwr said...

I thought that wanting what a penis symbolizes is the definition of penis envy.

Anyway, I love being female. I still totally understand your complaints. I wonder, if you were a man, what you would want to be?


jevanslink said...

Nope.  Penis envy theory is based on a girl wanting to have a penis. Period.  It's as stupid as that.  Anything else is incorrect extrapolation of the theory as far as I'm concerned. Enjoying certain privileges simply for possessing a penis is a separate issue. The one is sexual. The other political.   Mrs. L

shaz19743 said...

I guess this is the bit where i should say how great it is to be a woman and how i cant imagine ever wanting to be man , how i positively leap for joy at the thought of 5 days every month with the feeling that a cheese grater is working on my insides , how i love my every and any acheivement being dismissed as "aye shes ok for a lassie " ,  i over flow with happiness in the knowledge that in my career of choice i will never break through the "glass ceiling " inplace there because i dont have a set of balls , mind you ......its great being a woman that despite all these apparent setbacks still kicks ass regardless !

jckfrstross said...

I want to be a cat:)


meforevermore said...

I get it...


ladeeoftheworld said...

I have often thought I would want to be a man......for 24 hours.  The first item on my list of what I want to experience.........a B-job.......can it really be that good?

cneinhorn said...

am looking forward to more on this topic...

I could handle being a guy for a few hours, but that' s about it.  wouldn't last 24 hours here that's for sure!

emmapeeldallas said...

Wow, provacative entry - but I have to admit that I love being a female, and the only way I'd want to be a guy is the same way I'd want to be a possum or a fish or a deer: like Wart in the Once and Future King...for a few hours, for the experience of it...and yep, if I were a guy for 24 hours, I'd go right out and have a b-job, 'cause I've always wondered what it's like to be on the receiving end of that...but for me, being a woman...well, at the risk of being categorized as having oatmeal for brains...I agree with the woman in your college class.  For all the inconvenience and discomfort and even stigma associated with menstruation, whenever I menstruated I felt as I were touching the lodestone, as if I'd tapped into something timeless and feminine, and I loved it...and sex during menstruation was sometimes pretty amazing sex, something about the hormone levels maybe...and I loved being pregnant, putting my hands on my belly and feeling a tiny foot shoot across my belly, from inside me...I am so glad that I had the pleasure of experiencing that...and being able to feed my child by simply lifting my shirt, or being able to feed someone else's child, and I've done that, breastfed someone else's baby for her...and I love having the body of a woman; I don't like hot flashes but I love the fact that I have breasts and rounded hips and that I can have multiple o's...I love guys but I wouldn't want to be one...I love being a woman.  


bluwave9 said...

Got my period at 11 years old.  Been a 36C since around that time as well.  The irony is that I would've loved to have been flat during those years.
Great entry.  I can relate on many topics you touched on.  Now if you excuse me, I have some serious male bashing to do on my journal.

judithheartsong said...

fantastic essay and hell yes it qualifies. I can identify with so much of what you say and do agree that being pregnant is the very best part of womanhood (although the X was standing there through both pregnancies saying that native woman squatted in a field, had the baby, and were back to work in minutes....... he didn't know what the big deal was).
It is interesting to me that I identify more with my feminine side since becoming a lesbian.... now I am not told what to wear and how to fix my hair....... it is on my terms and my choices. I feel like I am finally coming into myself.
Cannot wait to read the rest. Very nice essay.

xzasporated1 said...

I told my doctor that I was in menopause.  I was 42.  He said no way, because I was too young.  I went to another doctor.  SHE did a blood test.  And told me I was in menopause.  It was on my 43rd birthday.  Best present I ever got.

Would I want to be a man?  Hmm. Yes.  For fishing purposes.  That way I could go out on the boat, drink beer for hours and get to pee off the side.  Other than that, no.  I get no inherent joy from being as dense as them.

LOL  I enjoyed this "rant".

~~ jennifer

gdireneoe said...

WOW!  Excellent entry.  Personally, I love being a female, but I can relate 100% to all the mental and physical roadblocks.  Interesting how a man can get accolades for his brute strength and keen business acuMEN...and when girls like me have those qualities, we are considered "Helga"-like and bitchy.  You know what my doctor (female) of over ten years and I say?  There's only ONE thing that we can't do for our selves...and eventually, evolution will take care of that too!  Thanks for letting me off the should win this one hands/keys down. ;)  C.

virage65 said...

Best entry yet!  I vote for you!  Very clever, well-conceived and obviously years in the development.  Wish I produced something to send you as a prize.  Excellent.

paisleyskys said...

Mrs. L
I know many men who would swap ya in a death of a brain cell second.
You are so funny.
Isn't that what menapause is for?
A chance at the best of both worlds...I have seen many a fine mustach sported at these points.

LMAO and loving it!

Put a Smile on your face and a song in your heart.

Wishing you health, happiness and laughter.

dawngepfer said...

You are a fabulous writer!  I enjoyed reading every word.  Consider yourself "alerted."  Have fun - it seems like you do.  :)

mosie1944 said...

I'm glad I came back and checked this.  I read it when I got the alert, but you had only just started it then.  It's a good thing I'm not the judge of these artsy things.  You'd win every time.  I don't care for the flowery entries.  Make me laugh and I'm a happy camper.

bluwave9 said...

Hi, I'm back because this was an incredible entry and I wanted to re-read the full spectrum of gender issues you commented on during daylight hours when my mind can absorb reality more efficiently. There is one quote in particular that brought me back to re-read this:

"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."

If you would like to elaborate more on this, I would love to read an entry and/or a response.  Didn't you say in a previous post we could, like, ask you stuff?

jevanslink said...

Bluwave9 -- I have no proof to back up my statement, just observations over the years.  It seems to me that women display a multitude of emotions quickly, easily, and often dramtically.  Men, especialy when they're in love, are slower to reveal themselves, but their feelings seem more substantial and less superficial when they do. Just my opinion. Mrs.L

grassriver said...

"Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots 'cause it's okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think being a girl is degrading."   - Madonna

I think men do not have it easier, but do have it better, if that makes sense.
EXCELLENT entry! (as usual)

psychfun said...

Ha! I just went over Freud's Theory with my students today! And yes, it is still argued whether Freud meant his theory literally or sympbolically. I went to the Freud Exhibit in Chicago & there was a letter where he responded to a woman who did not use the "word" but basically was saying her son was gay. Freud wrote back that she should not force him to be something he is not. Anyone wants the link to it email me I think I have it on my student's resources. Did any of you see the movie Switched with Ellen Barkin & Jimmy Smits?! I love that movie! Ellen is so great! I think the grass is indeed always greener. As far as directions...not me! My dad & all my uncles laid out all this sand to put our pool together & then read the directions! Ha! And I don't particularly like to waste my time getting lost because I don't ask for directions...what is the big deal with that! Who is the smart one then! I don't particular think being able to scratch myself anywhere on my body at any time is a good thing! Peeing behind a tree...well some of the best ladies I know will cop a squat when need be! HA! I like being pampered! I don't think I would want to be all macho! When you really make a man comfortable he does turn into a teddy bear & realizes it might be ok to like to be pampered with a massage or to be soft & tender & not just rough. They have soft hearts inside. No, not all but not all women do either! Now getting away with a few suits vs all the clothes...well...but then again I don't care so much. I'm sure my students keep track though. They probably know more than I do! The only thing I might really like is the ability to be taken more seriously by men. Some are horrible thinking you have no right to be are a "B" or that you could not have a good idea every. Changing tires...ha! I had tons of guys pissed at me because I do my own! One guy slammed his car door closed 3 times because I wouldn't let him change it for me! Ugh!

jevanslink said...

With all due respect PSYCHFUN --  Maybe now they are arguing over what Freud meant by "penis envy.". Mainly because the theory is so absurd one could only hope he meant it symbolically. But let me assure you that the Freudian analysts who are slowly, thankfully, becoming extinct, were very clear that he meant a woman's wish to possess that actual part of a man's body as her very own.  

And don't get me started on the fallacy of the Oedipal Complex.  Puh-lease.  Mrs. L  

mosie1944 said...

Freud was always FOS.  Just my opinion, of course.

onemoretina said...

    I can't honestly say that I've ever wanted to be a man.  But it would be interesting to inhabit a male body for a week and see how differently I would be perceived.  I will say this, though;  Like you, I have always been fascinated by men.  I mean, alot of the women I know are attracted to men sexually... as in being heterosexual, but seem to take a dim view of them in every other aspect.   For me, it has always been a case of being fascinated by their "maleness". By whatever it is that distinguishes them as men.  I just plain like them. And I think I understand them ... most of the time, anyway !  Maybe that's why I've always had so many male friends.  I credit my father with this.  He was a true gentleman, and a gentle man.  Lucky me.  Tina

bluwave9 said...

Thank you for responding to my question and allowing for some clarification in your statement.  I agree ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, and I have a few theories to explain this phenomenon, but I won't because A) This is my third comment and I am in no mood to start a "comment war" with other readers B) It would be blogging on your blog, and that's a party foul on my part.  A (very) rough draft will surface on my journal in the next few days.

sunnyside46 said...

interesting...My husband says he would like totry being a woman because people are nicer to them...hmmm...I told him if he  ahd breasts he would never get anything done...

armandt said...


So, "cat" isn't an original answer?!

You rock, Mrs. L.

~ Armand

bedazzzled1 said...

This entry absolutely fractured me. I giggled and laughed at so much of what you wrote. have their own form of PMS, they just say it's a work-related mood. Uh huh. ::grin:: I love being a woman, but this sure did make me see some things about it in a very different and entertaining light. Thank you!