We slowly descended one last long and rocky hill. I stopped to take a picture of a strange mushroom that was growing sideways out of a log. It was gross and fascinating at the same time. As we came around a bend we saw the shelter where we would spend our third night on the Appalachian Trail.
Sitting at the shelter was a beautiful young woman with her blond hair lying on her shoulders and a necklace resting on her muscular neck. She was obviously an experienced hiker and had come down the same trail. All of a sudden I became painfully aware of my boyish figure and manly zip-off hiking pants. Even my pack, the only one that fit my long torso comfortably, was made for a man.
How did I lack the femininity that she exuded so easily, when we were both long distance backpackers?
I can think of nothing sexier or more empowering than getting dirty doing something that requires strength and endurance. It took me a long time to feel that way though because I didn’t fit in with my other female friends. I didn’t enjoy wearing makeup every day and I saw my body as a tool. I also didn’t realize that I could cover it however I wanted and still be an athlete.
What does it really mean to be feminine? The dictionary says it is an adjective meaning “having qualities traditionally ascribed to women, as sensitivity or gentleness.” But the big question is… traditionally, culturally, or personally?? Things have changed drastically in the last hundred years. Being a woman once meant being demure and gentle, submissive even. Now it means something very different.
Womanhood is no longer defined by the classical attributes. We now consider strength necessary. Society accepts giving birth as the pinnacle of womanhood, as well as athletic prowess, and even business savvy. Helplessness and indecision cannot live in a mind that wants to experience the world fully. Opening up to new experiences, even the dirty ones, is what makes life worth living.
We were called tomboys, princesses, or geeks as kids, like there were only three options. But as we spend our whole lives finding our true self, we can embrace both the beauty and the beast. Intelligence and creativity have become our greatest assets.
Our self esteem doesn’t come from being like that perfect woman on the cover of a magazine. It comes from what we think is beautiful and what makes us happy. Strip away what you think is expected and nurture yourself. Muscles, mud, and lipstick look pretty good together.