I’m a Real Girl!

A few months ago I was enjoying lunch at a pub with some friends. We were chatting idly about Lush Cosmetics, a particular weakness of mine, when the server approached to bring us drinks. Interrupting, she said, “Oh! I’ve heard of Lush, but don’t really know anything about it; I’m not a real girl.”. And this got me thinking…


What does it mean to be a “real” girl? Or, more appropriately, what does it mean to be a real woman? Some claim it’s motherhood—that the ultimate purpose and design of woman is to bear children. Our society has moved a little beyond such a primitive and restrictive view, but what hasn’t It moved beyond? Some say it’s about being “girly”. But what does that mean, exactly, and at what point aren’t you girly enough to be “real”?


When I was growing up, my lack of “girliness” was keenly felt. Not only was I a practical person who didn’t like to spend my precious free time jabbering constantly about makeup and boys, but I was also unable to fully appreciate many of the pursuits my girlfriends enjoyed. Sure, I could let someone give me a makeover, but I couldn’t look into the mirror and appreciate the full effect. I was not comfortable doing anyone else’s makeup either (though there are many blind women out there who do makeup, hair, and nails with confidence—I applaud their courage!). So, the common sleepover parties didn’t really appeal to me; they were filled with trying on each other’s clothes, giggling a lot, an drooling over “cute” boys I’d never even spoken to before.


There are many small things I have not and will never do for myself that would make me a more “real” girl. I didn’t get to pick my own grad dress; my sister and mom, both being possessed of excellent taste, did most of the “choosing”. All I could tell them was what I liked, and having been exposed to very few dresses of that grandeur, I really had no opinion. I soon realized It wasn’t about comfort or the feel of the fabric or any other element I could actually understand. It was all about the look. Similarly, I will not be able to independently choose my own wedding dress. While I’ll definitely have a say in the matter, I won’t be able to comprehend on a gut level how it flatters my body, or skin, or eye colour, or any of the rest of it. Even when I do occasionally let people do my makeup for me (it’s not something I bother with on a regular basis), I can’t say it’s a huge source of excitement. I appreciate the glow of being told I look beautiful, but that’s about as far as it goes in a lot of cases.


For a long time, I felt horribly ostracized. I worried that I wasn’t “real girl” material. I fretted that not being enthusiastic about fashion and general cosmetics made me inferior, somehow, even a step lower than someone who can see but who chooses not to get excited about such things. But that server in that pub got me thinking, and she made me realize something: I am as real as it gets. I love perfume, and fragrant tea, and artisan soap, and candles, and pretty dresses. I love picking out skirts and fancy high heeled shoes it’ll take me ages to learn to walk in at any speed. I like Lush Cosmetics, and The Body Shop, and Rocky Mountain Soap Company, and even Scentsy. So, I must be a real girl, right?


Hang on, though: if these are the measuring sticks by which we measure a “normal”, “real”, or even “successful” girl/woman, is that not just as primitive as the idea that it is motherhood which defines us? Some girls like things that smell and look pretty, but others don’t. Some girls plan to have children, but some can’t or won’t. Is there some arbitrary threshold past which you are an acceptably real girl and before which you’re straddling the line, not quite belonging? We should be past all that. We should be relating to each other as human beings who like the same things, not as “girls” and “guys”. If my male friend likes candles, then we’ll go candle shopping. It doesn’t mean he’s not a “real” boy.


It’s okay to generalize, but when you start pushing people out—especially for reasons they can’t control, like personal preference or in my case, visual impairment—that’s your cue to draw the line. We put people in neat little boxes enough as it is. Let’s all just focus on being real human beings, shall we?


7 thoughts on “I’m a Real Girl!

  1. Ah, the “real girl” thing. I’m with you – it’s nonsense. If you have a vagina (or feel like you ought to have one), then you’re welcome to call yourself a girl in my books!

    As to choosing a wedding dress – you know, when that day comes, it’s your dress… it could be anything you want. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be some fabric that you just love the feel of, or a colour that you like. With my first wedding, I did the stereotypical poofy silk Cinderella dress. The second time around, wanting to do everything by heart, rather than by “what everyone does”, I wore a beautiful Chinese-style dress of emerald green with silver chrysanthemum brocade. The dressmaker put in all the details that *I* chose (though I took many of her great suggestions). And it was fantastic.

    I have such sensitive skin that I actually shop for clothing by touch. I run my hands along all the clothing on the rack until I find something I’d actually be willing to put next to my skin. Then I think about colour and then style or fit or do I really need this.

    I mostly can’t stand wearing makeup, heels, pantyhose, any of that stereotypical “girl” stuff. But yesterday I went to a show at a gay bar (which featured my friend’s electronic dance band, magicians, belly dancers, other dancers, a stripper, muppets and some drag queens), so I decided to wear a comfy outfit in a colour I liked and I added makeup (and false eyelashes!) and a very sparkly necklace and earrings. Just for fun. And because I didn’t need to do any math. I can’t do math while wearing false eyelashes. But I’m still a girl, whatever junk I put on my body!

  2. This discussion always gets me going! You’ve covered it well, but I also want to say that youthful girls aren’t all going crazy for boys or makeup either! I wasn’t allowed sleepovers, didn’t wear makeup, and spent a lot of time with my brother, but I was still able to define myself as a girl. But I guess the crux of it is how I was seen, not how I felt! At least we’re getting past the point of woman = womb, because that bothers me.

  3. Nope, not a member of the real man club, although I’m not sure how much of an influence my blindness has on my state. Probably spending a majority of time alone and not around people my age let me develop my own interests so I wouldn’t just be another trendy clone. But anyhow, real men, and here come the stereotypes but they work well as a template, so dig. Sports, nope, don’t play them or watch them. Building or fixing things, nope, some blind guys and gals are handy that way, not me. Beer, never acquired a taste for it. Debating politics, nope, boring, I’ll let the rest of you guys fix the world’s problems. Hunting and fishing, sorry, too nerdy for that. And even amongst nerdy guys, video games and comic books, I’m kind of shut out, those are visual. So nope, not real at all.

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