“We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.” ― Shirley Chisholm
There was once a time that I wanted to a lady. I used to cross my legs and became obsessed with dresses. Ladies wore dresses. Ladies always kept their hair combed and would never be caught with chipped nail polish. In my eyes, ladies just exuded a certain amount of class and grace that I wanted so bad but it seemed unattainable because I was the opposite.
However, imagine my shock and surprise when I learned that ladies only crossed at the ankle. I like to cross at the knee. I think the most disappointing lesson of it all was the ladies were to be seen and not heard. Excuse me?
But I’ve definitely spent a great deal of time trying to fit into this mold.
You see, I’m loud. Ghetto, too. My family is loud so by extension, I too, am loud. So when I found out that ladies are the opposite, I tried to be quiet. I was doing whatever needed to be done to fit into this box. I wanted to be a lady! Ladies are quaint and sensitive. They don’t embarrass people by telling them when they’re wrong or that they have a booger in their nose. They ignore foul body odors and stay silent when someone farts. Ladies don’t say “fart” or “nasty.” They say unpleasant and excuse themselves.
Then life happened. Well, I got to know myself a little better and realized I was suppressing who I was to meet unrealistic standards. While the crossing at the ankle rule still applied because crossing at the knee has negative effects on your legs and posture, that seen and not be heard thing is nonsense. I am loud. Especially when I get excited. I’m loud.
As I rejected parts of myself, I was also rejecting other people as well because they weren’t lady like. While I was communicating in a whisper and being mindful of my tone, they were being what I considered boisterous and yelling across the street. Low key, I was jealous. Now my efforts weren’t singularly driven. Men, I was told, like ladies. Quiet and unseen. So I definitely had to keep this up for the fellas.
Well let me tell you how I grew up because thinking about this is making me cringe. As I started to reject the lady like ideals, like everything, I took it to the extreme and dropped the whole facade. While it returned me back to the gist of who I was, some things stayed as it taught me how to extend grace like when someone’s breath smelled and simply offer them gum.
As I self-reflect, I now realize I was obsessed with not being stereotyped because of who I am. I didn’t want to be seen as aggressive or too strong or ghetto. I remember there was a meme circulating a few years ago saying how men didn’t like a loud woman. Well honey I got news for you. I am a loud woman. Normally, I would’ve found it offensive or felt that I needed to change. I went so far as to comment on the guy’s page who posted it and said, “well I guess you don’t like me then.” He definitely liked me. I have the DMs to prove it.
A few days ago, my mom told me about a time I was in a pageant and I basically stole the show. I had been crowned queen along with a king but in true Kaylia fashion, I left him in the dust. I used to be a bit of a player back in the day. I was about four or five years old and ate up all of the attention I received. I posed and smiled and walked and skipped across the stage and down the aisles. She said people were photographing me and so in awe at how comfortable I was in front of the large crowd and cameras. She then said: “I don’t know when you became shy and stopped liking attention.”
I don’t know either, girl.
I started reflecting on my childhood and there are a slew of home videos of me performing. At my parents’ wedding, I led the soul train line. No one could keep up with me. I was on fire. There’s another video where my sister and I are performing TLC with some made up choreography and countless photographs of me POSING.
At some point, somebody, maybe the world, told me it wasn’t okay to be me. I didn’t realize what I lost until she said that which made me question if I’ve been suppressing parts of myself, unknowingly. Do I like attention but pretend I don’t for the sake of being judged? I know for a fact I shrink myself especially if I don’t want someone to feel dumb or embarrassed. I’m very slow to correct others if I correct them at all. Who am I at the core of my being, in all of my glory once I strip away all the things the world told me I should be and what I couldn’t be? What went missing on this quest to be a lady?
As always, take what you need and leave the rest.