Saturday, June 25, 2005

Belle's Top Ten List of Things Every Single Girl Should Own

Okay, I promised you my own Top Ten List of Everything A Single Girl Should Own. My list doesn't contain objects, so I use the word “own” in the sense of a woman habitualizing certain characteristics. I felt I could take artistic license when MSN wrote that a girl must "own" a straight male friend. Whatever.

The first four items relate to a woman’s relationship to herself:

1 – A home. I don’t mean she needs to go out and buy real estate. But whether she’s sharing a three bedroom dive with five other students, rents a small apartment solo or owns a million dollar brownstone, she has to have a place that is as reflective of herself as the way she dresses or kisses. If she’s earthy, she could have lots of natural materials and light. If she’s creative, she might clutter her space with inspirational objects and the supplies of her craft. If she’s zen, then all you see might be a bare, clean, wooden floor in all its wabi sabi glory. When the world’s inhospitable, what a girl needs most but might be hard pressed to find, is her reflection in it. If she takes the time to create a home, she will always have a place to belong - a place that will always welcome her with an open-armed reminder of who she is and that there is a place for her no matter what.

2 – A way to sweat (with or without someone else). In the same way that cleaning her kitchen pays respect to her home, or returning a library book on time pays respect to the institution and her fellow patrons, exercising her body pays respect to herself. Would you own a dog without taking it for walks? Would you own a car without occasionally washing it and getting tune-ups? So why respect everything around you but not yourself? The level of respect a girl gives herself reflects back to her – if she doesn’t respect herself, then people around her won’t respect her either – and self-respect is as important a benefit of exercise as the good health and clear mind it will also give her.

3 – A way to pick herself up. The world’s chaos can sometimes knock us over. And with everyone’s busy schedule, friends and family will not always be around at the exact moment we need them. It’s up to each of us to have something we can do that will automatically cheer us up whether it be shop for a fabulous new outfit, get a pedicure, run a few miles, read an uplifting book, hike in the woods, whatever. Besides, have you ever had a friend who drained you with her doldrums, whose mood never improved unless you siphoned all your good cheer into her leaving nothing for yourself? Who wants to be that person?

4 – A ritual to rebalance. This is closely related to 3, but they are not exactly the same. 3 is used for life’s curveballs. 4 should be done on a regular basis. If our clothes, kiss and home are a reflection of who we are, how often do we look at that reflection? How often have you gone along in your life only to realize well after the fact that some aspect of yourself has changed – your mood, your needs, your tastes? A ritual such as meditation, journaling, psychotherapy, or even going to your favorite park to stare at the water for 15 minutes each day, or once a week, or hell, even once a month will do, so long as you are regularly checking in with yourself and ensuring that your actual life is reflective of today's (not yesterday's - or for that matter, someone else's) needs and desires. If the two are not in alignment, checking in wakes you up to that fact and allows you to rebalance the two.

This one relates to both the self and the world:

5 – Curiosity and a sense of humor. These are traits that a girl should develop within herself that are important to both relationships: the one she has with herself and the one she has to the world. She can’t know herself if she is not curious about herself. She also will become bored (not to mention ignorant - see George W Bush) if she is not curious about the world. Similarly, manifesting a happier life becomes much easier if she takes neither herself nor the world too seriously.

The final four relate to a girl’s relationship to the world:

6 – A skill beyond those she develops on the job. If she’s a lawyer, she could also be a killer fisherwoman. If she’s a sportswriter, perhaps she also cooks a mean lamb braised with a berry/mango reduction. Or maybe if she’s a doctor, she could also be president of the Dukes of Hazard Fan Club. This one seems self-evident until you count the number of people you know who come home after work every night and zone out in front of the TV. You are what you do. If all you do is your career, then all you are is a lawyer, a sportswriter or a doctor. But if you are skilled at more than just your career, what you are is multi-dimensional, which is the precursor to being deep. It's also a safety net against job insecurity and boredom.

7 – A set of balls (which is a colorful way of saying “an ability to feel fear but do it anyway”). This one needs no explanation. Or maybe I’m just afraid!

8 – A couple of scars. They are reminders that while risk can be dangerous, it is also survivable. They show that you have battled and remain undefeated. They, especially when coupled with humor (5 above), are powerful magnets for respect (think Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw in Jaws).

9 – A contradiction. This is not the same as 6 above. A girl can have a skill outside of her job that does not contradict her job. For instance, she could be a four-star chef who also grows a vegetable garden. These skills are both related to food and nourishment - she can cook the vegetables she's grown and feed them to others. A contradiction, on the other hand, is not necessarily a skill; it is anything that dismantles assumptions about you and forces the world to give you a second look. A girl could be a fearless journalist who’s risked life and limb by reporting in war-ravaged countries but is a scaredy-cat around spiders. She could be capable of building a house with her manly hands but be a sissy about having her own blood drawn. Or she could be a nurturing homemaker who likes to destroy robots on weekends. Contradictions make you intriguing and undismissable. They are also triumphant little secrets that you carry around inside you until you deem someone worthy of a revelation. I don’t believe we’re necessarily born with them, but that they must be created and nurtured (with the help of nos. 5 and 7 above).

10 – A good story and the ability to tell it well. When the world doesn’t see you, or chooses to ignore you for the moment, you sometimes have to stand up and make it take notice. Use both a loud voice and a surprise - but retrospectively inevitable - ending.

I suppose the list above might seem gender neutral, except when you consider that men are socialized to act while women are socialized to relate. When a man experiences emotional pain, he’s more likely to throw himself into a basketball game or a computer manual than to sit down with his girl and talk things out. Whereas a woman, in the same situation, will call up her best girlfriend and talk over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (Okay, clichés but stick with me here.) Perhaps the man comes out the other side emotionally rigid, but he has killer free-throw or graphic design skills to show for it. Whereas a woman might feel better and be emotionally ready to move on, but has nothing to show the world for it. I’m not saying that one or the other is bad except when they are taken to extremes. My thought is that the list above helps balance out a woman’s socialization but would push a man to his socialized extreme. That’s why I would not necessarily apply it to men, at least not as it stands.

Phew. That’s all I have to say about this.

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