Ministrations

The beveled edges of the mirror frame my face. I stare at my reflection and notice the slight wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, a few freckles sprinkled across my nose. This is the mingling of youth and maturity, of past and present.

I rub a small amount of gel between my hands and run them through my short grey hair. I close my eyes, giving myself over to the feel of soft hair beneath my fingers. When I open my eyes a minute later, every hair is in place and I am grateful for such simplicity.

As I’ve grown older, I have developed a fondness for black. It contrasts with my grey hair and fair skin. It strengthens my presence, makes me feel visible. When I slip into a tailored black dress shirt, I revel in the feel of the soft cotton on my skin as I slide my arms through the sleeves. I appreciate the way the cuffs hit my wrists at just the right place.  My fingers march up the row of buttons, leaving a couple undone so the neckline opens enough to expose part of my chest.

I choose a pair of dark jeans that ride low on my waist. They fit, hugging my curves and my thighs. I tuck in my shirt before slowly threading a black belt through the loops and through the silver buckle centered at the front.

I pull on a favorite pair of black socks. They are soft and my freshly shaved legs tingle at their touch. I run my hand over the blood red and grey swirls of my shoes, the leather smooth and cool as water beneath my hand. The shoes are bold and make me feel bold. I slip my feet into the soft leather and pull the black laces taught.

I wear few accessories – silver earrings, a black and silver watch, and glasses with dark, chunky frames.

Everything I do, I do with intention.

Confidence.

Femininity.

Difference.

These are the brightly colored strands that I forever try to braid.

I stand before the full-length mirror in my foyer and take in my appearance. In that moment, I hold the strands tightly in my hands but when I step out into the world, they are picked loose and unraveled.

There have been many moments when I have felt the schism between who I am and who the world expects me to be. So many that they blend together and lose distinction. The edges of each individual experience are worn away until they cease to be memorable incidents and simply become my life. People call me “sir” until they notice my breasts or the high pitch of my voice. People define me as “butch” without ever asking how I define myself.

For years, I had long hair.  I permed it and curled it and spent hours trying to style it. I wanted to look like all the other girls and didn’t want to be different. After coming out, I went to a barbershop and got a flattop – an act of rebellion against my past, an act of conformity to what I thought a lesbian had to be.

Now, the days of perms and flat tops are gone. I keep my hair short because it fits me.

For years, I shaved my legs because that’s what I was told to do. Then, I stopped shaving because I was told that I was conforming to traditional femininity though my hairy legs never did bring down the patriarchy.

Now, I shave because I want to, because the act of doing so connects me to my body and, when I finish, I run my hands over my legs simply because I enjoy the feel of my own skin.

For years, I was at war with my body. My shoulders were too broad, my arms too long, my breasts too big, my stomach too soft, my thighs too thick. Every part of me was just too much. I tried to change the things I could and hated the things I couldn’t. I starved myself. I wore clothes that were too big so that I could hide.

Now, my tailored shirt, the bra that accentuates my rack, my fitted jeans – these are the peace offerings I make to my self after years spent trying to look like someone I’m not.

This is the real me. I am recreating femininity in my own image.

Confidence.

Femininity.

Difference.

These are the brightly colored strands that I forever try to braid.

Each day before leaving the house, I stand before that full-length mirror and whisper, “Be yourself.”

I take a deep breath and add,  “I dare you.”

 

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42 Responses to Ministrations
  1. Sandi G
    April 11, 2012 | 4:47 pm

    Fabulous!!! Save this one somewhere….. when Z goes through some rough days( as high school and puberty and life always bring) give it too her and she will remember that she has a kindred spirit. :)

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:34 pm

      I’ll save it right here ;)

  2. LizC
    April 11, 2012 | 5:19 pm

    How beautifully put! I didn’t come out until I was over 50, but I always knew I didn’t fit in with the traditional view of femininity. During my teen years, wearing a shag haircut and knitted vest, I was sometimes mistaken for a boy – which, frankly, embarrassed me. You’ve made me appreciate the strength of will it takes to adopt a ‘different’ way of looking and I admire your bravery in doing so. You are setting an excellent example for your kids.

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:36 pm

      Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to be mistaken for a boy and sometimes I’m annoyed. Depends on the day.

      • Karen
        May 22, 2012 | 6:16 pm

        The story of my life; being mistaken for a boy. In Ohio I’m mistaken all the time, but when in northern CA, not once. I do not change what I wear or anything else, but in CA they can see. I get ticked when they look at my military ID card(retired), see my name and still call me sir. Then I say something like I’m not a sir my name is Karen. I want to say, “I gave birth to four babies, I am female, open your eyes. If you aren’t sure than don’t say sir or miss, just ask if you can help me.” I’m 54 and pretty tired of it.

  3. susan
    April 11, 2012 | 5:53 pm

    Go, you.

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:37 pm

      Go where? A show in NY maybe? ;)

  4. Kaitlin
    April 11, 2012 | 5:53 pm

    Aw, Vikki. This is SO great! I love hearing how femininity/femme-ininity is so unique to each of us, how we make it our own and stand firm in our ways, how we show the world, “Look how I do this!”

    I agree with Sandi – show this to Z someday.

  5. Meg
    April 11, 2012 | 6:17 pm

    This is inspiring! I have finally found my niche, too. I do things in my life because I want them, bot because I am told that’s how it should be. It makes for a much happier and fulfilling life!

  6. Cindy
    April 11, 2012 | 6:25 pm

    Wow I have chills my friend-this is one for the books-one that should b read by every woman, gay, straight or otherwise! Thanks for daring to b u!!!!

  7. Lovingly Blunt
    April 11, 2012 | 7:34 pm

    I changed the blade in my razor and shaved. Thank goodness I started with my legs – razor burn there is much more tolerable…

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:37 pm

      I’m glad your razor wasn’t lovingly blunt. That shit hurts.

  8. Blazer
    April 11, 2012 | 8:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Such a familiar story and so well written.

  9. weese
    April 12, 2012 | 12:30 pm

    peeps have a way of making us reflective.

    you have great hair by the way…

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:38 pm

      Peeps do cause such introspection…

  10. Ann Freeman
    April 12, 2012 | 6:39 pm

    I really love this. It exudes quiet self love in a way that most of us can only imagine reaching. Or had it once and lost it. Beautiful.

    • Vikki
      April 13, 2012 | 1:38 pm

      As I’m sure we all know…self-love is elusive. Somedays you have it. Somedays you don’t.

  11. Felicity
    April 12, 2012 | 9:10 pm

    Expressed beautifully. I’m glad to hear it’s possible to call a ceasefire with one’s body…am looking forward to that.

  12. lora
    April 13, 2012 | 7:02 am

    Gorgeous post. Thank you for these words. And thank you for being you.

  13. danielle
    April 13, 2012 | 7:12 am

    Thank you.

  14. kim
    April 13, 2012 | 8:48 am

    love this post, so well written, and so much to take away from it. We all need to dare to be ourselves!

  15. Vikki
    April 13, 2012 | 1:39 pm

    You are all very nice people. And you smell good. And your hair is especially shiny today.

  16. Storry
    April 15, 2012 | 9:15 am

    Truely Inspiring, I had good bumps so I thank you for this gift. I’m sure many woman, gay or otherwise can relate.
    I am unsure who wrote this, I assume its Vikki and if so, let me say how damn cute you are even from such a lil photo I can see a beautiful smile! I am sure you smell great too :)

    • Vikki
      April 15, 2012 | 9:31 am

      Yes, I wrote this and thank you. I do smell pretty good ;)

  17. dianne
    April 15, 2012 | 12:27 pm

    It takes courage and wisdom to be comfortable in your own skin. You rock.

    The older I get, the less I care what others think … unsure whether it’s self-confidence, ennui, or weariness.

    • Vikki
      April 16, 2012 | 2:01 pm

      Let’s go with ennui…it sounds fancy ;)

  18. e
    April 16, 2012 | 3:37 pm

    Isn’t it great to get to that point in life? Sure, we can stray, or forget, or be derailed, but to feel confident most of the time… it’s a wonderful thing.

    Love our chinchilla hair…….. :-)

    • Vikki
      April 17, 2012 | 9:06 pm

      And my chinchilla hair loves you…

  19. Faiqa
    April 17, 2012 | 8:27 pm

    I haven’t opened my blog reader in months. This was the first post I read. I will never *not* open my blog reader for months ever again. This is the best damn thing I’ve read in a long time.

  20. JW Moxie
    April 17, 2012 | 9:45 pm

    I can’t even round up the words to say how amazing this was. I often walk out the door feeling like I am too much of so many things — all the wrong things.

    Tomorrow when I get dressed, I’m going to look at the GOOD things and let those lasso my confidence. I’ll carry it with me like a kid would a balloon. I will look up at it and be happy.

    • Vikki
      April 17, 2012 | 9:54 pm

      Thanks biscuit ;)

  21. Anissa
    April 18, 2012 | 8:06 am

    Ok, when I decide to switch teams YOU are my first crush, This is breathtaking, V.

    • Vikki
      April 18, 2012 | 11:06 am

      I KNEW I was your favorite ;)

  22. Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]
    April 18, 2012 | 9:48 am

    HO. LEE. SHITBALLS.
    (Can I say that here?)

    Your confidence and tenderness and openness with your thoughts are making me feel more confident about my own self.

    Also, now I’m kind of turned on.
    (Can I say THAT here?)

    • Vikki
      April 18, 2012 | 11:07 am

      Say anything you want here. I love it all.

  23. Debi (Truthful Mommy)
    April 19, 2012 | 4:02 pm

    I love this post and I am envious of you. I wish I could be there; at the point in life where I am embracing my body rather than trying to make it into something it isn’t. You inspire me.

  24. […] “Ministrations” from Up Popped a Fox: For years, I shaved my legs because that’s what I was told to do. Then, I stopped shaving because I was told that I was conforming to traditional femininity though my hairy legs never did bring down the patriarchy. […]

  25. Nel
    May 3, 2012 | 11:14 pm

    I’ll take that dare & finally enter my blog-after reading yours, I realized an empty page has been staring at me, daring me for months. Thanks for the nudge, I scanned your blog & smiled at your writing style, what you share & in case I missed it: why do you blog?
    neldy

  26. […] was selected to read Ministrations at BlogHer’s Voices of the […]

  27. Mom off Meth
    August 8, 2012 | 10:03 pm

    Such a beautiful description of trying to find where we fit and our style. So much more as women to hate this or want to change that. To be just our beauty. What you wrote is beautiful.

  28. Susan
    August 9, 2012 | 8:08 am

    Vikki,
    I first heard this post at VOTY this year in NYC. I had to come find it in print to read for myself. I can always soak up someones voice better when I can read it myself. I love the challenge in your post, the idea that each style decision is done with intention, that you are defining femininity for yourself. As I’ve left my twenties, that has gotten easier for me, although there are days I still let society impact my self-confidence.
    I dyed a section of my hair hot pink at BlogHer – I’d never dyed my hair before. I’m loving how “me” it feels. That I finally had the guts to step out of what everyone else expected of me.
    Anyways. Just wanted to say bravo. Thank you for inspiring me.

  29. Susan
    August 9, 2012 | 8:09 am

    What is up with the duplicate comment? Hmmm…. sorry. ;)

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