Friday, October 3, 2008

Girly girls and pink elephants

Over the last ten years or so, I have often wondered about femininity. Maybe it started when I was a little girl. I wanted to wear cute dresses with bits of lace and ribons and big, big skirts that would bloom open when I twirled. Most little girls love to twirl, and I was no exception. Unfortunately I was born in 1976, which meant that by the time I was about ten, the actual finding of a skirt, blooming or not, was becoming extremely difficult, if you didn't want to resort to the things called balloon skirts or micro mini. What I wanted was simple: a nice, elegant little dress. The war on elegance had been declared though and it took up until the late nineties that finally glimpses of it were seen again in normal clothing stores.

My wonder about femininity started with my wonder about skirts and dresses. Of course that does not mean that there is no femininity outside them, but it seemed as if, during my growing up years at least, they had become symbols of something that people did not like to be reminded of. Putting a girl in a dress, even if that girl wanted to wear a dress, was seen as sexist. And the best way for a woman or a girl to be all she could be was to actually be... a man. Or at least pretend as if she was. Girls shouldn't just be allowed to play soccer, they HAD to play soccer. They shouldn't just be allowed to wear trousers, they had to wear them. They shouldn't just be allowed to do wild and adventurous things, they had to desire to do so.

My first rebellion came in the form of an enormous pink elephant. Out of the many books I devoured, many of them including knights and princesses, embroidery came to me as a wonderfully elegant pass time. It took quite a while to convince my mother that I really wanted to try it. I am trying to think back to remember if I was often given to passing whims, but considering I did ballet for five years before stopping, and sang in the choir until I had to go due to too old, I don't think I often gave things up. The only thing I did give up due to a sincere lack of any kind of talent, were the music lessons that I had wanted to take. Still, it took quite some convincing for my mother to actually buy me my first 'set'. I must admit it did not delight my childish heart. While I had been dreaming of tiny elegant stitches of roses in bloom and other beautiful materials, the gigantic pink, plump elephant with stitches of half an inch wide was nothing like I had in mind.
In this case, my mother proved to be much wiser than I was at an impatient and overconfident age ten. With an experience of twenty years of needlework, I know that what I had wanted then would have proved too difficult, frustrating, and would have been thrown in a corner quickly, instead of being the start of a lifelong hobby.

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