Growing up I liked sports: playing them and watching them and arguing about them. I had crazy, curly hair that my mother--who has the straightest, finest hair of any person I have ever met--had no idea how to tame, and I didn't give her much time or help in that endeavor. I liked cowboy boots and comfortable clothing. My family didn't have much money, and as I got older, I decided that I didn't care about clothing and accessories and make-up. Part of it was a coping mechanism--I couldn't afford what the other girls had, so why bother with any of it? The other issue was that being pretty was a bonus, but you were never supposed to try too hard or act like you cared about these things too much. If you did, you were vain, superficial, probably dumb. Girls were somehow, magically, supposed to be flawless seemingly without anytime in front of a mirror. So I ignored style and make-up and everything else I deemed "too girly." And I took away the lesson that I wasn't a pretty girl. I was smart and funny, but not pretty. That wasn't me.
Fast forward 10 years, and you have me today. A grown-up with no idea how to do my make-up or paint my nails, which isn't a bad thing except that I really want to do my nails and wear make-up. And this is where friendship comes in. My friend, L, always has amazingly painted nails, and the thing I love about it is how obvious it is that it is for her. She doesn't paint her nails because she has to; she paints them because she loves it. After commenting a few times on her nails, she generously offered to teach me. Something I always felt intimidated and embarrassed by has become one of my favorite ways to relax. I discovered that my weak, flaky nails hold up better when I paint them regularly. The painful breaking happens less often, and bonus, my nail color occasionally matches the colors in my tattoos.
Nail polish was the tip of the iceberg for me. I decided I was going to embrace the side of me that likes sparkly things and always wants to buy eyeshadow palettes at the drugstore even though I don't know what to do with them. Enter another awesome friend, S--at this point, you are probably thinking I'm just rubbing in how many awesome friends I have, but that's not the point...or at least not the whole point. S is great at make-up. Sometimes her make-up is subtle. I can't even pinpoint what she has done or if she is wearing it at all, but she looks fabulous. Other times her make-up is funky, or sexy, or loud, but it always works for her. On Friday, I went over to her house, and she taught me how to do my make-up. Because she is great, and fun, and smart. I didn't even have to ask. She called me up and told me to come over because we were going to have a fun time playing with make-up. She broke it down for me in terms of painting, which is something I can understand. She taught me something I really wanted to learn, and she helped me overcome an old lesson.
Growing up I felt a lot of pressure: to look a certain way, to know a certain skill-set, to care about certain things. I rebelled against the gender pigeon-holing which I found to be stifling, but I didn't leave room in my rebellion for the other side. The side that embraced these things without embracing the misogyny. The side that liked nail polish, clothes, and make-up AND liked football, climbing trees, and science. Through my friends' know-how and their support, I am learning to embrace all the sides of me instead of belittling the parts that teenager-me found "too girly," while secretly longing to know more about them. I'm learning that pigeon-holing oneself in response to outside pressure is as bad as bowing to that pressure. I'm learning that I can be pretty, smart, funny, or almost any other adjective I wish--except tall, I'm never going to be tall.