I’m a remembering woman.
When I sit on the metro in Washington DC I sometimes forget that I am a woman. I sit with my legs comfortably apart so that my thighs don’t rub because it’s hot and the vinyl seats stick to them. I look out the window and sometimes I forget that my stomach rolls when I slump like that. When a man sits down next to me because the metro is crowded I cross my legs and I sit up a little straighter and I don’t take up space because I remember, I am a woman. He has headphones in; he reads the newspaper. He sits in that empty seat and he doesn’t notice that I am sitting next to him.
Sometimes in class, I forget that I’m a woman. When I make a point–– a really organized articulate point–– and my voice doesn’t waiver or ascend when I speak it I forget that I am, in fact, a woman. When my professor looks surprised that those very strong, steady, and accurate words just came out of my mouth I take a short breath and I remember that I am a woman. “That’s just what I was thinking… I don’t know,” I add. I smile. My best coy nervous smile.
My professor stares at me blankly. “Don’t do that,” she says flatly. She knows, she’s a woman too.
At work I forget that I’m a woman often. I make coffee and burn my hands and they are stubborn calloused things. I take up space cause I know what I’m doing. I’m an employee; a manager. A customer tells me that their coffee is wrong. I apologize, I’m a woman, after all. I didn’t actually make that cup of coffee. They ask to speak to the manager. I laugh that awkward laugh and push my hips forward so I don’t seem quite like my 5’10” self and joke about how silly it is that actually I am, in fact, the manager, and that a macchiato is, in fact, made of espresso and does not, in fact come with caramel as Starbucks would make you believe. And I even watch myself bat my eyes because maybe just maybe if they find me pretty and small the coffee thing won’t matter anymore.
I give them a refund. They tell me they won’t be back. I blame it on my being unattractive. I remember: I’m a woman.
In North Carolina it’s hard to forget that I’m a woman. Some from there wear white gloves and dress up all nice. They call themselves ladies. I’m not a lady but I do remember that I’m a woman. They say Hillary Clinton is just too severe to be their type of woman. They laugh lovely laughs about why they don’t identify as feminists. They’re women.
My friend Emily and I hike together in this same state. We talk about intersectionality and sex and books and how we are growing as humans. She reminds me that I’m a woman. The storm clouds move across the mountain. It’s a beautiful reminder.
In India I don’t forget that I’m a woman. I walk down the street and men slow down next to me to stare. I’m unsettled cause I feel like they hate me and they want me and they are so confused by me and my being a woman. They approach me like I’m both some object and also more powerful than they could ever know. Sometimes I smile halfway because I too, know that women can so contradictory. They talk to me often and sometimes I reply and sometimes I let them take my photo and sometimes I just don’t feel like it.
I can’t forget that I am a woman in India. An American woman in India. And American White Educated Non-Tourist Woman in India. Because I see a woman wearing shorts two days ago and give her the same looks the men here give me when I walk to class. Why are you wearing those. Don’t you know. Where are you from. I find myself wondering if the closest thing I’ve gotten to assimilation is just judging another woman. Still, I never forgot that I am a woman.
I’m sitting at a coffee shop with the other cluster of unusual white people in this city. I’m reading Sylvia Plath and drinking an espresso before going to class. I read her words and my palms start to sweat with the caffeine and her words are just human text and I slowly slip out of my gender and into her brilliance. “She’s the crazy one right?” A priest says this to me. The three lines across his forehead means he worships Shiva and has renounced his belongings. He’s a Sadhu. “It’s so sad.” He smiles. We share a literary moment, in English no less, and it’s more than welcome. I remember, I’m a woman. I identify with her crazy twenty year old self navigating and defining her womanhood. I cry over this book. In private.
When I cry I certainly remember that I am a woman. But in private I don’t pay mind. It’s not a shocking reminder. No one has to do it for me. It doesn’t jar me or confine me or make me suck in my stomach and slouch over this time. My womanhood is welcome here. It sits softly on my shoulder and pours out of me like the gorgeous water of whatever femininity I care to attach myself to at the moment. I hear my own mouth open for myself and cooly state, with a gross hic of a laugh, “Hey, guess what? You’re a woman.”