So I thought of finishing by talking about the beginning. If there is a memoir I should be writing at this point of my life is the memoir of my femininity. Of how I got here and where I think I’m headed to, even if my path surprises me with a sharp turn left… Maybe writing about my journey through womanhood will help me understand it better. It’s a confusing track, filled with metaphors and euphemisms that you don’t quite get at the right time.
The woman I am was seeded with the women my mom and grandma were, and is planting it’s fears and pleasures in my daughter’s heart. I wish I had better and purer seeds for her. I wish my steps were lighter on her soil, and that my love would be enough fertilizer.
I was 6 when I first experimented the mixture of pleasure and fear of being a girl. The same age Iolanda is as I write this piece. We were visiting with a friend of my father’s, and he had 2 sons. Andre was around 13 back then. He found me alone at the living room, and sat in front of me. “See how good this feels?” he said as he slipped his fingers in my shorts and through my thighs. He reached me where I felt pleasure I never thought existed. A subtle pleasure, like a tickle.
For the next two nights I sneaked out of the family room, where everyone would be watching tv and sat at the same spot he had found me, hoping he would come again. He never did.
For some intrinsic reason, I knew I could not mention that to my mom. I was not afraid of Andre, or of the tickle I felt, but I knew there was something about it that was prohibited, and from my mom came a core energy of judgment that made me fear her answer, her looks and ultimately, my sexuality. It took me years to understand that my fear and my stiffness were not mine, but hers. And it took me three paragraphs to see why I loath my daughter’s obsession is wearing shorts. She is six, I was six. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin, but I dread the thought of any invasive touch hurting her soul. I see my mom’s heart, and how she did all she knew to protect me. But I also see the anxiety and chains that came along with her shield. I want my cub to be free, but for this to happen, I have to be free myself.
Sadly, the world sometimes confirms our nightmares, and I knew for a fact that men were a menace when I was 11. My mom had learned the same thing when she was 11. The moment that security guard that was supposed to protect our school grabbed my arm, I knew my tenderness was gone. I had my mother’s and my grandmother’s example, and now my final mask was ready for me to wear: I had to be strong, with no gap for being tender.
You know, that’s how it gets heavy. That’s how your face becomes hardened, and the frown on your forehead starts to deepen. The thin lips I have were born with that man’s threat.
I carried that burden through the years when I was supposed to learn how to swing my hips, or how to turn my head so my hair would flow along the sensual lines of my neck. I felt the inner fire of a sensual me, but it was too sheltered by the panic of abuse.
I was lucky to meet wonderful boys, who became caring and affectionate boyfriends. It just saddens me that it could have been lighter. A scared woman becomes an insecure woman. And an insecure woman will do everything she can to be loved. For some magical inheritance, my daughter carries that trace of insecurity in her. It hurts me so deep… I wish I could strip her of that feeling that is not hers. It was mine. I wish she finds a path where she can walk alone in such comfort, that if someone joins her, she will be delighted, but not in awe. I wish her soul feeds from itself, and not from someone else’s approval. If that is too much wishing, I just wish she won’t take too long to be in peace with herself.
It took me a while. In fact, it’s still a work in progress. The first step was to be happy on my own. In that exact moment, my husband showed up. Delight, not awe. The love I felt for him and the love I felt from him was the kind that caresses your essence, the kind that makes you lie down with a smile instead of with fear. He was gentle, and I was ready to accept his gentleness, with a fearless heart. And the passion that came with it, for the first time, faced no barrier walls.
By his side I have been learning to seek lightness. The unbearable lightness of being, to be honest. When I met him, I was kind enough to myself to be able to lean forward and feel fragile. I didn’t need to be the fortress I had been, and winding a lock of hair while he was telling a story was no longer a sign of weakness. Crossing my legs and wearing a pink dress with a beautiful cleavage would not endanger me anymore. I was safe being a woman. And not because of him. He was just possible because I was finally a woman. A woman with all the power, but also a woman with a new sense of the feminine. A woman that had begun to understand that fear doesn’t protect you from the world. Fear stops you from living in it.
From all the legacies I could choose to leave for Iolanda there is none more important than my healing. She doesn’t need my fear, she doesn’t need my weight. She needs a restored mother, a cured woman to show her she can be healed herself.
And that there is no bigger empowerment than just being whole.