In the summer of 2013, I traveled through South America solo and completely unplugged from my life as I knew it. Several months into my return from the five-month-long trip, I commented to a friend that I still felt out of sorts, and I wasn’t quite sure why.
Part of it had to do with my, shall we say, relaxed personal norms on dress and appearance which tend to go along with life in dorm-style hostels. I’d grown accustomed to putting little to no effort into hair, makeup, or clothes, and it was hard to slip back into the cultural norms expected of women in our society. I struggled with the feel and look of a bare face because I knew it wasn’t what was expected of me. I struggled with clothing because the most comfortable clothes were baggier and hid my shape. I felt frustrated at my lack of ability to be feminine.
My friend listened to me relate my frustration. In response, she asked me a series of questions, beginning with, “How do you walk?”
I looked at her, wondering at her meaning.
“Do you walk like a man, or do you walk like a woman?” she pressed.
I took a moment to consider the question. The truth, I conceded, was that I likely walked like a man; I tend to power-walk, heels digging into the ground as I launch myself forward step by step. She asked a few more questions which led me to see how I went about my day. “I guess I’m just more manly,” ready to accede that I had no womanly wiles.
“No,” she said. “You have both masculine and feminine energy. It’s just that you operate from your masculine side more often. How do you let your feminine express itself?”
I noticed she used feminine as a noun as opposed to an adjective. I also noticed I had no answer.
The conversation lingered in my mind for the rest of the day, and quite some time after that. Over the next few weeks, as I asked the same questions of several female friends, I realized that I’d surrounded myself with women who identify with masculine energy more than feminine energy. It dawned on me that I allowed little to no room for femininity in my life.
We like to differentiate and exaggerate the separateness of the feminine and masculine, claiming they are entirely separate entities. The truth is, the masculine and feminine energies are two sides of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. More importantly, we are each masculine and feminine in varying degrees, at varying times.
To be clear, this is not about sex or sexual orientation. This is about questioning the way we allow masculinity and femininity to play out in our lives. We have a choice over how these energies affect us day-to-day, but it requires us to first tune our awareness to them.
Feminine power is in being; masculine power is in doing. I was struggling after my return because I was power-walking my way through life, focused on activity and outcome. I had no comfortable outlet for feminine energy; I kept trying to resort to the typical means our culture furnishes for women—clothing, hair and make-up—and felt no connection. Awareness was half the battle; once aware, I could seek out the things that put me in touch with the feminine. Or more precisely, my feminine.
How do the masculine and feminine show up in your life? How do the people around you change the way your feminine and masculine are expressed?
In 2013, after a seven-year career as an investigator and mediator, Sara left to follow a life-long dream, traveling solo through South America. As she blogged about her adventure, she discovered the creative possibilities of writing, and it has become her passion. Since returning, Sara has written for the Des Moines Register, YogaIowa, Spoilage Literary Magazine, and works regularly as a freelance writer and editor.