I Wish I Was a Girl, so that you could believe me

evan-sue-chris

Sue and I with my son Evan at a recent Turkey Trot

Dating a triathlete the last three years, then moving in together and planning a marriage has been an exceptionally interesting journey. We’ve been together through her ups and downs in everything from Sprints to Olympics to Half Ironmans. Then I got to act as sherpa when she did her first Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin along with her sister Julie.

 

These adventures affirmed my view of women as strong people. Thinking back on women friends in life, I can think of several that have reached my consciousness in unique ways. At times you feel so close that gender itself seems to melt away. That makes me think of the song “I Wish I Was a Girl” by Counting Crows:

I wish I was a girl so that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world that I could say,
“Hey Elizabeth, you know, I’m doing alright these days.”

For all the things I’m losing
I might as well resign myself to try and make a change
But I’m going down to Hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things that they find
crawling round my brain.

All Comers meet

I once had a female friend from work who took an interest in how my head worked. When she learned that I was going to compete in a 5000-meter race in All-Comers meet, she showed up to watch. The meet dragged on later and later. She left to get dinner but came back late at night. Finally, the race started at midnight and I set a personal record for a 5K on the track.

That was a wonderful gift that she gave by sticking around. While it meant a lot to set a personal record, it somehow meant even more that she cared enough about my head to stay that late and watch us run.

Of course, she might have just been enjoying all the good gams trotting around the track. Women are so subtle in their appreciations of that sort. It used to be seldom that women would “let on” if they found a guy (or gal) attractive. These days the world has opened up a bit. Healthy relationships can even endure a bit of open expression about attractiveness.

Appreciation

Many of the women I know are also comfortable in their capacity to appreciate others. Last night Sue and I tuned into the movie Unfaithful for a bit. The flick stars Diane Lane and Richard Gere as a husband and wife. Both are beautiful people, but it made me smile to hear Sue observe, “She’s pretty.” Then the handsome, rather European male tempter with whom the unfaithfulness would occur appeared on the screen. So I asked, “Is he good looking?”

“Yes,” she replied, “In a swarthy kind of way.”

We’d all be liars to deny that such assessments aren’t going on all the time. Lord knows the triathlon world is a social centrifuge of physical and emotional attraction. Marriages both begin and end in the vortex created when people frolic in the company of fitness-oriented people dressed in tight clothes.

Body parts

Who doesn’t appreciate the glimpse of a strong thigh or finely crafted butt? Gender almost doesn’t matter. It hardly matters whether one has a penis or vagina, pecs or boobs. It’s bodies that attract our attention.

Of course, it works the other way as well. Our less-than-perfect bodies are also on display under all that lyrca. As athletes, we learn to accept and appreciate the flaws of others and do our best to improve what we’ve got.

The roast of us

Recently I heard the famous celebrity roast comedian Jeff Ross talking about why people are willing to subject themselves to ridicule even if it sometimes seems cruel. His comedy troupe actually does Quickie Roasts in which members of the public come willingly on stage to be roasted. Ross described a situation in which a woman volunteered and began walking shakily toward the stage.

Ross was thinking, “Oh no, she’s drunk.” Which never works out well. The woman made it to the stage and sat down. “Then I realized she had only one leg,” he explained.

The comedy began by making fun of her hair and dress. The woman was reduced to fits of giggles and laughter. Nothing seemed to hurt her. “Then I knew I had to go for the obvious,” Ross said.

“What happened to the leg?” he began…

The woman explained that she was once a conjoined twin. In fact she and her sister were on the brink of becoming the oldest surviving conjoined twins in history. “If we make it to 36, we set the world record,” she proudly stated.

“Well I have a question,” Ross dug in. “Who got the vagina?”

The crowd erupted in laughter. The woman sat laughing mirthfully. Then her husband stood up in the crowd and proudly proclaimed, “I did!”

Honesty

That was funny stuff, for sure. Yet it might seem politically incorrect to mock the disability of a person. Much depends on context. Still, there is great respect that comes from opening yourself up to such honesty. The disabled don’t like being left out of society any more than the rest of us. It has an isolating effect.

That’s why it was a big deal for women to get the vote way back when. And why people of all colors don’t like being singled out as “separate” from the culture at large. These distinctions are the inflammatory aspects of culture that conscience seeks to erase.

Perhaps the methods of political correctness are ultimately flawed. But there have been positive effects. Eliminating the use of a term such as “nigger” among white people to describe black people is a necessary change in culture. The same goes for any number of terms to describe other people such as Jews, gays or other social, political or religious categories. Political correctness has been a method by which society attempted to reconcile prejudices that built up over time.

Turning the tables

And yet, many black comedians have turned the word “nigger” around, wresting its power from the hands of those who ignorantly use it by converting it to an empowering defiance of all such attempts to belittle people.

We can only be curious what it feels like to be “the other.” If we’re a man, we can only imagine what it means to be a woman. Still, there is no possible way to truly know what it means to be that gender. Some fear the very idea that their gender is not on full display at all times. They no more want to reveal their feminine side than they want to admit they have hemorrhoids or are impotent. All are natural products of existence, but people have a habit of wanting to hide anything they perceive as a sign of potential weakness or flaws in their nature.

Experimenting

Like many sexually curious kids, I recall doing things like stuffing my unit between my legs to see what it looked like to be a girl. I tried on women’s underthings even as I went about spying on girls sunbathing because I could not keep my eyes off the female form.

All these are attempts in understanding gender roles. We do know that for many people, gender is not so clearly defined. Transgender manifests itself in many different ways. People actually are forced in some cases to choose between becoming a man and a woman. The most famous of late is the Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn.

Imagine being a world-class male Olympic champion, yet looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing a woman staring back. People have mocked his choice, and many recoil at the thought of such seeming confusion over gender or sexual orientation. Yet Jenner was courageous in choosing to acknowledge his gender identity.

Other courage

If we’re honest with ourselves rather than repressing all such instincts as unbecoming or dangerous to our personal morality, we realize that it is the human condition we’re talking about, not just sex or gender.

Some would love to turn off the spigot of open admission about gender issues and sexual orientation. They select a passage from the Bible that seems to imply these admissions are a sin. Yet somehow Jesus made use of these supposed differences to teach about the true humanity of all. He highlighted the good acts of a Samaritan or blessed people suffering from leprosy with healing. Through these symbolic acts he offered an invitation to all that they should embrace the Kingdom of God and the acceptance it offered. He also preached that it is our duty to extend that same grace to all. There were no exceptions to this rule if people intended to embrace and be accepted into the Kingdom of God. In business and in life, this grace between souls was paramount.

But Jesus’ opponents believed the opposite, imposing religious rules that told people that had to eat a certain way, wash their hands ritually and even isolate women from contact during their menstrual cycles because these things otherwise made a person “unclean.”

For these rules Jesus branded his opponents “hypocrites” and further called them a “brood of vipers” for conferring advantage to themselves through religious authority. These patterns of social construct are still very much alive to this day. And yet the perpetrators refuse to recognize these instincts in themselves, preferring to point fingers instead and call the rest of the world sinners for things that Jesus would have dismissed as inconsequential to the Kingdom of God.

Humanism revealed

For those that prefer not to view their lives through the lens of religion, there is plenty of affirmation that issues of equality and gender, race and tribal affiliations are not supposed to trump access to basic liberties. The United States Constitution, for example, guarantees freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. Despite the contentions of religious oppressors, the Constitution also provides the right for two people of any gender to marry if they so choose.

The Constitution did not originally guarantee the right to vote for black people or women. It took a Civil War and the civil rights movement that followed 100 years later to provide full citizenship to millions of Americans. Women had to wait centuries to become fully accredited citizens as well.

Women haters

Yet there are still plenty of people who would prefer to suppress these rights. The age-old vehemence against equality for women was thrust in the face of the female candidate for President, Hillary Clinton, who endured gender-based and sexualized taunts from her detractors. Even her opponent in the election stalked her onstage like an abusive husband. The focus of the fearful patriarchy with all its possessive, domineering instincts seemed to be channeling through the man at that moment. It was a disgusting display, yet some people love the fearsomeness of the authoritarian. It absolves their own fears in some way.

What it’s like to be a girl

And yet I still would like to know what it truly feels like to be a girl. I think some of the sensations would still be the same. The physical stress and fatigue of training, for example. I’ve run and cycled and swum with many women who are my equals. They say the same thing I would say when they get tired, or feel great. That bridges the gap in many ways for me.

If I was a girl, mentally, perhaps, I’d be even stronger. Women deal with the wrenching monthly yank of menstrual cycles, stuffing tampons up their vaginas to catch the flow of blood that is a natural part of their gender. Men don’t have to do that. Women who choose to have children also get to experience the incredible pain of childbirth. Yet many willingly do it again because the love within their souls is so far-reaching. One would think these sacrifices against pain and discomfort would be appreciated by more men. Yet patriarchal tradition treats these causes with fear, even anger about the mystery women hold.

Name-calling

As a result, men react with fear and anger toward others who display feminine characteristics. There have been times in my life when it felt as if my masculinity were not what it should be. If caught off-guard at certain points in male development, the name-calling could be harsh. Being called a “pussy” or a “fag” was the worst insult one could sustain.

But let’s be honest, women can be just as cruel, or moreso, to each other. I’ve told many women friends that I’m surprised they all did not die in the seventh grade. That’s when young girls turning into young women seem to clan up into cliquish tribes to gut their enemies.

Better nature

Perhaps I could do without that part of being a girl. Perhaps we all could. It can be so hard to appeal to the better nature of human beings no matter what gender they claim to be. In the end, we all join at the hip and fuck for all we’re worth. One gender disappears into the other. Then we fall away wondering what God intended from such fury and desire.

Some like to think that sex is only meant for procreation. That’s where all the repression in this world stems from, the idea that making babies is the only thing for which human beings and their body parts were intended. But that would mean that couples of mixed gender would have to stop making love after the age of fifty-five or so, the age in life when most women stop having their periods. That would deny people some of the most tender, loving sex they’ve ever known. Patient and free. Pertinent and sustaining.

Crawling round my brain

Yes, I’m going down to Hollywood. They’re going to make a movie from the things that they find crawling ’round my brain. But these things matter. How we think about life and treat each other really does matter. We live in times that seem drawn to tragic instincts of repression and hatred toward others. Perhaps the best thing that a whole host of men could do at this point in their lives is imagine what it must be like to be a girl. Or a black person. Or a gay. Or a Jew.

Or a Christian. Because there are many who imagine themselves to be such a thing, and yet seem to misunderstand so much of what it actually means to live that life.

I wish I was a girl so that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world that I could say,
“Hey Elizabeth, you know, I’m doing alright these days.”

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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