"You are a very feminine woman," said my shrink, who was a woman.
"Say what?" I said. "What do you mean?! I'm a boxer. I have muscles on my muscles."
"Look at the clothes you are wearing," said my shrink, and lo, looking down I saw that I was wearing a tight blue mediaeval shirt with ruffled sleeves, a long black velvet skirt and cute boots.
I guess I was a very feminine woman, although I certainly didn't act like it. The joy of my life was working out at the Y in the morning and at the boxing ring in the evening, and I never ate fun things like chocolate or chips. I was bursting with as much natural testosterone as a normal woman can have, and it is almost a miracle I didn't get into fistfights with women in dance clubs. And I thought nothing of asking guys out, especially guys at work. Ay, me.
I was super-competent: I had a great salary, I almost bench my weight, I sparred with men in the ring, I paid half on dates. It makes me sad, now, thinking of how I paid half on dates. Very, very sad. That stopped when, thanks to tendonitis, I quit my great job. When I got another job, I made WAY less than my eventual (long since ex-) boyfriend, so he paid for dinners out. And, amazingly, I was not stoned to death by feminists in the street. Meanwhile, eventual (long since ex-) boyfriend enjoyed paying for the dinners out. I think it made him feel useful. Men love to feel useful.
My favourite movie back then was Girlfight, but (to ruin the ending) there is no way Michelle Rodriguez could beat her boyfriend in a boxing match and still be his girlfriend afterwards. I am laughing just thinking about it. Wa ha ha ha ha! A man can beat his best friend in a boxing match and, unless the friend is Ernest Hemingway, they can be closer friends than ever. A woman cannot beat her boyfriend in a boxing match and expect love to conquer all: he will be hu-mil-i-a-ted!
Although at least they are not dying in war or in factory accidents as rapidly as they used to, men are not doing too well right now. Masculinity itself has been under attack from several quarters for decades. And meanwhile the old battle for supremacy among men is still going on. The major difference is that women have joined in.
Somehow women got the idea that to flourish like men, we ought to be like men, so we take great pride in being able to beat men at stuff they are supposed to be good at. However, our victory is shortlived when we discovered that this does not make men like us very much. This is confusing because it always works out in the movies.
It turns out that in real life, men who like women prefer women who look and act like women. If we have been telling ourselves that we are better than that, it comes as a bit of a shock. Another shock is that men don't always like hanging out with women 24/7, no matter how much we know about sports and politics. Sometimes guys just want to hang out with the guys. In The Whole Woman, Germaine Greer is very witty on the subject.
I love lists, so here is a random list on how to emphasize your femininity in a way that makes men feel better about being men post-1970.
1. When in doubt, get a man to do it. Stop taking lids off jars. Sure, if you work at it hard enough, you can get the damn lid off. But if you get a man to do it, the jar will probably be open faster, and he will feel a sense of accomplishment. Caveat: avoid asking a married man to do anything for you, or his missus might have something to say about it.
2. Smile and say thank you when a man opens the door for you. Take the seat when he offers it. Smile and say thank you again.
3. Develop and emphasize mysterious feminine rituals. Make an appointment for a pedicure, and announce it at large. This will create a sense of sisterhood in fellow women and a sense of mystery in men. They might not even know what a pedicure is.
4. Wear cute shoes. Men notice cute shoes. I don't know why they do, but they do. If you can do so without damage, wear shoes with heels. Men don't wear shoes with heels.
5. If you love or even play a violent sport, don't tell men about it. No matter how cool they say it is, they are all wondering if you could beat them in a fight. This is not a thought you ever want an attractive man to have about you. Your love of boxing is definitely not something to bring up on a first date, and I know what I'm talking about.
6. It would not kill you to wear a skirt. Wear skirts. Especially to church. And if the language of your church service is Latin, it would not kill you to wear a lace mantilla. Nothing says, "Hello, I am a Nice Catholic Girl" like a lace mantilla. If you are never-married, wear a white one. If you are married, wear a black one. If you are ex-married, be creative. Navy blue is nice.
7. Wear make-up. Men say they prefer women to look 100% natural. They are wrong.
8. Grow your hair. Don't cut it the second you turn 40. There is no law you have to do that. If it drags down your face, pile it on top of your head.
9. Arrange girl-only events, and publicize them, too. Never complain when men arrange guy-only events. These girl-only events should be parties, not attempts to seize power and rule the world.
10. Never complain about men when men are around. It's rude, and they take it personally.
11. Never say you like men better than women. It's bad psychology, and makes you sound like you'd rather be a man. And most of the time, men like women better than men. Offered a choice between living in a monastery and living on a desert island with women alone, men would take the desert island 98-99% of the time. Not included in this figure are men already living in monasteries. Leave the monks alone.
12. Fat is feminine. If you really are obese, then you must talk to a doctor about this. (Obviously, I am not a doctor.) But if you are not obese, and just feel badly about your curves, then I suggest you find a belly-dancing class. At least search the web for pictures of plus-sized stars and models.
Incidentally, the British media is a lot more open to the reality of feminine fat than the Canadian or American. I see women in TV ads here I would NEVER see on Canadian TV.
For more reactionary yelling about make-up and hair, see my infamous "How To Look Like a Catholic Girl." Don't copy the whole thing and paste it to your icky $15/month dating websites, like one poor girl did, presumably to make the boys who got angry when she copied and pasted "How To Seem Like a Nice Catholic Boy" like her again. In the midst of the psychodrama (in which the girl, now scraping, pasted my photo inviting the boys to make fun of it), I called my lawyer, which made the owners of the dating website sad.
Update: I see that I am more conservative on "HTLLACG" than I am now. Look, I think you can get away with blatantly sexy maybe once or at most twice a year. This startling volte-face comes courtesy of B.A. who actually thought I looked good dressed as a Katie-Price wannabe on Hallowe'en.