One day, some many years ago now, I began to question what it means to be a woman.
I do not know exactly what spurred such a search.
When I was younger, it was not really something that I thought about too much – except for some minor phases as a tom boy, I just lived my life as a girl and never really questioned it too heavily.
But then, one day, the question became a driving force in my life.
I desperately wanted to understand what the true value and worth of a woman really was.
Most likely it was driven by an accumulation of so many negative things that I went through over a period of time, both with men and the image that I had found myself faced with of my own value in their eyes.
On A Mission: “Legally Blonde” Style
I can still remember my earliest response to all of the things I had been through that had tried to tear me down.
Driven by watching the film Legally Blonde one too many times, I was determined to kick back with exactly the same attitude Elle Woods had personified.
“I can be serious, smart… and sexy too. If you want to put me in a box and refuse to respect me for it, that’s your problem – not mine.”
It was girl power in p i n k - all the way.
And, for a time, it was fun.
I liked fighting back Elle Woods style.
Plus, I was always a huge dreamer – and now my dreams seemed to know no limit.
Determined to accomplish all that I could, I would sit in my dorm room at the end of each day in Europe and write long lists of all of the dreams that I was going to accomplish, utilizing my unabashed, blonde girl power along the way:
- Obtain my Master’s
- Attend Cambridge or Oxford afterwards, and get a doctorate as well
- Become a University Professor
- Write amazing books
- Purchase a villa in Italy – on a cliff, overlooking the sea, with a sandy path down to the beach, and a huge table overlooking the Mediterranean where I would serve enormous Italian dinners every night to my massively large family. (I even drew sketches of what it would look like – with every detail planned to the most minute, such as how the bedroom would look, the driveway, the iron gate, the small prayer garden with the statue of Mary, the olive tree garden blocking the view to the winding road, the little church down the way – even the tiny little store I would shop from.)
- Get a job at the Vatican
- Drive a tiny red convertible to work every day in Rome
- Own a sailboat harbored in the Mediterranean
- Collect and sell ancient medieval art
- Have an amazing marriage to an incredible Italian husband (whom I had already decided must be named Marcello – and look a great deal like Raoul Bova [think Under The Tuscan Sun - yeah, that’s him)
- Be married in a small, medieval Church in the Italian countryside with a traditional wedding gown
- Have a really loooong honeymoon – in Tahiti
- Do volunteer work in Africa
- Get really old, have tons of Italian grandchildren, and sit on my back porch in the evening, overlooking the moon sparking across the Mediterranean Sea, while watching all the generations seated at the gigantic outdoor table for a long Italian dinner, and think, “wow, what a life.”
Yep, that was just about my list.
Pretty unambitious, huh?
It did not take long for me to see, however, that while all of that blonde “girl power” might work out ok at the end of a two-hour flick, it usually tended to turn out a little bit different in real life.
Men still see a Marilyn as a Marilyn.
It is just a fact of life.
After having a man whom I deeply respected, and who I thought deeply respected me as well, stand before a crowd of wealthy, important individuals, and mistakenly insert the word “slut” into his speech while I was watching from across the room – immediately after we had been speaking – I knew that things could never change.
I knew what he saw me as, and I could not forget it.
So, I ditched the ultra-blonde hair, did away with the sexy, form showing wardrobe, kept my p i n k to my private world, and decided to make myself look serious.
Who Says Brunettes Don’t Have Fun?
I became a brunette, wore serious pants and long sleeve, button up shirts, and even donned some black rimmed, studious glasses from time to time.
I meant business.
I walked the streets of London every day and night, my hands resting firmly into the pockets of my long, classy black coat, carrying myself tall, with a firm step and every air of professionalism that I could muster.
I was determined to be respected.
I hung out at all the classiest places, developed my mind towards the arts, and continued to dream my many dreams.
But ultimately, somewhere deep inside, I still had far too many questions that troubled me late at night.
Was this truly where my value and worth lay?
In becoming a serious, respected “success” in the eyes of the world?
It had to lay somewhere deeper than in how others saw me, or in how I was presented, that I simply knew.
I realized that I still felt, in many ways, lost as a woman in a society so quick to negate our feminine worth – or tell us that our worth is in all the wrong places.
After drinking far too much at a party on the Thames one glistening evening, and finding myself falling into the old trap of thinking that I had to exude sexuality to be considered worthwhile, I knew that I still had a long way to go.
I locked myself into my room for two weeks, cried far too much for messed up humanity (including myself), and soon after set myself on a mission to become as truly feminine as I could within as well as without, with as much respect for myself as I could gain.
Big Questions – Even Bigger Answers
I began pondering, for long hours on end, and writing on page after page, all of my thoughts of what it meant to be a woman.
I searched endlessly for the answers – especially to the biggest questions, such as:
- What constitutes the unique dignity and worth of a woman, the true and deepest value?
- In a world so quick to devalue the feminine, or treat it in all the wrong ways, where lays the truth about being a woman?
It was not very long until I saw that my answers could not stand on their own.
If I was going to truly understand my own sincere value and worth as a woman, I had to also comprehend it in the light of the masculine as well – and vice versa.
It just could not be any other way.
So I did what I had to do – yep, I looked at men.
Men – those strange animals.
Sometimes, I just wanted to run away from them and never set eyes on them ever again.
Why could they be so cruel, and so easily lead such double lives? How could they treat certain women one way, but then spend time with me, and behave in a way so foreign to how others saw them that those who loved them would never believe it could be done?
Yet, despite all the pain that had been caused in my life, I still liked the strange gender.
They had to have worth too, even if they sometimes disfigured it through their actions, just like me.
After all, the Bible said it was so.
In The Beginning…
When I looked at the Book of Genesis, there I saw that God created humanity in His image: He created them male and female.
Ok, well, that was a good start.
If God found humanity worthy enough to be in His image, and neither gender was excluded from such an honor, something good had to be going on.
Plus, I liked how the Bible stated it in those early pages – the concept of the sexes was not yet tainted with any form of battling between them, and sin had not entered yet onto the scene.
They were both different, but equal.
If only that had been enough – but nope, fallen nature, like mine, is just far too complicated to accept the simple explanations.
When I looked at history, I just saw so many endless problems.
I mean, what was with all those cultures that did (and still, even today), abort their children, or leave them stranded on the road, simply because they were born a woman?
What was with those people who rejoiced over a son – but wept bitter tears over a girl?
And as time advanced for each gender, why did men have a tendency to become so cold towards women, looking down on them, treating them as inferior beings at different points in history, and even stripping them of all rights?
Worst of all, why did men even let such a thing as prostitution of their girls even exist?
I could go on and on with all of the problems I saw in the history of women, and how culture seemed to take the original innocence and balance of the Garden of Eden and pollute it into a maddening mess.
To live in such a world – only a woman can truly know what it does to the mind.
The Biblical answer of “be submissive to your husbands” did not help either – because the author made it quite clear that men have a very strong tendency to forget to value and deeply appreciate the gift of such submission, for he had to remind them to also “love” their wives.
Who wants someone who has to be reminded to do the obvious?
I was not entirely happy with everything just yet.
So I turned to the only other foundational text that I could think of – creation.
The Pages of Time
When I looked upon the natural world that surrounded me every day, I felt that the answer had to be contained therein.
God made man and woman, and they existed in harmony and balance until the fall.
Since looking to them in our current state was not helpful, were their any other examples of masculinity and femininity that exist in perfect harmony?
I turned my mind to the next step down – one step below on the creative scale, and there I saw the animals.
God had made them male and female too, and they all seemed to get along pretty well.
(Last time I checked, there were no red light districts for deer, and no reports of farmers finding aborted female bear cubs in their fields. Just sayin’….)
As I went down the scale, I saw the male and female existing in everything else along the way – from animals to marine life, from crabs and crustaceans to fish and frogs – from creepy crawly little beetle bugs to sweet little lady bugs.
It was all there.
But then when another step was taken below that, into the realm of nature, suddenly the male and the female stopped.
This perplexed me, for I knew that God seemed to like to repeat this mixed creation, and I could not imagine that he would suddenly abandon the physical world from the dual mirror of His sacred image.
So where was the female in nature, and where was the male?
It did not take very long to see that at all.
I knew that in the realm of humanity, God had created Adam first, so if he was to place a gender role into nature, the masculine would also have to have been founded first.
As I looked across the sweet beauty of nature, the vast trees, the soft whispering grass, the gentle breezes, and the formless sea, I knew that had not come first.
So the masculine could not be there.
But when I looked at the universe, and the earth in its earliest forms, I knew that I had found the masculine gender I was seeking.
Those earliest days of creation, when all was in its most basic form, God was creating the first version of the sexes.
The masculine had to come first.
So I saw, stretched out before the eye of my mind, infinite vast spaces of formless matter, slowly shaping itself into something solid and firm.
The earth, long before nature graced its face, churned in a chaotic passion of red-hot volcanic lava, thundering earthquakes, and heavy, massive rock formations.
If we could see it as it once was, it was probably an awesome place to behold – full of mighty strength, erupting constantly from the heat deep within its core.
But all of this violent, cataclysmic effort was for a purpose – for as impressive as it must have been, nothing could yet live there.
Earth was preparing the way for something more.
Yet I could see, in this earliest movement, the masculine emerging – the earliest “Adam” waking to his primal call: to become the foundation and support for something special that was to come.
And what was that something special, if not the first “Eve?”
That first variation of the feminine – nature.
As God looked out across an infinite universe, full of strong, healthy masculinity in its most basic form, I imagine that he probably thought to himself, “all is well – all is forming as it should. But the gift of the feminine – that sacred, fragile treasure – where shall I place that prize of all beauty and life? What planet, out of the infinite variety that I have created, is worthy enough for the most primal of all ‘Eve’s?’ “
I imagine that God may have been somewhat hesitant about this choice – and I think that because, as far as we know, out of all the billions of planets out there, he only chose one.
He was looking for a special planet – one worthy of such a claim.
For what he was about to give was his most precious treasure – life itself, and all that it contains.
But finally he chose earth, and if the ground beneath our feet could feel emotions and then speak, it might tell of how it sighed with joy at the day it knew that it had been the one finally chosen.
If it could have feelings, it may have felt such humbling pride, awe, and amazement that God had deemed it worthy to cradle life.
That God could have placed his trust in earth – to take care of such a gift.
Never to revolve too closely to the sun and destroy it, to always keep the temperature in check – to not go mad with masculine passion and destroy it all through endless volcanic eruptions and constant earthquakes that would send it all back to nothing.
If the earth had any sense, it would know that God had honored it for God saw it as the strongest one out of all the other planets – and the most worthy to embark upon the noblest of calls.
He was entrusting the first “Eve” – the first echo of his feminine side to the material world.
As nature began to slowly grow and flourish upon the face of such a solid, strong foundation, the earth upheld its noble call in the most faithful way.
It did not destroy nature utterly – and only unleashed itself when necessary to keep the balance.
It kept all of its promises, and so God continued in this magnificent journey by creating creatures even more clearly masculine and feminine, such as the earliest bugs, birds, aquatic life, and mammals.
All was in harmony, all was in balance.
And then, God reached the pinnacle of creation – mankind.
You know, us.
Male & Female: Adam & Eve
First, as we all know, came Adam – that advanced reflection of the most primal masculine formation, the strong, foundational earth.
And just like the earth, God chose Adam to be a foundation for the feminine, for he carefully placed Adam in a deep sleep and created Eve out of his mortal side.
Like the earth, I imagine that Adam, when he woke, was probably amazed.
God had entrusted such a precious creation, a sacred reflection of His most intimate, tender, precious, vulnerable side, to him?
If the earth could have felt gratitude when the feminine nature was entrusted to it, created from its “side,” and gifted for all of time to be protected and cherished so that it could flourish and nurture life, it must have been very close to what Adam felt in this moment of his own destined predilection.
What an amazing destiny they both shared!
Both had to be created first, in all masculinity and strength, and why?
Not for themselves, or their own pride, but for a gift that God would not choose to share with any other planet in the endless starry sky.
Their masculinity, all that raw strength, volcanic passion, fiery heat, and restless, war-like drive, suddenly was needed.
The love between Adam and Eve, in those earliest of days, must have been incomprehensible to us human beings.
Even the greatest love between a man and a woman probably could not even compare to theirs (except, perhaps, for that of Joseph and Mary).
When Adam looked at Eve, he saw a purpose behind all that he was.
His arms were strong to fight for and protect her – just as the earth was strong to support all of creation.
His intellect was developed to keep everything in the right place – just as the earth kept itself in the proper orbit, at the right distance from the threatening sun.
And in turn?
He probably watched her smile in sheer gratitude for all that she knew he was created to do.
Her nature beamed before his eyes, raised up high by the dignity that his respect and support provided her – free to flourish, free to inspire, free to raise his mind to a higher call than rupturing earthquakes and fiery volcanos.
She was, as the Bible says, his help mate.
But what sort of “help mate” was this?
In our modern connotation, we think of the term “help mate” as women doing the laundry, washing the dishes, cooking the dinner, ironing the shirts…
But in Paradise, there were no shirts to iron or dirty socks to be washed.
There were no floors to sweep, or beds to make.
No checks needed balanced, no children needed raised…
They already had all they needed, and did not have to lift a finger to obtain all they desired (within the Will of God, of course).
So what on earth was she intended to help Adam with?
It is through these words that God makes clear how, just as much as Eve needed Adam, for her foundation, creation, and support, so did Adam need Eve.
Even in Paradise, where they lacked nothing, and sought nothing but to do all that God commanded, Adam needed the feminine.
But for what?
Picking a few dead leafs on the ground before they laid down?
I think not.
Clearly, what Adam needed had to be on a higher plane than that of the mundane realities of this earth.
The help that he needed can be found in the purpose and inspiration that Eve gave him – she reminded him of the “higher” things; the tender, vulnerable realm, and prevented him from existing as the earth had before nature came along – as just another masculine planet full of raw strength, but no higher call.
She balanced his masculine nature.
And he, in turn, by virtue of the fact that he had to exist first before she could, balanced her.
He was her support and protector – her foundation.
If I had been Eve, I would have closed my eyes and rested in his arms in a euphoria of love and appreciation for all that I knew he would do for me, and a great joy at all that I would in turn do for him.
Probably a little something like this:
I would have let Adam take care of all of the basic stuff, and not worried about it at all.
I would have just let myself be the heart, and know that my life gave his color and purpose, while his gave mine protection and possibility.
What an incredible dynamic, a never-ending circle of beauty to contemplate!
Eve could never feel that she was greater than Adam, for she could only exist if he was first created.
Yet Adam could never feel that he was greater than Eve, for she was created out of him to show that her being had a sacred quality that made her more precious still – for God would not let her be created out of just the earth alone.
And most of all, Adam could not feel greater than Eve for God made it clear that he needed her – as much as she needed him.
Without Eve, Adam knew that, like the rocky, volcanic earth without nature, he would never reach his full potential.
Yet so many often find fault with Eve being created last – as if it was some sort of dishonor.
The Crown of Creation
As I once sat in the back of a small Catholic church, I heard the priest speaking on the subject creation, and as I listened his every word seemed to match the thoughts that I had developed for so long.
He spoke of creation as a hierarchy – that what came first provided the foundation, but what came next was just a little higher.
Yet all was needed to be in perfect balance.
Thus first came the earth, the volcanoes, the rocks – then the winds, the waters, the nature and the birds – then the animals, and finally, man.
But he stopped there – almost as if he was afraid to finish his perfect train of thought, and advance where I had already gone.
When God made human kind, he made woman last.
The grand finale of creation.
The “treble” scale in a duet of harmony.
The crown of creation.
Why did the priest not go on? Why did he not point this out?
I wanted to jump up and say, “why do you stop! You are almost there! You have almost reclaimed the sacred for everyone to see! You could do men, women, and all of the church such a service – why do you stop?!”
Was he afraid to state the obvious – that if his thesis stood true, Eve was the crown of the universe?
But there is nothing to be afraid of.
It cannot make her better than man, for God made it clear that she cannot exist without man!
Neither is better – even if one can be “higher.”
The base and the treble – the foundation and the form: they are only complete when working together.
The base is larger – grander – more sweeping in scale, only so that the smaller can rest upon it – and yet be higher.
The balance of sweet harmony never ends, and the circle of contemplation and mystery continues for ever onwards, for those who dare to open their eyes and see it for what it truly is.
But here I am nowhere near complete, for the understanding of this mystery began to draw me ever onwards – and into the world of a thoroughly traditional woman.
How could it not?
I was looking to the very first traditions between man and woman – to the core.
To the infinite mystery of what God has freely and lovingly made us: in his image – both male and female.
And with the fall of Adam and Eve, so much more was to be learned, but I shall have to save that for another time…
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