Two powerful words, and likely a sentence you have uttered countless times. But are you really sorry?
I work as an acupuncturist, and I often see people on their worst days: suffering yet another failed attempt at IVF, suffering the loss of a partner- or parent, or even desperately pulling straws for a treatment that will finally alleviate their chronic pain. I also see people on their best days: finally getting the positive pregnancy test, landing that new job, or getting their offer approved on a new house in the far-too-popular area of town.
I see people from all walks of life, both sexes, over a wide range of age.
Most of the time, I see women. Here’s a frequent scenario:
Me: “I’m just gonna move this pant leg a little higher here, just up to your knee so I can get a point on your leg”
Her: “Oh, sure!” (helps move the pant leg to a comfortable spot just above the knee)
Me: (finding point)
Her: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t shave… I’m a little prickly.”
You know who also is hairy? And unapologetically so? The (hypothetical) man in the hallway.
Now, this isn’t going to be a lecture about how “we need to grow out our leg hair, and armpit hair- oh, and by the way- dye your armpit hair a fabulous shade of pink, and while you’re at it, stop shaving that bikini line, as well!”. No.
However, if that is what makes your sweet heart happy, you certainly don’t need my permission! And newsflash- your acupuncturist, massage therapist, OB/GYN could care LESS what you do/don’t do with your body hair. It’s a part of your healthy body, and our jobs exist to make your body function as optimally as possible. And that includes having a non-judgmental attitude toward how our patients decide to adorn, or groom themselves (just please groom yourself; it’s healthy to be hygenic!). And as a healthcare provider, I apologize for the fact that the society we live in has decided to pick, poke, and prod at women’s bodies in such a way that we actually apologize for being who we are in our doctor’s office.
What do you apologize for? Go ahead, make a list. In fact, I’ll give you mine.
Things I have apologized for: Not plucking my eyebrows, not wearing makeup, not shaving my legs, having the audacity to have my body touch someone else’s when they bump into me in a crowded aisle, not liking a pattern or outfit my mom (with best intentions) holds up for me in the store (“but mom, I’m not gonna wear it. Just being honest. Sorry.”), having bare nails, having dry skin, being on time but my host isn’t ready, having dietary restrictions, having cold hands, reminding someone of a missed appointment (“sorry for the inconvenience…”), having a differing opinion than someone, how someone else feels (“I’m sorry you feel that way”), the list goes on. Now look at your list. How many of those really deserve an apology? Did you cause harm to someone (physically or emotionally) when you did that? Did you make a mistake, or even simple faux pas where you do know better, but still did wrong or caused offense (regardless of intent to do so)? I’d be willing to bet that the majority of your list wouldn’t include such apology-worthy actions. So, what are we apologizing for?
Here’s a hint: existing.
The audacity that we exist as human beings on this planet! What an outrage!
I hope you read the sarcasm.
When I was in elementary school, I remember a theme for the school one year was "celebrating diversity”. We were taught that it is diversity that makes the world beautiful, that makes life fun. After all, life would be quite boring if we were all the same. As kids, we all agreed. By 14, most of us disagreed. Obviously, part of that is the process of growing up, and not all elementary-age students appreciate people that are different. We can blame the media, or narrow-minded family members, what have you. But the question still stands: what is it about being different that brings out such embarrassment? That being different places a target on your back for the bullies on the playground or the trolls of the internet?
Perhaps it is the simple explanation that anything that is outside the norm, going outside of social convention, attracts attention.
As women, many of us are taught by society to put effort into our appearance, but not too much. God forbid anyone thinks we’re high maintenance! We need to act like a lady (i.e. be polite and submissive), but not be a doormat. We need to smile, but not too much. You don’t want those awful crow’s feet, right? Keep those legs together (even if you’re wearing pants)- don’t be an open invitation. Ask an employer for more money, but don’t make a stink if you don’t get it. Nothing is more unattractive than a protesting woman. Smile at men, but not too much. You don’t want them to think you’re easy, do you? Go out with the guys, keep up with them drink for drink and burger for burger, but never forget to watch that girlish figure!
Give a chuckle with the guy friends and proudly proclaim, “I’m not like those girls; I’m more of a dude!”.
They want us to be the girl-next-door and the pinup in the centerfold. In perfect balance.
And we wonder why it is so hard to be ourselves.
What do you want? Who do you want to be? What sets your soul on fire and makes your eyes dance like flickering Christmas lights? What passions have you suppressed for the appeasement of others? I’ll tell you another story: When I was a girl, I had the privilege of doing after-school activities, and thankfully I was given the choice of what I wanted to do. I did ballet, karate, ice skating, horseback riding, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, etc… I remember being a kid, and being happy in my body and how I could make it move on the ice or on stage. I remember coveting the pointe shoes, and reapplying my stage recital makeup so many times my appearance was reminiscent of a poorly painted porcelain doll up close. But I felt so grown up! I remember begging my mom to let me wear makeup (“why do I have to wait until I’m fourteen?! It’s so unfair! I’m the only one at school who can’t!”). I also remember avidly collecting bugs, dissecting plants from the backyard (and subsequently getting terribly itchy hairs ALL OVER my body), digging for snakes, chasing blue-tail lizards, having no problem mucking the horses’ stalls, not showering for a long weekend after backpacking in West Virginia, and declaring black as my favorite color at the tender age of nine (much to my mom’s horror). I also remember somewhere along the line seeking approval from family and friends and setting aside my dream of pointe shoes in lieu of horseback riding (I really wished I could’ve done both… but I was about ten, and horses won out). I remember hiding my love for makeup and pretty shoes. Watching episodes of Gilmore Girls and The Hills in secret. Feeling embarrassed that I liked getting my nails done for a dance, and even embarrassed when I started menstruating (not that that is a “love” of my life, ha!).
But then a lightbulb went off. Sadly, this lightbulb went off in my late twenties; I didn’t have the self-confidence as a young teen, and went the way of people-pleaser. Those loves, all of them, are what make me, me. From makeup and high heels, to digging in the dirt and playing with the worms. I am no less a woman for embracing it all. What have you suppressed in your life for fear of standing out, of being ostracized, of being unacceptable? I know it’s practically cliché now, but we are all different, and it is those differences that make us beautiful. Similarities unite us, but differences keep things interesting. And I’ve come to find one thing is true: someone who only loves you when you’re looking/acting/speaking a certain way- doesn’t love you. And we all deserve to be loved and accepted for who we are. Unapologetically. Without anyone’s permission.
So, in typical health provider fashion, I’m gonna give you some homework, dear reader. I want you to peer into yourself- the parts you actively celebrate, and dig for the parts you try to hide. Then ask yourself what would happen- what calamity would really ensue if you decided to love those parts? Those hairy-leg parts? Would the sky fall down if you decided not to wear makeup to work, or if you decided to take up something profoundly “girly”, like covering all of your bathroom surfaces in glittering tile? I can tell you one thing. The sky won’t fall. The market won’t crash. Your kids will still love you and say you’re the best mommy ever.
And it’s true.
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are smart. You are worthy. You are all-woman.
All of you. All of your parts.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
What is Simply Sisterhood?
A campaign to end