Making Space

I’ve​ ​always​ ​been​ ​told​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​good​ ​at​ ​being​ ​tznius.​ ​I’ve​ ​always​ ​been​ ​confused​ ​hearing​ ​that.

I​ ​thought​ ​they​ ​meant​ ​tznius,​ ​like​ ​knees​ ​perfectly​ ​covered​ ​and​ ​wearing​ ​tights​ ​and​ ​non-fitted clothing,​ ​which​ ​honestly​ ​I​ ​am​ ​not​ ​so​ ​good​ ​at.​

​But​ ​now​ ​I​ ​realize​ ​they​ ​meant​ ​something​ ​else: The​ ​ingrained​ ​comportment​ ​of​ ​fading​ ​into​ ​the​ ​background,​ ​not​ ​drawing​ ​attention,​ ​the​ ​hesitant and​ ​demure​ ​body​ ​language​ ​when​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​men.​ ​And​ ​more:​ ​limiting​ ​eye​ ​contact​ ​with​ ​men, standing​ ​a​ ​little​ ​to​ ​the​ ​side​ ​of​ ​your​ ​male​ ​family​ ​member,​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​their​ ​approval​ ​when responding.​ ​The​ ​metaphorical​ ​curve​ ​inwards,​ ​the​ ​hyper-awareness​ ​of​ ​male​ ​presence,​ ​the uncomfortable​ ​but​ ​unmistakable​ ​feeling​ ​that​ ​this​ ​isn’t​ ​your​ ​place​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​up.

Does​ ​anyone​ ​know​ ​what​ ​I’m​ ​talking​ ​about?​ ​Does​ ​anyone​ ​notice​ ​themselves​ ​doing​ ​this?​ ​Is​ ​this what​ ​all​ ​frum​ ​girls​ ​do?

I​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​know​ ​that​ ​I​ ​did​ ​this​ ​until​ ​I​ ​experienced​ ​the​ ​opposite.​ ​Until​ ​it​ ​stared​ ​me​ ​in​ ​the​ ​face. Until​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​how​ ​much​ ​it’s​ ​been​ ​holding​ ​me​ ​back.

I​ ​have​ ​not​ ​been​ ​a​ ​good​ ​girl​ ​this​ ​year.​ ​I’ve​ ​tried​ ​out​ ​many​ ​scandalous​ ​experiences​ ​that​ ​are​ ​not befitting​ ​my​ ​position​ ​in​ ​my​ ​family​ ​and​ ​community.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​things​ ​I​ ​should​ ​be​ ​rebuked​ ​for, things​ ​I​ ​should​ ​feel​ ​guilty​ ​about,​ ​things​ ​I​ ​should​ ​never​ ​do​ ​again.​ ​It’s​ ​been​ ​another​ ​adolescence, full​ ​of​ ​acting​ ​out,​ ​differentiating,​ ​trying​ ​new​ ​things,​ ​learning​ ​about​ ​myself,​ ​being​ ​selfish​ ​and emotional,​ ​and​ ​not​ ​thinking​ ​too​ ​hard​ ​about​ ​the​ ​consequences.

Dancing.​ ​Energy.​ ​Freedom.​ ​Abandon.

“Don’t​ ​be​ ​afraid​ ​to​ ​be​ ​sexy.”​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​holding​ ​back​ ​until​ ​that​ ​was​ ​said.​ ​And​ ​it​ ​hit me–​ ​my​ ​body​ ​is​ ​not​ ​letting​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​consider​ ​myself​ ​to​ ​be​ ​well​ ​acquainted​ ​with​ ​my​ ​sexuality​ ​and very​ ​comfortable​ ​with​ ​my​ ​body​ ​and​ ​desires.​ ​However,​ ​I​ ​could​ ​see​ ​in​ ​that​ ​moment​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​so socialized​ ​to​ ​not​ ​draw​ ​attention​ ​to​ ​myself,​ ​I​ ​simply​ ​could​ ​not​ ​get​ ​my​ ​body​ ​to​ ​move​ ​in​ ​a​ ​way​ ​that felt​ ​provocative​ ​like​ ​that.

But​ ​I’m​ ​full​ ​of​ ​contradictions​ ​because​ ​while​ ​others​ ​think​ ​I​ ​embody​ ​tznius,​ ​I​ ​notice​ ​that​ ​there​ ​has always​ ​been​ ​for​ ​me​ ​a​ ​pull​ ​towards​ ​men,​ ​wanting​ ​their​ ​attention,​ ​which​ ​I​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​have​ ​masked with​ ​my​ ​modest​ ​demeanor​ ​and​ ​carriage​ ​of​ ​myself.​ ​Men​ ​were​ ​just​ ​close​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​be​ ​interesting and​ ​intriguing,​ ​but​ ​far​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​make​ ​them​ ​mythical,​ ​inaccessible,​ ​foreign,​ ​unapproachable, scary,​ ​unrelatable.

But​ ​now​ ​everything​ ​is​ ​different.​ ​By​ ​noticing​ ​the​ ​invisible​ ​walls​ ​around​ ​me,​ ​I​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power​ ​to push​ ​past​ ​them,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​do.​ ​I’m​ ​trying​ ​out​ ​a​ ​new​ ​way​ ​of​ ​being​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world–​ ​speaking​ ​up,​ ​feeling like​ ​I​ ​deserve​ ​to​ ​be​ ​seen​ ​and​ ​heard,​ ​getting​ ​noticed.

Ironically,​ ​I​ ​lost​ ​the​ ​self-consciousness​ ​that​ ​the​ ​internal​ ​war​ ​of​ ​wanting​ ​attention​ ​while​ ​not drawing​ ​attention​ ​brought​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​care​ ​or​ ​think​ ​about​ ​what​ ​I​ ​look​ ​like,​ ​or​ ​feel​ ​that​ ​I​ ​need to​ ​look​ ​a​ ​certain​ ​way​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​be​ ​valued,​ ​listened​ ​to,​ ​or​ ​get​ ​attention.​ ​Paradoxically,​ ​I​ ​am​ ​less preoccupied​ ​with​ ​my​ ​appearance,​ ​or​ ​worrying​ ​about​ ​whether​ ​I’m​ ​attractive​ ​enough.​ ​I​ ​feel confident​ ​around​ ​men,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​I​ ​deserve​ ​to​ ​take​ ​up​ ​space.

I’m​ ​digging​ ​deep,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​guilt​ ​or​ ​angst​ ​I​ ​know​ ​should​ ​be​ ​there.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​feeling​ ​that crowds​ ​all​ ​the​ ​others​ ​out​ ​is​ ​glorious​ ​pleasure​ ​of​ ​growth.​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​think​ ​of​ ​a​ ​more​ ​enjoyable experience​ ​than​ ​watching​ ​myself​ ​learn​ ​about​ ​myself,​ ​grow,​ ​try​ ​new​ ​things,​ ​put​ ​my​ ​power​ ​to​ ​use for​ ​good,​ ​and​ ​have​ ​an​ ​effect​ ​on​ ​others.​ ​And​ ​I​ ​see​ ​that​ ​being​ ​tzanua​ ​in​ ​that​ ​way​ ​is​ ​no​ ​longer useful​ ​to​ ​me.

(Yes,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​value​ ​to​ ​being​ ​modest​ ​and​ ​not​ ​attracting​ ​attention.​ ​However,​ ​I​ ​appreciate​ ​the awareness​ ​of​ ​knowing​ ​what​ ​it​ ​is​ ​like​ ​to​ ​take​ ​up​ ​space,​ ​so​ ​that​ ​I​ ​can​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power​ ​to​ ​turn​ ​it​ ​on or​ ​off​ ​depending​ ​on​ ​what​ ​is​ ​needed.)

Am​ ​I​ ​sure​ ​this​ ​is​ ​the​ ​right​ ​way​ ​to​ ​go?​ ​No,​ ​I’m​ ​not.​ ​But​ ​I’m​ ​enjoying​ ​the​ ​ride,​ ​the​ ​blessings, confusion,​ ​and​ ​new​ ​feelings​ ​the​ ​journey​ ​is​ ​presenting​ ​me.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​true​ ​that​ ​this​ ​comes​ ​with​ ​risks, and​ ​thoughts​ ​about​ ​how​ ​far​ ​is​ ​too​ ​far.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​true​ ​that​ ​there​ ​are​ ​risks​ ​of​ ​disapproval​ ​and​ ​judgment from​ ​others.​ ​However,​ ​I’m​ ​left​ ​with​ ​a​ ​hunch​ ​that​ ​G-d​ ​led​ ​me​ ​to​ ​this​ ​for​ ​a​ ​reason.

I’m​ ​a​ ​real​ ​person.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​the​ ​right​ ​to​ ​be​ ​here,​ ​to​ ​take​ ​up​ ​space,​ ​to​ ​be​ ​heard​ ​and​ ​be​ ​seen.

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1 Comment

  1. Anon-eye-mouse. November 12, 2017 at 6:19 am

    I could have written this myself. <3


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