Stage 1: “I like blue”
You are five years old and have just started kindergarten. You don’t come from a family where you weren’t allowed to play with trucks, in fact, you have a soon-to-be step-dad who wants to teach you to throw a perfect spiral and how to change a tire faster than a NASCAR pit crew. However, one day you come to school and learn your very first lesson in gender-roles: the difference between “boy colors” and “girl colors.” You’ve been given the choice between pink and purple and to be honest, you’re not satisfied. You’re told that both boys and girls are allowed to like yellow, which tempts you for a moment, but you know what you must do. In your first act of defiance against what you would eventually come to know as “the man” you choose blue. Your mom hugs you and tells you she’s proud of you. For the next two years, you will wear nothing but skirts and dresses to school, not because you have to because “that’s what girls do” but because you have an inherent hatred for pants. There is nothing “tom-boy” about you, you are just stubborn.
Stage 2: “I’m smarter than all of my friends”
Three months after your “graduation” from fifth grade, you’re a fresh-faced middle school student beginning your journey to discovering just how awkward you really are. In the river of hormones your teachers call a hallway, you begin to notice people are getting their first boyfriends and girlfriends. None of your gal pals have settled down for the long haul of sixth grade yet, but they begin the process of declaring their love for scrawny members of the male species via notes “accidentally” being left in front of lockers and under desks. Upon observing, you quickly notice that admitting a crush makes you vulnerable to rejection so when you are asked, “Who do you like?” you say “No one, none of these boys are my type” like you even have a type. Secretly, you have a huge crush on that cute boy with the shaggy blonde hair in your Pre-AP science class. This crush will continue for the next three years, but you will never once admit it to any of your friends from school. Instead, you learn to talk to boys as friends, and become one of those “cool girls” that can talk about guy stuff, like football and your step-dad’s mustang (all while wondering why those are considered “guy stuff”). You tell your mom, “I don’t tell ANYONE who I like because then they can use it against me” and she laughs at you and sends you off to bed.
Stage 3: “No, like I really love to cook and clean”
When you started high school, you decided that this whole independent woman thing was NOT for you. After tiring of being “one of the guys” you begin to test the waters of playing the part of a submissive woman. To practice, you begin dropping hints that you’d like to marry young and that you agree that men are “simply better leaders” than us women (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things, I just didn’t actually believe them). You decide that your favorite kind of joke is a “woman joke” and you go around defensively announcing that you are most definitely a non-feminist, as if jumping from one extreme to another would make up for lost time. At the co-ed lacrosse cookout, you begin to insist that you man the grill, because you like grilling, but immediately back down when you realize that that will make you appear to be “manly.” Instead, when one of the male players insists that you “go make him a sandwich” as a joke, you take his plate and fill it with food he likes, because that will give everyone watching the idea that you are fine with the way things are going (and also that you are “girlfriend material”). You eventually begin your very first relationship, and find yourself completely confused because you have no idea how to behave like a “cool girlfriend” so you immediately embrace all the things he likes while you ignore your friends.
Stage 4: Skinny Dipping
It’s senior year and you’ve decided you are done with the rules. You become best friends with the new girl from a big city who seems to agree with you that women don’t have to do things simply because “that’s what women have always done” and you get your first non-lobe ear piercing. This is the year of controlled rebellion; this is the year of making decisions that the you from two years ago would scoff at. It’s time to go on dates with guys you don’t really like all that much so that you can learn what you look for in a relationship, when you are ready to have another one. See, you’ve just endured a little heartbreak, but you find yourself thanking God for it because you know that ultimately He has given you the opportunity to really figure out who you are. You spend all summer after graduation hanging out in the country with a girl from youth group and you skinny dip in a river for the first time, and you feel free. You finally decide that dating should be out of the question until you figure out who you really are and what you really want. In August, you prepare to move away from your mom and dad, who have always been there to re-build your self-confidence and reset your brain after you’ve been upset.
Stage 5: World’s Worst Age
You joke that you have beaten teenage pregnancy because you are finally in your early twenties, which you soon find out is nothing to celebrate. You quickly realize that this transition phase between childhood and becoming a “real adult” is nothing short of painful. You work your first full-time job over the summer which makes you lose your mind because you are at the bottom of the totem pole and that is not something you are used to. This fall, you will lose your biological Father which will force you to grow up at lightning speed and have to really worry about money for the first time in your life. There is no longer time to wonder about the existential things in life like gender-roles and injustice, because you are wrapped up in your own life. Eventually, you will begin to journal about all of the things that you are thankful for and this will save your life. After going through the worst year of your life, you decide that your philosophy need no longer be about pleasing everyone else around you. You now admit that you are a progressive liberal that has no business being at a Bible College in the south and accept that you will never be able to settle for a man who can’t handle the fact that you thrive on independence. You notice your eight year old sister beginning to struggle with the same things you always have when it comes to doing what she’s told, and you reassure her that life may kick her around, but she’ll always have you to fall back on.
you also realize that we just might make it after all.