Not Girly, but Feminine

I’m not a girly girl. I never have been, but for years I wanted to be one. I envied all things girly girl, but not anymore.

Don’t think I hate girly girls. I don’t. Actually, if anything, I respect them. I don’t know how they do it with matching accessories, jewelry, and lipstick for every outfit. Their manicured hands and pedicured feet are lovely, and a sweet smell always encircles them. So many are incredibly sweet, and I’ve felt loved so many times because of their kindness and etiquette.

I am absolutely serious when I say I can’t even imagine all the work they go through to keep it together. I’m over here in a sports bra and track clothes at 2 pm, hoping for a shower before my husband gets home. Sometimes I purposefully wear close-toed shoes because I only have 3 toenails with polish still intact. I forget to wear makeup 95% of the time, and if I didn’t wear my wedding rings 24/7, I would forget those as well. I make weird faces, do crazy dances, and love to sit with my legs folded. I would even put my feet on the table if I wasn’t trying to teach my kids manners.

In all of this, I’m not claiming to be a tomboy. I played with Barbies, loved New Kids on the Block, and also went hunting and fishing as a kid. I do wear wedges every now and again, and my favorite thing to wear happens to be a skirt (it’s gray, t-shirt material, and has holes in it).

I’ve tried to be girly many times. I’ve tried to grow long fingernails and paint them pretty colors. I’ve tried putting makeup on daily and rubbing concoctions all over my face. I’ve tried wearing heels, even with jeans, and dressing up just to go to the craft store. Some wonderful memories of my girly moment attempts include wearing heels to an outside wedding on the side of a hill where I tripped and fell over before I’d even had one glass of wine. Another time, recently, I did the whole one fingernail a different color. Not only was it questionable, but I was unsure why I did it or what it even meant. What does it mean? To make it all even better, a guy friend noticed my 1/2 picked off nail polish and mistakenly thought I had bruised my thumbnail. He asked how I hurt myself before he realized my nail faux pax. It made for an awkward moment, but luckily he’s a country boy and could care less.

In all the trying to be girly, I didn’t feel fulfilled. Lately, I’ve come to realize what I felt was missing.

I used to equate femininity with girly-ness.

But they aren’t the same. I’ve come to realize the difference between the two stems from what culture norms we ascribe to. I started thinking about this when someone asked me if I considered myself girly – obviously not – but then asked if I considered myself feminine. I didn’t know how to respond, so I figured it needed more thought, insight, and research.

Femininity, according to Merriam-Webster is “characteristic of or appropriate or unique to women” and stems from Old English and Latin words having to do with nursing, mothering, and suckling babies. So, I guess according to this definition, I’ve got feminine covered. But in our culture, post-deconstruction and post-modern, everything seems blurred. Culture tells us either there is no difference between men and women or you must be a girly girl in order to be a woman. Especially in the South, people tend to equate femininity with being girly.  But truthfully, everything girly I listed above is completely external, almost as if girly-ness is an external over-exaggeration of internal feminine qualities.

Girly-ness soothes the desires of the feminine in cultural-norm form, but real femininity isn’t solely manifested as girly-ness.

The “ideal” woman, in Proverbs 31, is described in the following way:

“She dresses herself with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
 She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.” 

Proverbs 31: 17-20; 25-27 (ESV)

The woman described above isn’t girly. In fact, it seems like a manicure would get in the way of all the work she does with her hands. She creates goods, sells them, works diligently, and serves the poor. She is kind, wise, and responsible. It’s not mentioned here, but she does dress herself and her family well. But what is cherished more than the latest fashion is the way she clothes herself with strength and dignity. She isn’t idle and doesn’t waste time perusing Pinterest or Mashable, looking for the latest trends (I do). Yet, she is the epitome of Biblical Femininity.

I don’t pretend to be this woman. I struggle with more than one of these areas (ok, all of them). Actually, I think this woman didn’t even exist, so don’t be discouraged. She was an ideal for young men to look for when they were seeking a wife. From her, I have learned real femininity stems from knowing yourself, your desires, who you are, and who you were created to be as a woman. There is spiritual strength and confidence in femininity and not the weak, delicate state that has so long been associated with women.

I realized all the things I truly want don’t require being girly or manicured or even looking “together” every day. They do require love, patience, wisdom, diligence, and the love of beauty, sensitivity and laughter. They require intelligence and strength, and while some girly-girls have all of these qualities I do desire, I don’t have to be a girly-girl in order to have any of these things.

I can be my silly, messy, frenetic, laid-back self and still seek femininity. And that, my friends, is beautiful.

Top Photo by LaCross Photography