Happy International Women's Day today, Manila time.
Coming from a night of hanging out with different kinds of women friends, it got me thinking earlier about the kind of women we have become, in comparison to the kind of girls we were before.
I have a high school friend who works as a nurse in one of those desert countries. Turns out we also have one more friend from high school who has the same job in the same country. We all met up for dinner, talks and laughs. Some smokes, too, yes, but only confined at the far end of the table where some of their kids were safe from second hand smoke. A couple of us had a few bottles, but not enough to give one a buzz. Save for me, everyone had a family. Some husbands were in tow, and one was left at home. One of us, the latecomer to the get-together, started lamenting about how she's the only "work slave" among us flexi time workers, she who has to keep a rigid work schedule atop of juggling her home life with her one and only child since they have no yaya or househelp anymore and the hubby works in night shift. Then somebody started talking about the healthy appetite of her kid, and then the mothers among them started comparing Cherifer stories of not giving/giving vitamins to their kids and the kid started gaining/losing their appetite, I cannot recall the combo.
And then the fathers exchanged stories of how to address their juniors with the question of why "it" stands up every morning, and how the mothers among them can't directly accept the fact that their little boys are beginning to become little men. But we also have one mother there, but unmarried. She brought along her daughter, a college freshman, and we started teasing her about "When your mom was your age...nakuuu!" And the laughs never end for our group. All this happened in between the youngest tyke, my mini-bff, tugging me along the restaurant's koi pond to check out the fish. And to educationally play with the tyke -- as I do with other kids -- I engage her in identifying the colors of the fishies and to count how many fishies are there. For a non-schooled tyke, her counting is awesome yet for the life of her mum, they couldn't comprehend why her color identification skills is only limited to the colors of her mum's bras, and identifying colors of other objects is always a failure. A child psychologist somewhere out there might have the answer, but we're not interested in that right now, at this phase. We just laugh at her cuteness.
That was my night. How was yours?
Waking up today, I thought of that: what became of us girls, giggly naughty ones in high school, who have now become full-fledged women, with careers and jobs and families and homes and cars and educational plans and children and aging parents or parents who left us already. Well, not really applicable to all. The single mom with the happy college freshie daughter has a boyfriend, and this lesbian is a happy single-and-mingle woman. Another member of the gang is, in fact, already in Australia, petitioned by her girlfriend there, because that's how awesome countries recognize our kind of relationship. No judgment in our group, just support. Not everyone really pursued the career we were thinking of having back in high school, while some of us went to have careers that we never thought in a million years we'd practice. Some actually want to change careers already, to pursue what they really want. But there's always this family balancing act that they have to consider.
To be in the company of these girls who became women, it gets me thinking of the kind of woman I have also become. And it's strange to realize that there's not one kind of woman one becomes, but maybe several, all in one, at the same time. Intersections. Yes, I am a big fan of this concept. We do not live single issue lives, as Audre Lorde once wrote. As women, we also do not live single identity lives as well. Or sometimes, we also reject prescribed notions of womanhood that society tries to dress us up with, just because we have a vagina and not a penis. Strange to have the world reduced to what you have between your legs, not between your ears or what's near your lungs, right? But the world is funny and strange that way sometimes.
To tell you the truth, I've come to realize that I'm not that kind of a woman: the birthing kind. Even if my so-called "child-bearing hips" would make me a viable candidate, these hips have a longstanding contract with my vagina to not have anything bigger than a watermelon to grow inside and pass through them. Not that I'd choose or test to have a watermelon pass through there, no. Good god, what are you thinking?!? Kidding aside, no, even before I had a legitimate boyfriend, I've already decided back then, as early as my college years. This decision of not bearing a child in this lifetime was already made way ahead than my decision to become a writer, actually, or to pursue the career I have. I don't know but some decisions are easier to decide upon, just like that. But it doesn't mean that I abhor kids. In fact, my friends are amazed at the kind of patience I have with their kids. That's a totally different skillset, I remind them, and one doesn't have to be a mother to know how to interact properly with kids. I've actually had girlfriends before who were mothers, with kids of varying ages and sexes, yet they ask me some mothering tips on how to handle their kids or they let me handle situations with their kids because they're impatient about it. Imagine that. So yez, kidz skillset, I haz it.
And no, this decision doesn't connect directly to the fact that I decided not to be that kind of a woman: the man-loving kind. Give me credit for trying to follow the status quo of being in a boyfie-girlfie setup before, but give me bigger credit for defying that status quo. No, I don't defy for the sake of defying. It's just that I've come to realize, in the development of my persona, that being a woman who likes being with a woman is what makes me happy. Bonus points for not having straight situations some of my friends sometimes have. I luv yah my het friends but yeah, y'know what I'm talking 'bout. There was this one time that a friend, before meeting her boyfie, asked me to accompany her to Watsons to buy contraceptives. This was the same girl who, one morning, texted me to ask my feminist network where the morning after pill could be bought here in the country, but with the caveat that it's not for her. Why the disclaimer? Because by default, straight girls usually have such disclaimers embedded in them. I should know; I used to have them. To be a woman who wants to exercise her "god-given" right to have a safe and satisfying sex life, society puts obstacles in our paths sometimes, damning ones that make women feel guilty and shamed. No, I decided I'm not going to be that kind of a woman. So gay or straight, I exercised that right, and exercised safety at the same time. But now? My side of safety is a bit easier. As my good friend bought her condoms, I bought three kinds of mouthwash. "That's a lot of mouthwash!" she quipped. To which I replied "Because this is my kind of contraceptive, my friend." And we both laughed and went up to meet her boyfie.
Before going to Watsons, this friend actually chatted me up and asked how I am, and there's also a default question: how's your love life? A paired lesbian friend actually asked me that the other day, too, when I struck up a conversation with her. Sometimes I wonder about that question. Why are people so hung up on that part of us, the "love" life part. And this usually connects to the idea of having a partner or not. I wish when people ask about others' "love life," the answer would always be: "I'm totally fine. It's great! Because I love my life, and that's my love life!" Which is what I've always fought about, conceptually, in my mind, being that kind of a woman: the partnered kind. I've had my fair share of partnered years, clocked in and out of them. But what I've learned from those years was that I don't want a relationship status to define me. Sometimes I find it cute that my coupled friends are obsessed with finding me a partner. (Partner agad? Puwede bang date muna, mga teh?) But there are also a handful who understand and respect me in my decision to be in a "single but not lonely" mode. Or rather, the "single but not alone" kind, as I always kid them that "Porke single, di ibig sabihin tigang, teh!" and it's always a hoot to kid about this. But none of them ever dared to ask if my joke was half-meant. But to the handful who know the truth, and who message me on Viber/FB/sms/email from time to time just to check up on me, I give them eternal hugs. Hashtag alam na. :)
There are other kinds of parameters, barometers, litmus tests, and other standards that the world has on being "a certain kind" of a woman. I don't have a life mission to subscribe to them. I also don't have the aim of going against them. I just do what feels right to me, as a woman, and I just make sure I don't harm others in the process. Right now, I'm a woman who has her own place she calls her home, doing jobs that pay the bills while having enough left to splurge on occasional dates, does meetups with good friends and continue meeting new ones, enjoys the company of others and of herself, and very thankful to be (pa-)healthy, wealthy (in experiences) and wise (yeah, literal, lolz). Bonus points for being the creative kind and being tapped because of my talents and skills, and occasionally being flattered for my looks. Yes, at this point in my life, I am happy I am this kind of a woman: the fulfilled kind. I wish whatever you women out there have in your life, you will also be this kind, because it's the best kind of all, I think. The happiest.
Happy woman's millennium, my pals. Every second is ours. Claim it.