I was born female and second which, in my family, are essentially the same thing. This point is important as it explains the journey I was required to take and the outcome I chose. I believe I managed to stick the landing in spite of the early faulty run. Keep in mind that I wasn’t born in the dark ages, well, not chronologically at least. Apparently, my family never bothered to turn a light on so they remained stagnant in their beliefs.
Now, my mother is one of six. The youngest of said broad being the only boy and in turn the sole focus of the family, the one to carry on the family name. You would have thought that my mother would have taken her own experiences of being “only a girl” into consideration and altered a few of the parenting practices that were used on her when she found herself raising a girl, but…nope. I can assume that the old adage of, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know,” was her chosen method.
How I was raised second behind my brother and the center of the universe. Not only was he the first born son, but he was also the first born grandchild. Because of this, how I was raised and what I believe became two very different perspectives. I was raised surrounded by people with the mindset of, “Sweetie, let the boys do math. Boys don’t like girls that are smarter than them.” “College is for your brother.” “You can’t join the military! You’re a girl. What man would want you if you did that?” I must agree with the math assessment. I like numbers and I like letters, I just don’t like them together, but I am a girl after all.
I battled through childhood, adolescence, and the like hidden in the shadow of the son. I had to fight for the light that he blocked. I was inundated with constant reminders of “my place” and to remain there. People often speak of an inner critical voice. You know, the one that tells you that you are lacking in one fashion or another, well, I didn’t have one. I didn’t need one when I had the surround sound, “coming to you live” version that was my family. I didn’t doubt myself. I was reminded of my lesser standing due to the fact that I peed sitting down on a weekly basis. I was further reminded when the ladies of my clan would parade suitable men before me as my mother listed their value and how they could improve mine. That’s if they could see past my many, many, many flaws.
My family never could figure out why a man didn’t and wouldn’t want me. Easy, because I didn’t and wouldn’t, therefore, they didn’t and wouldn’t. I didn’t cower. I wouldn’t gawk at their family’s status and money. I wouldn’t be used. I didn’t want to be a trophy. I wouldn’t follow. I wouldn’t lay on my back for a man that did not have my happiness or well-being in mind. Making these choices meant that I wasn’t an “ideal woman” and I was fine with that. My family? Not so much. So, I ran.
I did everything I was ever told that I couldn’t do based on my inferior genetics. I joined the Air Force and went off to war with a vagina. I went to college and learned structure and word placement while wearing a bra, whereas my brother never did. I still hate math, but I passed. And I found a man with worth. Not the monetary value my mother promoted, but the kind of worth that sheltered me. This man saw my value and was willing to crawl through barbed wire, cross minefields, and scale the walls that I built around myself to get to my heart. It was a struggle to give my heart to a son, a number one. But, he was and is worthy.
My views haven’t changed much, but how I choose to pursue them has. I have a voice and I use it, hopefully, for the benefit of others. We have raised two daughters and we chose to teach them that they are not less than. Math and science were promoted to only be tossed off the table in exchange for Art and Law, but they were given the choice. No restrictions were placed on who they wanted to be in life. No flaws were annotated because they are perfect just as they are. No limits were applied. The sky is the limit and we hope they reach high and far with the knowledge that we are here to be their soft place to fall if they ever need us.
“Well behaved women seldom make history.” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
This all started with the belittlement of my birth but has rested in empowerment. I had no choice in my sex or in what order I was born, but I had a choice in how I lived my life. I am strong because I decided to be. I am a fighter because I refuse to be anyone’s victim. I made a promise to myself at the tender age of seven to never be restricted based on another’s beliefs of who or what I should be. I promised myself that when I grew up that I wouldn’t place limits on myself, friends, or my future children. I swore to never judge another because you don’t know their journey. You don’t know the battles they have fought. My journey is far from complete. I have many adventures yet to take and more limits to break. I have stories to write and minds to change.
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.
Because you can.