I felt my body give in. Just a noticeable shift…I will stop fighting you. And then the intuition that instead of ending the cleanse early tonight, I’ll extend and do the purgation on Sunday night and end on Monday when I have a day off. Meaning, on Monday I’ll eat rice, and then on Tuesday I start reintegrating foods.
So, I’m sitting here burping rice bran oil with a sense of serenity.
Hey, if it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone. (Of course, the day is just starting and it has therapy in it, yuck, but probably good, because the anniversary of Don’s death is approaching and I miss him so much.)
Anyhow, with surrender comes a question–who taught me to be a woman? I mean, I’m working with men and have asked them who taught them to be a man, and what that lesson was…with surprising results, I might add; and I’ve read this new book about it, that adds to my collection of men’s movement literature.
In the men’s movement, the premise is that only a man can initiate another man into manhood. The unhappiness of so many men, they say, is the absence of a connection to their fathers. To make happier men, we must make better, more loving, more available and connected fathers.
I get that.
But what about women?
I find that many of the women of my generation did not admire their mothers, did not feel positively connected, and did not want to follow their mothers’ paths into womanhood. Low end jobs, being a housewife, lacking power in the world, dependence on a husband–the women of my generation sought a different life, including equal partnerships with men, whether or not they were able to find them. And for those of us who are queer, the path was unbroken–not that there weren’t brave people forging the way ahead of us, but that being fully out was rare. Just being out and being with another woman started us into the garden…
I always crack jokes about my German mother. When I’m not cracking jokes about my inappropriate Irish father. And while I don’t want to do a stroll down childhood lane, with all its monsters and heroes, it seems important to look at who taught me to be a woman, and what it means to be a female.
I love being a woman. People perceive me as powerful, and I have all this experience of being with men, and disliking my own vulnerability, and hating to process (I mean, I HATE to process), which is hardly typical. But for me being female is about getting to love beauty without hiding, being intuitive, and inward, and into flow, listening to the world, loving with sensitivity, being utterly receptive, easily moved by what’s around me…it’s about getting to embody the feminine principle without shame. I may not like to be openly vulnerable with many people, but I love the tides of emotions, and how they rise, fall, open you to newness, to landing in right now. I love getting to change my mind, and how I am, truly, in my essential nature, endlessly fluid, airy and mutable.
I also love the little give in my body when my partner, who nurtures me in a very masculine way, opens my car door, or takes my hand, or looks into my face with a very particular strength–it’s a sexual thing, responding naturally to masculinity–I mean, I am so very yin, when you uncover me. And there is power in that…I love the power in femininity. The confidence of being a strong, intelligent woman, who no one better f&*k with. I love friendships with other women, the kind of friendship in which nothing is hidden…I’ve gotten to have that, over and over, in my nomadic life.
But I don’t know who taught me to love being a woman. My father contradicted himself constantly–sometimes treating me like a boy/tomboy as we hung out with his friends–in those moments, he told me the world was mine to claim. But if I crossed some invisible line, suddenly I was a girl and not equal any more. My mother believed that women should never compete with men, should shore up men’s egos, hide their intelligence. She also thought that women were catty and untrustworthy and didn’t have close female friends. My mother didn’t join the women’s movement when it came along, and never moved beyond a secretarial position though she was noticeably intelligent and had a college degree. I’m not sure what she felt to be her life’s purpose, or that she would have told me if she knew. We just didn’t get along most of the time; and she wasn’t much for confidences of that nature, period.
I had female advocates and mentors outside the family right along–teachers, mostly. I saw women who were strong, who did what they believed in…and those who didn’t. But if I think of who taught me how to be a woman, I go to Maria Dolores Garcia Fraile in Sevilla, Spain. Maria Dolores had left her husband in Catholic Spain in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, after Franco. He was cheating on her; she thought she deserved better, so she kicked him out and began to take in American students for income. She had dark hair with dark gold highlights dyed in, stood as tall as me (I’m 5’8″), with olive skin, and green eyes blurred by the beginning of cataracts. She taught me to dance Sevillana in her kitchen, and I’ll never forget that–the turn of our hands in the air, the challenge and sexuality of the dance, of her, but no attraction, just a woman who owned her power, her selfhood, her life force and sexuality, effortlessly, with pleasure. She had courage, Maria Dolores. From the beginning, I bonded to her as I never had with my own mother, and if there was a rite of passage to be had, she led me through. She never said these words to me overtly, though we talked about our lives in great detail once my Spanish improved, but this is the message I received: Make your own life. Leave who you have to leave, bear what you have to bear, but bear it with pride, with the pride of knowing who you are, with your passions and your ability to love intact because you have not betrayed yourself and in some way you never will. Love being a woman for its richness, for being able to ground down into feeling, for being able to create life, and a life, in whatever way you do so. Go. Go find out what the world has for you.
It was quite a send-off, when my year with her ended. She didn’t want me to return to my family because she knew my parents were bad for me, but she didn’t hold me, either. I was 23.
I remember her lesson because it was the one I chose, because I wanted someone to believe in me who knew me intimately, like a mother, and she was that person. Metta for you, Maria Dolores. In this moment of remembering. On this day. For all you gave me. You were an emotionally generous woman, and there is nothing better that a woman can be.