What The World Tells Me About Being A Woman

Being a woman is filled with unrealistic and unattainable expectations that are nearly impossible to achieve, but we still try to anyway.

What The World Tells Me About Being A Woman
Broken porcelain doll. Aimee Vogelsang/Unsplash

The world has always taught me so many things about who I was, what I was, and how I was supposed act as a woman. I felt like the world told me I needed to be like a sliced pizza — be all things to all people, at all times. The world taught me to chase unattainable and unrealistic standards.

The World Tells Me I Need To Be Smart

I need to be sharp because someone is always trying to take advantage of me because I have breast and a vagina. I need to know something about cars so the mechanic won’t try to screw me out of my money. I need to be smart enough to navigate the mediocre, fresh men in my professional circles. I need to be tactful enough to check men when they are out of order in the workplace, in the streets, or even in church. I need to have the wisdom to make good decisions, understand systems, and preserve my life another day. I need to be savvy enough to deal with racism, sexism, and feminism. I need to be smart enough to know how to take care of my business because at anytime someone could be sizing me up as their prey.

The World Tells Me I Need To Be A Lady And A Freak

The world tells me I must maintain my outward appearances to unrealistic beauty standards in order to be fuckable, but that beauty is for a certain time, place and space. The world tells me women must be sex goddesses, ready for any type of man with any type of sexual appetite. I’ve watched plenty of movies about women who did both. She always seemed to be happy and free in the movies. In real life being a lady and a freak doesn’t work that way. Being a freak gets you ridiculed. Being a lady gets you run over. Being a lady and a freak is hard to do. I don’t recommend it if you want to keep your sanity. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The World Tells Me To Be Silent

Don’t talk about my rape. Don’t talk about my child molestation. Don’t talk about my abuse. I need to stay strong and carry my burdens all alone. No need to talk because I won’t be believed. I’m told what I experience in my life as a Black woman, is a figment of my imagination. I need to be silent, or risk being silenced. Silence and fear are tactics used by the world to shrink me — and minimize my existence. Most days it doesn’t work. Sometimes the world wins.

The World Tells Me Women Should Always Be Happy

From magazines, to television ads for household products, to religion, the world tells me women must always be happy. I must smile all the time. Keep a good attitude. Be happy. Forgive others for the sins they commit against me. I can’t be depressed. Be happy. I can’t be tired. I can’t give up or give out. Be happy. I can’t be angry or be emotional like men. Men don’t have to have good dispositions. They aren’t told to smile. The world has taught me women are expected to be the sunshine for everyone’s life.

The World Tells Me To Be All Things For All People

The broken doll reminds me of how I feel moving throughout life. Women must be all things to all people. I must be a good mother, a great wife or partner, a fantastic lover, great cook, landscaper, secretary, nurse, mail woman, housekeeper, freak, sexpot, cum bucket, tech support, stay-at-home mom and a working woman at the same time, nice lady, strong woman, teacher, police, navigators, news anchor, grocery shopper, and parent-of-the-year. Women must be the givers of life, the makers of dreams come true, confidants, arm candy, saving graces, and smiling faces. Being all things to all people is exhausting, and the world has placed the unrealistic and unattainable expectation of being it all upon us.

The World Tells Me I Need To Think Like A Man

The world has taught me I need to think like a man to avoid being eaten up by them. I need to calculate their every move to avoid being devoured by them because they rule everything. I must plan my every step in life based upon the things I’ve learned about men. I watch them, I understand them, I love them — but I also know their asses like the back of my Black hand. They’ve taught me a lot. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is. I consider thinking like a man similar to watching the cycle of life in the animal kingdom. Just like predators know their prey, the prey must also know its predators. Thinking like men helps me navigate life.

The World Tells Me How To Look

Don’t dress slutty for church. Don’t dress like you’re going to the club for work. Stay thin/petite. Color your gray hair. Don’t walk bare foot or you’ll have big feet. Sleep in a bra so you won’t have large saggy breast. Wear sexy bra and panty sets to please my man. Don’t wear revealing tops/blouses and top pants so you won’t tempt men. Keep your nails and hair done at all times, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Don’t eat too much food because you’ll get fat and no man will want you. Get braces for perfect teeth. Get your eyebrows arched to make your face prettier. Walk gracefully. Sit up straight. Carry yourself like a lady at all times. Look young, act youthful. Straighten your naps so you won’t look so — Black. Be gracious in all you do.

Most everything I have been taught about being a woman was all about my personal appearance, how I needed to look. The world forgot to teach about getting old, and what that looks like. It never taught me how to deal with my beauty as it slowly starts to fade, when my ass starts to swell, and my breasts start to droop. Getting old for women is a curse.

The world never prepared me on how to cope when the man of my dreams conveys his love is conditional, based on my looks.

I have always been thin as rail, fit, and strong even after having two children naturally. As I aged, I began having issues with my menstrual cycle, hormones, ovaries, and tumors which required surgery and eventually a hysterectomy. The many surgeries and hormonal changes led to weight gain. Add to that the stress of work, raising 3 sons, being a step-grandma for military grandchildren, being the oldest, most responsible sibling having to deal with two mentally ill parents — including one with substance issues college, maintaining a home, being a wife, and trying to maintain unrealistic beauty standards, I gained more weight.

One day, my now ex-husband, a retired Army combat medic and registered nurse, asked me how big I planned on getting.

Oh no, he didn’t.

In all of my years of living, I’d never had a man say anything negative about my weight or physical attributes, so I was taken aback for a moment. Because he was a health care provider, I expected better. As a spouse, I expected unconditional love from him. As an old, grown as man who was almost 50-years old, I expected him to be over superficial expectations of women. Boy was I wrong!

In that moment, on that day I saw why the world focused so much on personal appearances. They matter to the rulers of the world. If your body betrays you, things change.

Let’s just say that conversation went South fast. It was the first time and only time in our marriage that I verbally cut my husband off at the kneecaps. He deserved it. Who in the fuck did he think he was?

When you come for the house lady, you better not miss! I was wounded, but he did not kill me.

After our argument, I went to the bathroom, distraught and looked in the mirror. I cried. The unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards came back to haunt me.

The world didn’t tell me I had to work so hard on my looks to remain in good graces with a man who swore to love me in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. The next day I made an appointment with my OB/GYN in order to get my raging hormones under control. He offered medication, which I kindly refused. I would get my weight off slowly, the same way I got it.

I began doing research on health and wellness for women my age with similar women’s health challenges, changed my diet, and I began walking 5 miles each day for about 6 months. My husband walked with me trying to show his raggedy support. It just made me resent him. I had one more thing added to my already full plate because of him, now he wants to walk next to me like some kind of show pony in a parade. The audacity.

I made sure I took time away from life and my family to meditate in order to decrease my stress levels. I detoxed regularly to remove toxins. I quit my stressful job in a college financial aid office to get away from the toxic workplace environment. I slimmed down. My stress levels decreased. I got my old body back.

I couldn’t believe all the additional stuff I needed to do just to keep my man and to keep his eyes from wandering. To keep him out of another woman’s bed. The world had tied a man’s happiness to a woman’s body. I wish we could divorce those two things.

I know most men date or marry women they can show off to their peers. I learned the hard way my relationship with my spouse was no different. At any moment, I could physically be the women of some man’s dream, and in a few short years because of health, emotional, or mental hygiene issues, I could become the same man’s nightmare.

The world has taught me that women are disposable accessories like latex gloves and tissue paper. I have worked hard over the years to reprogram a lot of what the world has taught me about women. It’s a work in progress. I’m thankful for all the women who share their stories on Medium and online to help women like me to unlearn the things the world taught me, and I’m enjoying the journey. The world will tell you a lot of things about women.

We must choose what fits our lives and spit the rest out. Sadly, we live (and loose) half of our lives before we figure this out. It’s never to late to retrain your thoughts about what it is to be a woman. Free your mind, and the rest will follow.

Marley K.

Written in response to a prompt from Elle Beau ❇︎ ❤️