On Being a Woman

 (I wrote this around 2008 when I was in the middle of recovering from an eating disorder.)

A woman I work with always comments about “how much she’s eaten in the past few days” and “how much she’s gained”.

I never know what to say.

Why is this a ritual? A common bond among women? Should I comment on her appearance? Am I supposed to tell her everyone gains and loses weight all the time because that’s just how the body works? The water-weight. The dehydration. The natural fullness and metabolism. Do I tell her that it doesn’t matter to me? That it doesn't matter to anyone that matters? Do I tell her “No no. I’ve eaten much more” to make her feel better?

So, I sit there and stutter out, “Well, were you hungry?” because that’s all I know. I did this dance constantly with my eating disorder. It is expected. It is, unfortunately, “natural”.

Do I hesitate because there is another issue at work besides weight? Or is it that I picture myself having these conversations in the high school locker room before soccer practice – not as a 50 year-old woman among the smell of coffee beans? Or maybe it's because I'm so angry, so damn angry, that this constant, drowning feeling does not discriminate among age, or gender, or creed.

So there I was, among the lazy corners of a cafe, stammering because I did not know what to say. Caught off guard at seeing an insecure 15 year-old speak to me from the mouth of a beautiful 50 year-old woman. Will we never be rid of this dance? I get it. Believe me, I get it. But isn’t there some other common tie we can find to build such camaraderie? Something innate and powerful. Something human.

Or is the world just locker rooms and coffee shops?

No, I think it is an open field, with yellow daffodils kissing the nook of your knee.

Do you realize what we, as women, could accomplish if we just allowed ourselves to? The power within the breadth of our hips and our minds. We could do anything we wanted – gracefully and sprinkled with a bit of sass.

I am discovering ‘woman’. And it’s funny, because I’ve never been able to call myself one. I’ve always been just 'a girl'. I’m not entirely sure why – perhaps it’s the eating disorder which wants to make me feel small. Insecure. And I do. I feel so fricking awkward. Like I am 4, shuffling around in some woman’s too big high heels, getting giggled at by all who observe. With subtle, somewhat sad, shakes of the head as they take a photo, “Aww, look at the wittle girl trying to be all grown up!”

At the thought of calling myself a woman that Voice -- that Voice I’ve done so well to quell -- berates, “No no no!!! You aren’t a woman! You’re just a little girl! A little, shy, insecure, tiny tiny girl. You cannot be a woman!”

It makes me wonder why It is so afraid. What is so terrifying when I call myself a woman?

I think it’s because this is what ‘woman’ is to me:

Strength and vulnerability. Humor and profundity. Compassion. Speaking few words, but making sure the ones I do are worth hearing. Power with respect. Love. Love. Love. And an understanding that I can’t do it all, that I won’t do it all, but I will do what I want.

And I will do all of this with enough awareness to treat myself to a warm bubble bath and a glass of wine. A bowl of ice cream or a nap. With my head held high, because what matters is what I carry in my smile and in my heart.

'Woman' is so much. It is so much. And my God, my God, if only we could all begin to see that.

I'm trying to see that. Every day I try. And, I think, with a little getting used to, some practice, and a lot of thought-remolding, I could be able to say:

I am a damn fine woman.