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On being a tomboy in heels

I am almost always surprised by how others see me. I’m so familiar with the catastrophes and conquests that shaped me that sometimes it’s easy to forget that those things are not visible to my casual acquaintances. Life would be a lot easier – a lot more uncomfortable, but much more straightforward – if those emotional tattoos were visible physically.

On Valentine’s, I posted a half-joke to Twitter. Ladies, I said, you deserve a man who loves you for your <head> as well as for your <body>.

Though it got a lot of laughs and retweets, one guy responded and said it was presumptuous of me to assume that every woman wanted or needed a man.

Jawdrop. How could anyone think I, of all people, would suggest such a thing? I, the girl who had no use for dating until she was 22, champion of “career over relationships” and “that friend” girls came to for reality checks about their crushes?

It made me take a hard look at how I’ve evolved as a person, and as a woman specifically, over the past few years. And I realized that even on days when I am attending Diane Sawyer luncheons and Society of News Designers mixers, I feel like the sweatpants-wearing girl who just busted ass in the gym alongside an entire football team.

I see the girl who pulled the 3 a.m. nights copy editing stories for the school paper and was back in the office at 8 a.m. to start the next issue.

The girl whose inseams left scars on her knees from hard hours of riding practice.

The girl who stumbled into budget meetings with spurs on because she hadn’t had time to change her equestrian “hat” for her editorial one.

The girl who drove two hours with a 104-degree fever to be at a newspaper redesign meeting because she knew she would be the only representative from the Web team.

The girl who graduated with a 4.0 despite the above.

Stereotypes are ugly things. In college, I never wore makeup, had no style to my hair, and wore dirty boots and gym clothes most of the time thanks to my equestrian involvement. And I made it very clear that I had absolutely no use for the worthless lumps of humanity that had penises.

I got asked with some regularity if I were a lesbian. (I feel sorry for lesbians if that’s the stereotype they have to bust.)

I realized, eventually, that I was going to have to change my external image. It was hard. I had to learn how to pair clothes that were not T-shirts and jeans, how to do something with my hair (that was the hardest thing). I had to learn that not all men are worthless (not completely, anyway) and that kicking them was probably not the best way to express one’s disagreement (Juan, I apologize).

And I realized that the reason I’d not done any of this sooner, beyond the fact that it was a lot of work and had a steep learning curve, was that I was carrying around a stereotype of my own. Makeup will make me into one of those obnoxious, sissy sorority girls. Nice clothes will make me a target for creepy guys. A hairstyle will make me obsess over how I look.

The strongest women realize that they are defined from within, not without. And they are all right with busting the stereotypes people have about them. My Twitter critic showed his narrowmindedness when he said I was imposing the need for a man on women. In his small mind, there was no way a woman promoting the cause of a relationship based on brains *and* beauty could also be just fine with singleness.

Au contraire. Multiple facets make us shine as people. And yes, I favor my no-nonsense, logical side even when wearing something as ridiculously non-functional as earrings.

I know that girl is fierce. That girl is strong. (That girl once chased a newspaper staffer out of the office with a bullwhip for interrupting her work repeatedly.) And I think it’s entirely possible that that girl also wears red heels and lipstick sometimes. I think that’s what makes her interesting.

And yes, maybe someday she’ll even find a guy who values her <head> as much as her <body>. But she’s not banking on it.

Published in Ponderings