Important Girl Skill #473

By , May 19, 2010 12:49 pm

Is there a merit badge for transitioning?

Apparently the left-over testosterone in my system is blocking two important girl-skills:

  1. I rarely notice when a friend gets a haircut, unless it’s pretty dramatic
  2. I can’t remember where and when I purchased every single item in my wardrobe

I’m told that, of the two, #1 is less forgivable.

This is one of those things that I’m not sure how to ‘fix.’ I’m learning (slowly) how to put on makeup. I’m getting better at seeing what outfits work together. (Though my date outfit from last night was the result of my roommate vetoing what I was going to wear.) I’m having tons of fun making and wearing jewelry. I’d even say I’m slowly adjusting my voice to something that feels more feminine and ‘right’ for me.

But all of those are things that, to one extent or another, you can practice.

I realize that I’m holding myself up to an unreasonable standard of ‘womanhood.’ I started to write “…because I’m trans,” but that’s not it: It’s because I live in a culture of near-unobtainable feminine ideals. All of my girl friends, trans and cis, have had issues with their appearance, confidence, clothing, presentation, and overall uncertainty over what it means to be a woman. I think these feelings are heightened because I’m trans, but they’re not caused because I’m trans.

At the same time, I do want to live up to those ideals, even though some of them are simply impossible for me to reach. (For example, there was a dress at Anthropologie that I simply loved, but the only way I’d ever fit into it was if I removed a few ribs. The issue wasn’t my weight, which is heading in the direction I want it to. Rather, it was my shape.) And, because I can’t reach the curvy body I’d love to have, it feels all the more important to obtain all the girl skills that I’m “supposed” to have, as some sort of reassurance that I am a woman. Which isn’t to say I don’t like my body tons more than I did before I transitioned – I do. And I like it more and more as I become more confident in presenting myself in ways that I find pleasing. But I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I – like 99% of the women on the planet – am not going to look like this anytime soon:

There goes my dreams of marrying Arthur Miller!

Back on point, what’s frustrating about failing to notice a friend’s haircut (or a coworker’s, which prompted this post) is that I’m not sure how much I can do about it. I can make a mental effort to be more observant, but it’s not like I can have flashcards of my friends and family and test whether or not I can notice a hairstyle change.

This also plays into whether or not I’m interested in identifying as femme, and to what extent. I’ve certainly been playing with a more femme mode of presentation lately, and enjoying dipping my (painted) toes into being a girly-girl. My (undoubtedly stereotypical) perception of ‘femme’ means having all of these girl skills that I’m attempting to aquire. Including noticing when your friend got a new haircut.

What skill – gender-related or not – do you think you “should” have, even though you might not?

10 Responses to “Important Girl Skill #473”

  1. RMJ says:

    Painting and maintaining attractive digits. I’ve gotten pretty good at clothes and makeup and hair, but I still bite/pick at my nails. They are never painted, and when they are they are chipped within a day.

  2. Sophia says:

    I guess I share the first problem, though not the second. I try to have as my main way of improving to keep to habit of formulating at least one pleasant comment about any woman I meet for the 1st, 2nd or nth time, whether I voice it, or indeed formulate it, in time or not. I don’t have that good a record, but it gets slowly better.
    Gender related skill would be anything relating to silent speech between women, though ‘skill’ is such a relatively small word to encompass it. It’s something I love too much to know how well I’m expressing myself that way.

    • Rebecca says:

      Gender related skill would be anything relating to silent speech between women, though ’skill’ is such a relatively small word to encompass it. It’s something I love too much to know how well I’m expressing myself that way.

      Definitely! I think part of this depends on how close the women are, but I do agree all women are “supposed” to be able to do this, naturally, to some extent.

  3. RadDyke says:

    Well, since I guess gender works in more ways than just girl wanting girly skills, it’s easier for me to think in terms of what more masculine skills I, as a woman, should be better at. I wish I was better at sitting so I didn’t look so prissy (you know, the legs open, feet on the floor that guys can make look so effortless) without falling way too deep in my chair. I was raised in such a prim environment, that it’s taken a long time to avoid the crossing-the-ankles.
    As for a girly skill, for a not particularly androgynous, but not really girly girl, I’d say that I feel like I should know something about perfume/cologne!

    • Rebecca says:

      Well, since I guess gender works in more ways than just girl wanting girly skills, it’s easier for me to think in terms of what more masculine skills I, as a woman, should be better at.

      You raise a really good point! I’m sorry I glossed over the reality that culturally-gendered skills are a lot more varied than “girls need girly skills, boys need boy…ly skills.” Thanks for bringing that up.

  4. Jonah says:

    Sometimes I love being autistic, because it masks gender in these ways. For example, I do pick up on haircuts… but I never have any idea of what to say about it. And that’s even more potentially embarrassing. In the end I just say “Your hair changed.” and happily, this is usually accepted as a compliment (why, I don’t know).

    I do wish I was better at figuring out where to look and what I’m saying by looking where I’m looking.

  5. I’m not sure the extent to which noticing changes to hair is a female trait. I always surprise myself when I notice it, and I’m always surprised when other people notice my own hair changes (since most of the time, I only get my hair trimmed). And the people at my work who seem to most notice changes in my hair are married men. Go figure.

    Girly skill that I lack? Cooing over human babies.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hia Rachel! Thanks for the reminder that all of these “gendered skills” are really just expectations, and not always realistic (or accurate).

  6. Martine says:

    Despite being cis and what I consider to be pretty femme (though who knows how the rest of the world reads me), I have absolutely no skill in the following areas:

    -applying makeup
    -doing manicures/pedicures (both the actual act of doing it, and maintaining it if I ever do it/have it done)
    -styling my hair beyond throwing it in a ponytail
    -walking in high heels
    -finding (human) babies adorable

    It’s weird, because my older sister can do all of these things. Where did she learn them? That said, none of these are things I’m particularly interested in learning, either.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thanks for the comment, Martine! The way I’ve been thinking about it isn’t that I feel compelled or obligated to do all those things, but that I’d like to know how so I can choose if/when to do them. (And not have to bug my roommate for help.) But more power to ya for femming it up in your own way. :)

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