New Zealand is one of the most gender equal places I’ve been to, more so than America. It makes sense because it was the first country to give women the right to vote. In the past three months, I’ve made a lot of Kiwi friends, but I have not met any local who is as girly as me. At first I thought it was because NZ wasn’t a big enough market for fancy things like cosmetics and fashion, but I’ve recently learned it is more deep-seated than that.
Ever since the first day I took over my desk at school, I’ve made sure it would be decorated in pink. all my stationery is pink or in the pastel tone. I even managed to find Steve Jobs quote printouts in pink, feminine designs. My colleagues and I nicknamed my desk the “Pink Castle”. A few days ago I found pink A4 size papers at the department office, and I was overjoyed. I said to a dark hair, nose pierced female student standing next to me, “Pink is the only color I’d use!”
She said, “Pink is the only color I wouldn’t use.”
I didn’t say anything to retaliate at that time. I’ve heard enough about how pink was a bad color for girls. I’ve always liked pink since I was a little girl because to me it is the most beautiful color in the color palette. It is warm, and it makes me happy. I just thought, “You don’t know better. Pink is awesome.”
However, when told my boyfriend what had happened, he said, “She’s a bitch.”
I guess maybe she did say it with a condescending tone. Maybe to her, pink is a gender defining color that doesn’t go with her personality, and she associate the pink with certain ways a girl should behave.
That story got my boyfriend and I started on a discussion about “being girly”. I told him I’d only consider one of his female friends a sort of girly girl. He said, “She wouldn’t be happy to hear that.” That surprised me because to me being girly is beautiful and not at all derogatory. Being girl means at least caring about how she looks, which is not even a common thing in NZ. My only real high maintenance friend here is a gay guy. What a surprise.
I went on to say I think Kiwi women were very independent but not feminine. He agreed and said it was both a blessing and a curse. I guess Kiwi women tend to be less clingy, but apparently he had also never dated any girl who would cling on to his arm when they walk together. It was another shocker because it’s the default thing I do every time we get off the car. I also like to put my hand in his pocket when it’s cold.
It had been raining all week last week. We went to a party together. I was in my high heel ankle boots, but we had to walk through some muddy ground. I went all “eww” the moment my boots touched the ground. I was gonna walk around it, but he put down his drinks, lifted me up and carried me though it.
It felt great, and I joked, “I’m like a giant baby.”
He said, “More like a damsel in distress.”
That was when I really protested. “No! I’d totally be fine if you didn’t carry me!”
He said, “Right. You’re an independent woman.”
My view on being strong has evolved over time. I used to think being strong meant never showing your vulnerability. You have to be all business, at all time, except when you’re crying yourself to sleep. You don’t need anyone to protect you. You can take care of yourself. You can conquer the world by yourself.
Pretending to be strong 100% of the time has exhausted me. It fed to my fear of failure. It was unhealthy, and no one can do that. I made a New Year resolution this year to not to be afraid to be weak at times. Every time when I begin to hide my signs of weakness, I remind myself there’s no need to. It’s okay to be weak sometimes as long as you know you’ll bounce back eventually. We need to let ourselves feel. Instead of announcing my problems to the world like a teenager does, I go to a few trusted friends when I need a pair of listening ears.
I think embracing my vulnerability and self awareness has helped me a great deal in this relationship. I have always been feminine in the way I look and dress, but I thought like a men. My guy friends used to say I came off as being “too strong”. Guys get intimidated because they thought I didn’t need a man.
The truth is, I still don’t need a man, but I don’t want to be a man. I don’t need to pretend I can do everything a man can do. I don’t need to be protected by a man, but I like how safe it makes me feel when he spoons me and holds me like I’m his delicate, precious treasure. I appreciate it when he gets out of his way to please me. With me enjoying being a woman, he gets to feel like a man.
I don’t think any of these, as well as my obsession with pink, makes me any less strong, intelligent and independent. Strength is a mentality, not a color. Strength is demonstrated in the way we handle failures. As long as I know I can always survive in the toughest situation, I’m still the strong woman that I’m so proud of becoming.