Another Day in the Country

Who are you, anyhow?

© Another Day in the Country

I’ve just finished reading a book by John Irving on the subject of identity.

I didn’t know that was what the book was about when I chose it from the library shelf,

I took the book home to read because of the title, “In One Person,” because of the cover (a photograph of someone attempting to put on and hook a bra) and because Irving wrote “The World According to Garp.”

It turns out that this book is about sexual identity — something I’ve rather taken for granted.

I’m female. I always knew I was a girl. All I had to do was look at my body and there stood a girl with all the standard girl parts.

There were things I wished for in my girlhood. I wished I was prettier — whatever the current standard for prettier was in the ’40s.

I didn’t really wish for blonde hair. I was quite content with brown. I liked my brown eyes. They sparkled with mischief and glee and they could see without glasses.

I wished I wasn’t so skinny. (Really, it was my mother who wished for that. She complained when she was sewing dresses that my legs were too long and my body impossibly thin and my hair too straight and it hung in my eyes and that I wiggled too much and wouldn’t stand still while she pinned up the hem and that I should eat more and take vitamins (which made me gag) and stand up straight and stop talking.)

There was a long list of things my mother wished for, but I think she was glad I was a girl.

“Girls are easier to raise,” she asserted.

Of course, she had a long list of things about what kind of girl I should be, and I gave you only a sample of the list in that long paragraph.

When I got older, let’s say high school age, my own list of what I should be grew.

I wanted to be shorter, have curlier hair, bigger breasts. I wanted to be tan and not white. I wanted a boyfriend who was at least three inches taller than me — I was 5 foot 9 at that point — so I could wear high heels. I wanted to be smart and desirable and have money of my own to spend. I wanted to be able to drive.

There were times during those years that I said I wished I were a man; but not really. Women were definitely second-class citizens during the 1950s.

For years in our country’s history, women weren’t allowed to vote or own property. For years, they were little better than slaves, thought to be the property of their fathers or their husbands. For years, they were deemed unworthy of education, suitable mostly for breeding and deemed most valuable when they produced male children that still are more highly prized in big portions of the world.

I, being a girl child and then a woman, wondered about all of this. It made me puzzled, angry, hurt, disgusted and finally weary with it all. But I was a lucky girl — a privileged woman, I now realize — because I never ever felt like I was trapped in the wrong body.

I’ve known folk who were angry at their body, ashamed of their body, fearful of what their body would do next because we are manifest in this world in a body of someone else’s making.

We are the product of our genetic heritage. We are held captive by whatever and whomever our parents were at the time of our conception, when out of love or ignorance or lust or accident they created another human being! And here we all are learning to deal with it!

It is a new and different world I hear about on television or read about in the news.

There are all different categories of people in the world. We hear about their experience as they come out and talk openly of their life experience, so different from most of us.

But they’ve been there all along, living with their differentness in shame, guilt and fear.

Recently I read of a letter being added to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender acronymn LGBT. There’s a Q now added, someone said for “Questioning.”

I have only a limited notion of what all this means in someone’s life, but I, too, can ask questions and get to know people and not just close them away.

It’s another day in the country. We are learning new things every day, and there’s a learning curve. I’ve been trying to learn chess with my grandson. It’s tricky at first but it’s good to stretch our minds and hearts to encompass something new!

Last modified Aug. 4, 2016

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