My definition of ‘girl’ needs tweaking

Regret, my grandmother told me, is like rheumatism—an ache that comes from having been young once.
I’m on the other side of 50 and my grandma’s rheumatism has found its way to me. I no longer bounce when I walk, and I sometimes waken in the morning with each joint loudly making its complaint.
I’m not regretting that my middle has thickened from the lemon meringue pie and chocolate brownies. I’m not regretting the size of my bank account because money and I are not intimate friends.
There are things I don’t regret that I probably should, but it turns out I am regretting the fact that I never learned to be a real girl.
I suppose there is something precious about being a tomboy—a little girl in braids and freckles, wrestling with tasks too big in an effort to keep up with the boys.
Being a tomboy wasn’t a choice for me, it was ingrained in my soul; a genetic predisposition as clearly defined as being right-handed or having brown eyes. I wanted to drive the tractor rather than the Hoover. I wanted to be my dad’s “hired man.”
I wanted to hold over-sized baby bottles for calves rather than play with dolls, and I most certainly thought running the grain-crusher was far more of an adventure than learning to cook.
I watched my older sister sleep with her hair wrapped around 10-oz. soup cans and her head perched on a sliver of a pillow wedged at the base of her neck, which might explain the headaches she now suffers from. I watched her tweeze her eyebrows and straighten her bangs with dippity-do and scotch tape.
She was, as my mother proclaimed in a celebratory voice, a lady. But really Sherry had managed to bridge that gap between tomboy and girl—and did it with magnificence.
My mother often looked at me with a frown, probably wishing I would just brush my hair just this once.
While we were growing up, I wasn’t sure my sister and I were of the same genus. She had a wardrobe and I had jeans and T-shirts. She, as a result of her domestic responsibilities, is a fabulous cook and I am not.
I took a run at being a girl when I turned 32. I got my ears pierced. But my earlobes didn’t heal properly and eventually I abandoned the notion. Instead, I traded in my Iron-man watch for a less intrusive one with a leather strap.
Perhaps the cause for my self-examination lies in the fact that I have four daughters and the last has just left home. Without any help from me, they all have managed safely and securely to adopt the habits of being girls.
They know how to don their make-up and style their hair. They have wardrobes that match right down to their underwear, underwear that looks more like a slingshot.
They have bras in every shade of colour in the rainbow and boots with heels for the days they want to be tall and assertive, flats for the days they are coy and content; and they have bedrooms that frighten the faint of heart.
I’m not sure how my daughters see me. When they were young, they were fairly certain I was a super-hero. They regularly spout my credentials of changing tires and oil in the car, building things, and driving farm equipment, certain I was capable of just about anything.
My muscles have slackened now, are tired like the rest of me, so I’m not sure there’s much boasting going on these days.
Maybe this slowing down will allow me to examine myself more closely; to see through the veneer of disappointment and learn to celebrate who I am rather than who I thought I should be. Thankfully, we don’t all come in the same containers, with the same set of skills.
Maybe my definition of being a girl needs to be tweaked. Maybe being a girl allows for the greatest range of possibilities.
I’ll find Grandma’s rheumatism cream and get one with it.

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