The Two Little Gia Girls




It has never been easy for me to forge friendships with women.

Or even understand women.

I grew up feeling that women were weaker, and therefore had to work extra hard to be strong and equal to a man. But no matter how hard she worked, she wasn’t ever going to quite measure up. After all, how could she? This was how women were designed. This was their role? This was part of how she operated under the burden of her gender. So why not embrace that? Why not be proud of that? Why not fight for the right to be feminine: meek, quiet, and giving of all the care and affection?

Now, I need to be clear and explain that absolutely no one in my life taught me these ideas or lead me to feel as if they were truth. They were my own sad observation as a skinny little girl living with four brothers.

But here’s the secret:

Even though I thought these things and tried hard to accept them, there was another skinny little girl standing with arms crossed and spine straight, glowering at the other skinny little girl who thought herself weak. She was always yelling, “Who are you kidding? We both know that you’re the strongest of all!”

I watched my mother stand with spine straight and arms folded against the odds all her life. I saw strength in her, more strength than I saw in the men around her. She had this quiet resolve to rise up and conquer. She fought for a life and made it strong and tall…

And that stubborn skinny little feminist inside me jabbed the other skinny little girl and was constantly saying, “See that! That’s strong! That’s a woman!”

It has been a hard road for me to discover and accept feminism. I am just now starting to openly and publicly embrace it without fear. Even though the two skinny girls are starting to grow into one, not-so-skinny Gia, I still worry. Strength is scary, after all. It has power. Power can be good, or it can be bad. The trick is figuring out how to handle your new strength. Don’t grip things too hard or you might break them. Don’t pick things up so possessively or you might shatter them. Don’t love people too hard or you might smother the life out of them. Don’t be fully yourself or you might scare people—you might be too much.

Once in a while, I circle back to those skinny girls and I stare at the one full of fear and envy of her mother’s success at conquering adversity. Why did she feel like a failure? What was it that kept her feeling as if she HAD to put herself down and be less than? What was it that made her feel she should let others do that to her as well? And I realize it’s the pain. It’s the fear. It’s the possible rejection, the humiliation, the loneliness…

It can be much easier to be small and hidden away, weak and cloaked in shame
. People don’t notice you hiding in a dark corner, cowering, arms hugging yourself tight…

But people always notice the woman with the straight spine walking into the room with her chin held high. And sometimes, people hate that woman. She’s too tall. She’s too strong. She’s too sure. She’s too happy and content and capable. That woman is dangerous. She challenges those of us still hiding in the corners to get the heck out of there. And that’s the bad part; even though we think we can’t be seen hiding in our shame and fear, that woman sees us. She levels us with her eyes and she holds a hand out to us. “Stand with me,” she beacons…

This is it. We have to choose…
We either look away and bury our face in our hands—letting the fear completely swallow us up.

We can either stand up and take her hand—feeling the warmth of light on our face…

Or we can look at her and find hatred and resentment in our hearts for that woman.

 ***

Today, I’ve just now switched from strong black coffee to cucumber water. I am wearing cut-off leggins and a flannel shirt. My hair is a day old and in a pony tail I shaped with my hands in lieu of a brush. The house is a mess. The toddler puked all over my bed clothes last night. The cat shattered my screen on my phone. There is nothing exciting or strong happening in my normal life today…

But, the Feminist Gia inside me?

Well, she is burning up with light and warmth and openness. Even with dishes in the sink and cat poop outside the dang litter box, she will work hard not to tear down other women. She will promise herself every single day to rise up and seek light rather than sink low into the dark. It isn’t easy…especially with all the puke and cat poop and ants making a buffet out of the Popsicle someone let melt on the kitchen counter.

But an old man just came to my door. I wasn’t expecting him and I felt insecure about the fact that I was still chewing the last of my hasty lunch and that my hair was coming out of my pony tail. He didn’t seem to notice. He asked me what I did for a living. Instead of feeling small and shrugging, “I’m just a mom,” I lifted my chin and answered, “I’m a writer. I’m a photographer, and I love to take care of my children.”

Slap hands, Feminist, Skinny Gia.

You are growing.

We all are.

~Gia

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