Preface: These thoughts come to me in the midst of a new, budding relationship. Yes, there is a “new Boy” who’s been nothing but kind and thoughtful. Still, it’s been a hesitation of mine from the start that he “identifies” as Catholic. I know identifies is a funny thing to say in defining someone’s religious choice, but for me he’s not the Catholic I grew up with—he’s more of the John Pavlovitz type—to the point where there are times that I want to say to him, “You’re not really Catholic then.” In my mind, to at least help me make sense of it all for now, I’ve divided it up to the Catholic Church as a business, and Catholic the religious practice. But to back track a bit, he’s seems (and has stated) that he genuinely does not care that I identify as spiritual. Which makes me question if I am hypocritical in my own spirituality that I do question the sustainability of our relationship because of our beliefs. I won’t let myself completely off the hook with that thought, as I do want to make sure that I don’t deny others of the religious and spiritual freedom that I was denied growing up. However, I do want to acknowledge the weight and heaviness of the religion classes and lectures I sat through as a kid. I thought I had processed it all before this relationship, but it seems that the Universe is offering me a new challenge. As a brief example (with the rest being in metaphor below)…I’ve felt the need to bring up things that I normally would not want to do so early in a relationship so the new Boy has a clear idea of what he is getting himself into. After much stumbling on my words, I told him I had no plans to ever get married (leaving out that if I ever change my mind, I want to get married outside the confines of four walls and by a woman). I can’t blame all of that on the Catholic Church…part of it has to do with my parents’ divorce, my young and married uncle dying before turning 30, and the narrative I created in childhood around that. But there is the religion class where we were told that the obligation in marriage was to procreate…and while I love kids I’ve never wanted them for myself (plus, Pacer is the best little girl I could ask for!). And the whole “two become one” thing always seemed skewed in the man’s favor. Finally, there’s the whole patriarchal and oppression thing that surrounds most religions…but that’s been written about more eloquently by others, so I’ll end this very long preface now.
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe
I try to cry
But I am drowning
Cleansed, I hear them say
But from a made up sin I did not commit
My clothes are white
But then my body grows, and its back to black
I run down the street on wobbly legs
All heads turn the other way.
I am but a ghost. A Ghost?
No, for I am a woman.
I trip and fall.
I am but a ghost with bloody knees
Is this my cross to bear?
I choose to wear only bones
To be more like a Man or further hidden,
I no longer know.
Still, without this chest
Without my life-giving blood flow
There’s less force to do the things that I am told
Like my body is only for him
And the children to come after
For that is what is required for me to become seen
If I am good
Am I good?
It is only years later that I inhabit my body again
Recently one of my favorite actresses*, Emma Watson, made headlines as she used the term “self-partnered” rather than single to describe her relationship status.
*Partially for her role as Hermione in Harry Potter, partially because of her activism, and partially because my family says I look like her (!).
Additionally, rapper/singer Lizzo has talked, or rather sung, about being her own soulmate. There’s been a few haters, but more people have followed up with positive comments on this new terminology.
Truly, I love it so much that I wish I could check off “self-partnered” rather than “single” on my voter registration. (Or rather for me and in congruence with my website name, the proper term may be dog-partnered.)
But, as Watson alluded to, it takes some work to get from single to self-partnered.
And I’m not quite there yet.
Now before all the haters say “see, I told you it wasn’t possible” let me say that I have identified with the term before.
A few years ago, after my heart was torn from a break-up with a man I was still in love with, I was living with my dog, sister, and her boyfriend in a condo we decided to all rent together to save money. While I still mostly kept to my own, I had people I loved to briefly chat with throughout the day, often lamenting about the joys and pains of graduate school. Speaking of grad school, I also had a small cohort/friends of other wilderness therapy students that I interacted with constantly. For an introvert that thoroughly enjoys alone (aka, a dog and her girl) time, my life was full of social interactions and little time to do nothing, or rather, scroll through social media. I felt content and fun-filled in my life without being in a romantic relationship.
Which brings me to the “work in progress” part now.
For one, my private counseling practice has been taking some time to get going, and my run coaching career is work-from-home, so I’m not spending a lot of time in social environments (though I am currently typing away at the library). I live in a smallish mountain town, so finding friends is a bit of a challenge. However, I have made a few friends recently, and that’s added a lot of joy to my life. I also have a few core friends, though they’re spread out. Still, our get togethers and chats are a valuable pieces of my well-being. Additionally, my last break-up came with some small-t trauma, and I’m still processing the pain/confusion of the relationship. I have had some extra alone time lately.
The funny thing is, I rarely feeling lonely. At this time of the season, I’m pretty happy snuggling with my dog and watching holiday movies (favorite: Elf). And I’ve made sure to partake in my favorite holiday traditions and activities: my yearly November trip to Salida with my sister, her boyfriend, and Pacer to see “S” Mountain lit up like a Christmas tree, the tree lighting ceremony in my town, and the weird but wonderful holiday parade in the town down the canyon. There’s been a few times I wished for a Hallmark* style romance in these situations (I’m not going to get into Hallmark movies right now…I find them predictably comforting…and I am sticking to my story for now!). Additionally, unlike the previous year I’m grateful that I could enjoy the latter two events without an argument with the ex-boy.
If I could point to any other culprit that I would say is preventing me from fully claiming the “self-partnered” status, I’d blame the time I spend on social media. A lot of my friends would laugh at this as I don’t even have a smart phone, but again, I work from home on my computer. And then I’ll check social media at night, scroll through the feed, rather than diving into the book next to me. There’s quite a bit of research out there on social media and loneliness, and as person who also happens to be a therapist, I can attest. Temporarily de-activating my Facebook account may be something I try in 2020, while I consider getting a smart phone. The benefits are getting lost less on camping trips as well as getting work done while on camping trips (with an re-active dog, its hard to find a coffee shop I can sit in and leave her the car, especially when it’s warm out), but I’m fearful of a further social media addiction.
As a therapist, I know that humans are wired for connections. I know the goal is not dependence, independence, but interdependence. And I know that being surrounded by people you love, but not romantically in-love with, is the key to being happily self-partnered…and happy when you do have a romantic partner!
With that, here are my tips for being happily self-partnered through the holidays:
-Spend time with friends/family weekly, especially one some evenings.
-Partake in all the holiday traditions and activities you enjoy, whether it is by yourself or with a friend.
-When you do settle down for that holiday movie, place your computer somewhere far away from you. Commit to watching the whole movie without checking your social media. (If you can ditch social media more than that, awesome, but I’m going to take baby steps.)
-When you are not listening to holiday music, put on some Lizzo!
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie
*Due to Hallmark’s ad pull, I’ve made the switch to Ion, Lifetime, Netflix Christmas movies, Elf, and traditional Christmas movies.
At the end of 2nd grade, I dressed up in a white dress, looking like a slightly pudgy doll. This was all so I could walk down the aisles of my Catholic church with my classmates, in front of a scary number adults, so I could receive the Eucharist, the body of Christ. (Insert quotations where you see fit). This sacrament is of course after Confession, where I told my 8-year old sins to a guy dressed in black and asked for forgiveness (I’ll skip the part where I was born with “original sin” for Eve eating an apple as that is not what this blog is about) so I wouldn’t go to Hell…
Just like in school, the boys got to wear pants, whereas in the classroom I had to wear a pleated and itchy dress with shorts underneath so the boys wouldn’t couldn’t get a glimpse of my undies going up the stairs…
Needless to say, this didn’t encourage me to wear skirts or dresses any more than I had to, and after 2nd grade, I ditched them as best I could save for the school uniform I was forced to wear.
Actually, in 7th grade I went the ultimate dork route and traded in my skirt and knee-high nylon socks for a pair of khaki, ill-fitting pants that hid my then skinny legs and bony hips.
By that time, I was already disillusioned by the feminine ideal. I did’t want hips or boobs because I wanted to stay fast for sports. I didn’t want to get married only so I could have babies, which my religion teacher said was requirement of the sacrament. I didn’t want to wear a skirt and give consent to the norm of being female, where it seemed that women were always second to men. (I was one of the kids questioning why a woman couldn’t be a priest in the Catholic church.) No man was going to lead my life, albeit a priest or a husband.
And I wasn’t going to be forced into a skirt. I saw those pictures of women playing basketball in shin length skirts. It not only looked uncomfortable but completely unpractical. Eventually those women would fight to wear shorts. In the office, women would fight to wear pants (the Netflix series “New of the Week”, while an overly-dramatic yet insightful series, featured a scene where the attractive lead wore pants to work on her birthday and was told to go back to a dress the next day). Pants proved we were equal.
In my mind, skirts were “anti-feminist”.
That’s not to say I never wore a skirt again. I had a few dresses for school formals (I went to two, including prom) and my cousin’s wedding, all which I now remember as being hideous dresses. As soon as I could, I quickly went back to my below-the-knee basketball shorts.
I eventually bought a pencil skirt at the end of college for a charity event and my first office job (while it was with the United Way, I was happy it was a temporary position!)
Then in Tanzania, women had to wear skirts or at least pants that went past their knees. I did my best to fit in. My then boyfriend bought me a beautiful but too-fancy wrap skirt to wear there, but I also had an old skirt lying around, plus had 2 colorful skirts made by local women in the village, one to wear my to volunteer job and another short skirt to wear back home (which the seamstresses must have thought of as scandalous!).
It wasn’t until a few years after that when I realized how freeing a skirt could be.
While working with Girls on the Run and holding an event with one of their partners, Athleta, I bought a purple knee-high skirt. Stretchy, comfortable, but nice enough to wear to a meeting. Perfect for a job at an organization empowering girls and women.
Then I bought a cheap sun dress at thrift shop in Jackson Hole,WY while exploring with Sandi. I threw it on and was instantly casually dressed up. Easier and more comfortable than jeans!
From there, I bought another sun dress, my “hippie”/Naropa full-length skirt, and my favorite Patagonia feather-patterned skirt that I’ve only washed once in 7 months.
I admitted to myself that I actually like wearing skirts.
They were not only comfortable, airy, and convenient, but I felt like I possessed an explicit feminine power whenever I put one on. I couldn’t quite explain where the feeling was coming from.
With a bit more thought, I realized that when I rejected all skirts and dresses, it was another way for me to reject the feminine side of myself. the part of me that was nurturing, compassionate, and a warrior of love.
As I mused more deeply, I came to see that skirts weren’t “anti-feminist”. Only the label I had given them was. I reality, being a feminist meant wearing whatever the f*** I wanted and allowing other women to have that same choice.
Once it was easy to see women wearing running skirts* and think “really?” but now, while I still don’t foresee myself wearing one, I can assume that they are ultra-comfy and quite practical. Even if they are “stylish” that’s okay! I’ve seen guys wear a matching outfit too. While I myself am perfectly happy to get dirty and go without showering for days in the woods, I believe a certain level of awareness and effort put into how one dresses is sign of healthy self-care and esteem rather than a purely narcissistic endeavor.
* Recently, I met Nicole DeBoom, Founder/CEO of Skirt Sports in Boulder, CO as well as former pro-triathlete. If anyone needs proof that strong women wear skirts, simply look to her.
If we take just a moment to look at some of the strong women athletes who wear skirts, we break the “delicate myth.” The first images that appear in my mind are Venus and Serana Williams. Quads bulging, grunting with the power of their swing, dominating the sport of tennis and inspiring millions of girls, women, and men, all in skirt. On the running side of things, I have images of Krissy Moehl, Anna Frost, and Cat Bradley, just to name a few, completing ultra-distances in a skirt.
While I note the skirts, as that is the subject of this blog, I want to highlight that all the women are badasses because of their determination, courage, and strength. The skirt was just part of their Wonder Woman outfits, giving their muscular legs room to move and flex.
On the business and political spectrum, we’ve got role models like Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Hilary Clinton, and Michelle Obama, all who are able to rock it in skirts one day and own it in pants the next.
With all of these prevailing women as role-models, I have finally come to understand the power of a skirt. With that understanding comes the knowledge that the power isn’t actually in the skirt, but in the woman who wears it.
Whether women choose to wear pants, shorts, capris, dresses, or skirts, we get to choose to unleash the feminine strength and beauty that lies within. The clothes don’t claim are equality but can be accessories to finding that power until we can call upon it for ourselves. Then still, we get to choose to wear whatever the f*** we want.
No matter who you are or what you wear, remember to honor the Wonder Woman inside of you. (And if you are man reading this, huge kudos to you. Remember to honor the Wonder Women in your life and honor the feminine side of you as well.)