It used to irritate me when guys would offer to help me. I didn't want them to hold doors for me, or to offer a hand to steady me when walking on ice. There were all sorts of reasons for this. I didn't want to be an inconvenience. I could do things for myself. I was a little bit of a feminazi. I had to be; I attended a fairly competitive science college that was about 80% male, and any sign of "feminine weakness" was a liability. I had some classes where I was the only female in a room of thirty students. I felt pressure to perform, not only at an equal level to the male students, but at a higher level simply because I was different.
Since I've been in Bemidji, however, I have discovered that chivalry is not dead, nor is it an assault on my personal power. My male friends are, for the most part, absolute gentlemen. They hold doors, get drinks, offer to escort me places, drive me around, and basically treat me like royalty. And they do the same for other women as well.
Maybe it's easier for me not to feel threatened by it here, where the population is more than half female, and I see examples of women who are married or otherwise in good relationships with men and are nevertheless strong and capable people. I never had really good experiences with guys in high school or in my first year of college. For the most part they were either antagonistic, or just indifferent to me.
The guys I met in New Mexico didn't seem to know what to do with me because I was neither a sex object nor a complete pushover. So they treated me like "one of the guys", and that worked for the most part, except that it led me to deny everything about me that was even remotely feminine: no makeup, no jewelry, a general wardrobe of blue jeans and plain t-shirts, trading my Alanis Morrisette and Sarah Maclachlan for Flogging Molly and 80's punk rock. I kept my hair long, but started wearing it up so you couldn't tell how long it was. We prank-called professors and random strangers, watched sci-fi, kung-fu flicks and gory slasher movies, talked politics and science and math, walked to the all-night diner at 2 AM through the "bad" part of town for greasy cheeseburgers (or bad Mexican food) and deep conversations. There was no flirting. There was no touching. We were serious scientific types, after all; no time for any of that frivolity.
Sometime in the past couple years I started being a girl again. I still like jeans and t-shirts, but I wear more feminine styles. I put on makeup and jewelry every morning because I enjoy it and I like the way it makes me look. I have female friends, and we talk about girly things. When I'm around guys, I don't have to pretend that I'm some sort of superhuman intelligence. I can be silly and I don't have to know everything to get respect. In general, I don't have to have a wall up around myself, and I don't have to pretend to be a guy.
It's like stretching muscles that you haven't used in a while. It's a release, and a wonderful feeling of freedom, but it can also be difficult until you're used to it. It's taken a long time for these walls to come down--it didn't really happen until maybe six months ago. So I'm still in the awkward stages of not quite knowing what I'm doing. It's kind of neat. I feel like a butterfly coming out of a chrysalis; no longer dull and tied to the ground, now I've grown wings and become beautiful.
Maybe I'm overthinking this, like usual. No matter. This is my blog; I'll say what I want. It's a good way of working things through in my head and on "paper".
So that's all I've got for the night. There is no more. You can stop reading now (if you got this far in the first place). Nothin' to see here... move along...