Last night I had a peculiar dream: I was sitting at a desk, a drawing of a pin-up model in front of me. The teacher leaned down before me and asked me how I knew I was a woman.
Of course, in the dream I started rambling about fertility and womb and not having a penis, but the question sort of stuck with me. Such an odd thing to ask. How do I know I’m a woman?
Or, more precisely, when did I know I was a woman?
I’ve always been quite oblivious of my own sex. I grew up with two younger brothers and throughout the early days of my childhood, I basked in the illusion that I was their equal, maybe even their superior. (I was the oldest, after all.)
Then I began school and older boys would stalk me, yell at me, touch me against my will and trying to herd me into corners of the schoolyard where the teachers couldn’t see us, getting me “all to themselves”. Did I know I was a woman, or a woman-to-be? Hardly. I just thought they must be extremely stupid.
Did I know I was a woman when I received my first whistles on the streets, my first unwanted advances by older men, my first offer to jump into their car on the street? Nah. I was still a girl, fiddling around, being a – what is it they call it? Cock-tease?
I convinced myself that I was going to be a woman. I bought push-up bra’s and strings, I colored my eyelashes pitch black, I got powdered and pinned down, and I said yes, covering myself in the illusion like a perfume. I learnt womanly sentences by heart – yes, yes, I don’t mind, no really, thank you for the compliment Sir, that’s so sweet of you. I was seventeen.
I am now twenty-three. Have I earned the right to call myself a woman yet? Have I gone trough enough bullshit, enough degradation and strife? How do I know? Woman seems threatening, a responsibility to assume or a price cup to keep locked in your closet forever.
Am I a woman because I tear easily, like waxed paper, barely making a noise as I fall apart, because I’m simply fragile? Or because I get up each time, dry my nose and re-assume fighting position? Am I a woman because I create, the papillae on my tongue melting into words that seem starved once they reach my fingertips? Because I endure the laughs and threats and gazes, pats on my shoulder and “It’ll be fine, sweetheart”s? Because I persist?
Or is woman a lifelong process starting with monthly blood cascades, erupting into hot steaming lava and eventually stiffening into merciless, cold rock?
I know this. There isn’t one second in which I find myself the same person as the last. I’m pushing forward.
I’m beyond woman.