The Woman I Want to Be

Published March 23, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I had some giggles on Sunday.  I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend of mine, when I noticed these three little girls, aged about 7 or 8 years old, making passes of our table and whispering.  I realised they were trying to sneak looks at the tattoos on my feet, which are flowers on the top of each foot (lotus on the left, pansy on the right).  After about the 5th pass, as they got close enough to our table, I turned over my left arm and said “Here, look at this one.” and showed them the bluebird tattoo on the inside of my left arm.

Their eyes were like saucers, and the little blonde poppet that was the one who was showing her friends my foot tattoos said “WHOA!!  AWESOME!!”

It was a delight to see them so impressed by my ink.

A few weeks earlier, another friend of mine had a barbecue, and as I don’t drive and he lives all the way on the other side of town, he offered to come and pick me up.  He and his two wee daughters (I think they’re 6 and 8) came to get me, and we drove the 45 or so minute drive back to his place.  When we got out of the car at his house, the younger of the two girls came up to me and said “Excuse me…?” in that cute way little kids have.  I replied “Yes honey?” to which she gave a huge sigh and said “I LOVE tattoos!”  Every now and then she and her sister would come up to me and investigate one or more of my tattoos, and at one point the older of the two announced to me that she loved purple hair.  Yes, I have purple hair as well as tattoos.

I’m in yr restaurant/house, corrupting yr children.

One of my friends who is over a decade younger than myself and I were talking about the whole thing of women we admired when we were kids, or were younger women, and it got me thinking about the fact that now, in my late 30’s, I am of the age group that can be of influence to other young girls and women.  It led me to think about the women who I admired when I was a young.  I remember that I loved any woman who was “different”.  I loved artistic women, or outspoken women, alternative women.  Still do.  I admired women who were smart, outspoken, kind, funny, well travelled, well read, individual women.  I wasn’t inspired by the picture perfect supermodel (after all, I was a teen in the golden age of supermodels), but was inspired by the quirky women, the ones who were more than just famous or known for being beautiful.

The first woman I idolised was my childhood teacher librarian, Miss Stubbs.  I thought she was fabulous, and what I remember is how smart and well read she was.  The first famous woman I remember being inspired by was Barbra Streisand.  I loved her in comedic roles when I was a small kid.  Hello, Dolly!, The Owl and the Pussycat, Funny Girl.  She was funny and loud and talked really fast, and she looked beautiful, but in her own way – not like all the other women I saw on TV or in the magazines.  As I got older, the women that influenced me were the same – strong, confident, outspoken, talented women.  In my own life, famous women and fictional women.  Annie Lennox, two more school librarians (the latter of the two was a formidable little woman, intelligent, fierce and outspoken, with a huge booming voice that didn’t seem to fit her tiny stature), a schoolfriend’s mother who had a loud laugh and a cheeky sense of humour, Aretha Franklin, Tank Girl, Sarah from Labyrinth, Anne of Green Gables, Tori Amos, k d lang, Dolly Parton, the saucy, 65+ woman in Florida who I befriended online over a common adoration of William McInnes…  All women who are outside of the box as far as traditional values for women are concerned.

Sometimes, being a fat, outspoken, feminist, intelligent, tattooed and (currently) purple haired woman is difficult.  I’m told I’m not feminine, too emotional, too argumentative, think too much, talk too much/loud, laugh to loud, too passionate am too outlandish, too wild… a freak.  Sometimes the criticism gets so loud that I have a moment where I think it would be easier to try to fit into the mold of what women are expected to be – pretty, quiet, compliant, not too outlandish or different, pleasing.  I get worn down by the fight, and think it would be easier to give up.

But then a little girl in a restaurant thinks I’m awesome because I’m different.  Or a younger girlfriend tells me that the fact that I am accepting of myself, despite my body that isn’t what bodies are supposed to look like makes her feel better about herself.  Or I meet an older woman who says “I wish I had the courage to speak up like you do.”  A friend’s daughter learns from me that happiness is not about being compliant, being pleasing, being quiet.

These moments happen, and I remember that as I grow older and stronger and more confident in myself, I am an example for other women.  In my own way, I can show other women and girls that they are valuable, valid human beings with much to contribute to the world.  I think about where I would be if I didn’t have women who were outside of the norm, who took that criticism and were themselves anyway, despite the heat they got for it.

That’s the woman I want to be.

23 comments on “The Woman I Want to Be

  • Sassy is on my Reader and she “shared” this so I read it. Your title caught my eye, but your words left a HUGE impression on me and my soul. I remember looking up to quirky women. You are an amazing woman. Keep doing what YOU want to do! Tattoos, purple hair and all. I love it! Thank you for being you.
    *HUGS*

    • I love your username Beautiful Mess!

      Thanks for your kind words. I am just being me. I like me, and bugger anyone who doesn’t. They don’t have to live my life. Besides, if one woman or girl is inspired by me, it’s worth it.

  • I love this!

    I’ve had a couple of moments in the last year or two where I’ve realised that I’m becoming one of those smart, independent, happy, stylish, and full women I’ve always so admired. It’s a great feeling🙂

    • Thank you! I have the smart, the independent, the happy, the full… stylish… well, quirky and fun maybe!

  • Great post!!

    Because I am superficial I got to the point where it said ‘William McInnes’ and I went into an arrythmia.

    I adore the man.

    Stalked him to an art show where he was a special guest about 10 years ago and met him etc, he is a lovely man who becomes more beautiful as he ages.

    Sigh… I think William needs his own special blog post .. (if not already done by your good self)
    🙂

    • Ahh Sim, I adore Will. I did have a blog (it is still up at http://williamwatch.blogspot.com) but there is so little information around on him these days that I don’t have much to put up.

      I’ve been stalking… er, a fan of his for about 20 years now. He’s a darling man who has come to know me as “That crazy librarian in Brisbane with the website.” It’s got to the point where I walk into one of his events now and he says “Hello you!” Sadly enough I think his second biggest fan is a colleague of mine’s husband… sometimes I wonder if William thinks Phil is MY husband!

  • You remind me of someone my muse, Byrne Miller, would have adored. Her confidence came from her uniqueness – being a Yankee in SC, being Jewish in SC, being a modern dance pioneer in SC, supporting women’s rights in SC – you get the picture. Great post!

  • I know my life would have been different – and not in better ways – if I hadn’t had a few good role models of intelligent, brave, outrageous women like Queen Elizabeth I, Abigail Adams, Anne of Green Gables, etc. I know I lucked out amazingly by having one of them in my own home actively raising me, too.

    My mother was an infinitely classy woman who did exceptional things. She was a tireless volunteer and terrific cook with a great sense of humor and no time whatsoever for fools. She was the kindest, gentlest person you could ever hope to meet, but she was fierce with those who got in her way. She spoke her mind without fear or favor. She appreciated the hell out of a good creature comfort. She groaned at my father’s endless puns… and then gave as good as she got. She raised three kids as the individuals we all were and are.

    If there was something that needed doing in our community, my mother was head of the line doing something about it. Her number one concern was education, but she also made time for dozens of other issues. Despite her busy schedule as a more-than-full-time volunteer, she was always there when I needed her, too. There was always room in our home and at our table for friends in need.

    Mom was the one who never doubted that I could make a living in a non-traditional field. She was the one who sighed with sorrow that I never shared her love of Impressionism, and then sucked it up and encouraged me in my fascination with Surrealism. She encouraged me to find my own path even when it didn’t match what she’d hoped her daughter would choose. What’s more, she did that for every child she ever met. She encouraged curiosity over acceptance, courage over complacency.

    She was a hell of a lady. If I ever manage to be half the person she was, I’ll be damn proud of my life.

    • You’re lucky to have had a Mum like that Twistie. It’s no secret I come from a highly dysfunctional family, and I really lacked in decent familial role models. She sounds like an awesome lady.

  • As always Kath I love your entry🙂 You are an amazing role model! I wish my Mum was more accommodating to the things I’d like to do without being so.. judgmental. I told her I wanted to get my nose pierced.. all of a sudden I’m hearing about how unattractive “face metal” is. Good Grief! It’s a struggle until I “grow a set” and tell her it’s my life she better accept it and if she doesn’t have anything nice to say… keep it to herself. So I enjoy feeling empowered by reading your posts and conversing with you on the group, even if only temporary until that little voice inside me goes “How dare she! Stand up for yourself!”

    I am SO glad I met you. God Made Us Cysters. our hearts made us friends.

    • Thanks Jenn!

      In a sense I’m lucky I’m estranged from almost all my family – what they think means absolutely nothing to me when I’m deciding what to do with MY body!

  • Hey there! I read your blog from time to time and I just had to comment on this. I’m a freshman in college and I am what you might call the, er, “fat friend.” My closest friends are all very thin and very pretty and get a lot of attention from men. As you can imagine I am not much appreciated by said men, coming to parties where all the other girls are small and tan a very pale, very (naturally) dark haired, 5’11, 250+ woman is not what these poor lads had in mind. I also have a bad tendency of “cock-blocking” which means I don’t let my drunk friends sleep with these guys (often older than my teeny-bopper frineds; in their early to mid twenties). I couldn’t use my hands to count the number of times one of these “Prince Charmings” have called me an “ugly pig” or a “jealous fat bitch.” What makes it worse is that my friends hear and go “Omigod, that’s not truuuuue. You’re meaaaaan” and proceed to make out with him anyway.

    But it doesn’t bother me anymore (okay, it doesn’t bother me A LOT anymore) because I no longer idolize women i’ll never be like as I did when I was younger. I look up to plus sized models like Crystal Renn and Velvet D’amour (sp?) who don’t let the media tell them they aren’t beautiful because they are built different.

    Thanks for this wonderful post! Sorry to be that random, unknown commentor.

    • Don’t apologise, everyone starts out as unknown and then we get to know each other!

      I’ve never understood women who respond to guys who behave like douchebags to other women. Do they think he’s never going to be a douchebag to them? WRONG!

  • Those last three paragraphs really struck home for me. You’re an amazing role model, and whenever I see you’ve got a new post, I know I’m going to be inspired and emboldened to continue on. As I’ve commented on other posts, I often feel like the lone conspirator when it comes to issues of my body and myself. Deep down, I know whoever I think I want to be is the right person for me, but I get distracted and derailed by the naysayers around me, who won’t accept me for me, no matter what package I come in. Thank you for being someone who is visible and audible and completely herself. If only we all had such courage.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Sweetnfat.

      I am amazed when someone tells me that they find me a role model. I feel like I’m just blundering through this life, doing the best I can. Please don’t think I really have a clue… I just put one foot in front of the other and try to do the things that make me feel good about myself, you know? But if that is inspirational or helps other women find their path, then I am honoured.

      (You know what courage is? Well it’s not having no fear… it’s having the fear and doing it anyway.)

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