What is the mainstream experience of being a woman? Take a typical woman's life. I would say that it is ruled by these things:
# Growing up in a world in which boys and men are stronger, have precedence, and mostly have the best of it.
# Coping with uncomfortable and messy monthly menstruation from early teens to late forties.
# Experiencing regular and hard-to-resist natural urges to find a man and make a home.
# Feeling all the anxiety of keeping that man; making all kinds of compromises to that end; playing second fiddle if need be.
# Conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to babies; and then being mainly responsible for the ongoing childcare, and for keeping the family together.
# Coping with the menopause and ageing - the lessening of personal attractiveness, the loss of feminine functionality.
# Ultimately becoming a carer for parents and husband; then to be alone and not much valued in old age.
One can immediately think of women who through temperament or circumstances have sidestepped some of this picture. But most women face all the things on my suggested list. And my next question is, how do women like me match up to the experience of 'most women'?
Look at my list again. Consider your own life. Do you behave as if men are more important than yourself? (It doesn't matter whether or not they are) Do you menstruate, or ever have done? (You know: the pain, the blood, the smell; the tampons or pads or whatever) Do you feel the attraction many men exert? Ever fretted over not being pretty enough to hold their attention? Ever given up a cherished personal ambition just to stay with him? Ever been taken by a man, and felt the fear or excitement of being pregnant? Ever been a mum? Ever known what it is to wake up one morning and for the first time feel middle aged? Or old? Ever felt trapped by vital but thankless caring duties that everyone expects you to perform?
I have to admit that I don't personally come out as a good match. No 'typical' woman ever had my focus, or could get away with my way of life. In this comparison it doesn't matter two hoots that the superficial things about me - appearance, voice and behaviour - are indistinguishable from the female norm. The only things I genuinely share with my notion of a 'typical' woman are the distresses of ageing, and the likelihood of ending up alone and not much valued. The rest has simply not been experienced.
Does this mean that I cannot hold my head up as a proper woman? Of course not. I most certainly can claim sufficient sisterhood. Indeed, my credentials, such as they are, are never questioned. But I do need to recognise that I am not a typical woman, and that I am in error if I think so. Instead I should wave my flag from another hill, the one for unusual women, the ones who pick their own path, scorn convention, and buck the trend.
I love being a bit out of the ordinary. Anyone else feel the same?