Despite looking the picture of femininity in some of my earlier childhood photos, there were warning signs that, according to some standards, I was going to be a failure as a chick. Here is a photo of me and my little brother at Christmas in Indonesia:
We got wooden owls. My brother is demonstrating his ‘owl’ face.
This picture stands out to me because my mother had obviously just brushed my hair. I distinctly remember having my hair brushed, on average, 3-4 times a year, usually under duress. Hair brushing was a waste of time, and the bristles on brushes were really scratchy. No thank you. I am also fairly sure she would have tied that blue ribbon on my dress into a bow, but it became unravelled, possibly when I was doing whatever caused my bangs to look as though I’d just had my face licked by a dog. I now introduce exhibit B. Still wearing a dress, my excitement at wearing said dress and being photographed wearing it are evident…
…ly non-existent. At this point, tying my hair up is less hassle than trying to make me brush it. The real solution, as my mother soon discovered, was just to get rid of the hair altogether:
Class photo! (In our PE kit, for some reason)
I am the one to the right of my friend Jen, who had the most amazing ‘fro, I think we can all agree. My bouffant bowl-cut is less amazing. And, as an aside, the boy on the far left is fabulous. With little hair to take care of, I continued my descent into failed womanhood, never learning the all-important skills of blow-drying, crimping, curling, using hair products appropriately, etc. But these are definitely not my only feminine flaws. I can list countless ways in which I feel sub-female, but instead I’ll list 5.
1. I cannot paint my fingernails.
Well, I can, but really badly. Generally if you end up with the same amount of nail varnish on your skin as on your nails, you’ve gone wrong somewhere. Now, if I ever find I really want to paint my nails for an occasion, I’ll do them about 3-4 days in advance, then do lots of dishes. I find that the abrasive sponge scrubs the polish off my skin, but not my nails. Then I just need a top coat, and it looks nearly good. I would say that I am equally crap at applying eye-liner but in truth it’s only when I’m doing one side, and that’s only because I’m blind in the other eye, so I’ll cut myself some slack there.
2. I do not wet myself over babies.
Because really, one person wetting themselves in a situation is quite enough, unless you’re into watersports, then I guess the more the merrier. Generally, I find childbirth revolting. Don’t get me wrong, I know I came from my mother’s vagina, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for choosing to procreate, but every time I learn something new about childbirth, it puts me off the idea of having my own even more. I remember knowing that babies came from inside their mother’s bellies, but upon careful examination of my own stomach, could not work out where from, since I met significant resistance at the end of my belly button. I asked my parents, and they fully explained. Fully. My dad even drew diagrams. My parents told me that when I started a new school (I was about 5-6), the teacher asked us all to write a couple of sentences about where we were from. Apparently I wrote:
My name is Rachel. My mommy met my daddy. They did sex and I was born. Then I came to [insert school name here].
So it wasn’t like I didn’t know the drill. But then came sex-ed class. And the video of a woman giving birth. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of gross looking flaps of skin, a lot of blood, and one ugly, wrinkled, sticky baby to show for it. I could feel my thighs pressing together, it was that traumatizing. And then I found out more. Pregnant women can suffer from all sorts of nasty stuff. Haemorrhoids. Morning sickness. Craving pineapple on pizza. Complications. And then there’s that whole thing about apparently crapping yourself during birth. Oh, and I never knew what the word ‘episiotomy‘ was until recently. When I searched that on Google I could almost swear my legs were crossed 83 times. I have so much respect for mothers. Because ouch.
Re-reading what ‘episiotomy’ means.
There are certain situations in which babies are OK, however. When they’re asleep, when they’re happy, when they’re clean, and when they’re not eating. In fact, at a party last night I requested a shot of the baby (a couple of new parents dropped by for a couple of hours), and it was one of the cutest babies I’ve pretended to fly around a living room with machine gun wings, and then make dance to rock music. Plus, when it touched my face, his tiny hands weren’t covered in baby food. And after 5 minutes, and a faint whiff of fart, I could hand him back to his parents. While I’m not denying that baby made me smile, I don’t want something that size exiting something that currently struggles to accommodate something the size of a cucumber. I would like to stress I did not say ‘an actual cucumber’.
3. I do not want to have sex with that kid from Twilight/’World’s Most Desirable Men 2012′
For research purposes, I scanned through Glamour magazine’s Sexiest Men of 2012 and can only say that out of the ONE HUNDRED men they list (a bit overboard, really), I would count 4 as attractive. For the record: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo Dicaprio as a fatter, sleazier looking guy than he was during the Titanic era, RDJ, and James McAvoy, but all of these were chosen because they come across as really likeable people in interviews, or have played characters that I want to pretend the actors are like in real life. So, basically not 100% to do with their looks. And not 100% to do with reality. You should probably not judge the other 96 guys too harshly, however, as I am a person who favours David Bowie in his mullet/glitter/eyeshadow/drugs phase and Steve Buscemi.
4. I would fail a class in complimenting
Generally, the people I hang out with most frequently have a penis. This is partly because all of my girlfriends have moved away and are currently dotted around the USA while I freeze my ass off in Scotland, and partly because outside of school, it’s kind of harder to make friends because you aren’t forced to see people every day, so keeping in touch can kind of fall behind. But when I am in the company of females, I am blown away by how nice they are to each other. They say things like ‘I love your hair’ and ‘that dress is beautiful’. They notice that you have (badly) painted your nails. They do things that boys do not do, and that make me feel a tiny bit awkward sometimes. If I receive a compliment I usually go a bit red and mumble a thank you, because I don’t know what to do with it. If I try to give a compliment, I come across sounding like a creep. Because who wouldn’t sound weird saying: “I like your tights. The darker colour really emphasizes your calf muscle. It would make a nice steak if we were all stranded on a mountain and had to start eating each other.”? Nobody, that’s who.
5. I’m atrocious at flirting
Not that flirting is a skill that I require, what with being in a long term relationship and having the moral backbone to not sleep around, but when I have found myself single, I am retarded at picking up on signals. I mean, my friend Grant frequently accompanied me as my wingman, and had to tell me when I was being hit on. My finesse in matters of courting pretty much extends to approaching a male I am interested, saying, “I am Rachel, if your personality doesn’t suck we could be licking each other’s teeth later, please indicate your level of interest.” Not particularly suave, but then I usually get distracted by a song that I just HAVE to dance to, or end up challenging people to drunk push-up competitions.
These days, Ian often makes comments about men I end up speaking to in bars about various things. Usually, I have become embroiled in an argument and am enthusiastically fighting my side, and I would say I win 90% of the time (sometimes because the other party is too drunk to keep arguing, sometimes because they eventually come around to my way of thinking). Ian, however, tells me that they only submit because they think I might sleep with them. I’d rather keep on believing that my debating skills kick ass, and that Ian can become irrationally jealous of hairy men in bars.
Although I think it’s tacky, I am kind of in awe of chicks who can flirt their way to a free drink without making the man feel like he is being used. I tried that once. It went a bit like this:
Me: Are you buying a drink?
Guy, holding wallet, at a bar: Uh, yes. Yes I am.
Guy (raising eyebrow): Are you trying to scam a free drink?
Me: Yeah. I’m not doing very well, am I?
Guy: Definitely not.
Me: Cool. I appreciate the feedback.
Despite all of my shortcomings, I do have boobs, and according to Ian I display fairly stereotypical symptoms of PMS, so I guess I’m not a complete failure. I find that running has helped to introduce me to a bunch of other wonderful, flawed women. Ones that would rather hurl themselves into muddy bogs than get manicures at the weekend. Ones that are not self-conscious about grunting and sweating in public. Ones that are glad that they look like crap after a workout, because it meant they put in the effort. And ones that come on 15 mile runs with me when the weather is like this:
Deeside railway line (January 20th, 2013)
And with that, my second long run of over 15 miles is done in preparation for the Paris marathon. Thank you, ‘ladies’*, for the company!
At the halfway point today.
Me and Ronnie, trying not to slip on the ice.
Here’s to being a failure!**
**And yes, I know that you do not need to be good at all of these things to be considered a woman. I am also aware that the implication that being a woman consists of such trivial things could be considered offensive to women in general, but whatever, have a hissy fit.