Effemiphobia: A Fear of Femininity and Weakness

My sister and I (mostly her) have discovered something. Our life is a lot like the TV show Supernatural, if you take away the supernatural elements, and genderflip everyone. Crazy, abusive parent? Check. Older sibling scapegoat who has to be the parent? Check. Younger, golden child sibling who has to be protected? Friggin’ check. Effemiphobia? You bet! Now, I’m not a big fan of the show, so a lot of this is what my sister tells me, but I’ve seen it in the episodes I have watched.

For as long as I can remember, my brain has been split into two parts. I was in middle school when I finally named them after my two male OCs (original characters) who they seemed to represent. There was the quiet, cold-tempered, intelligent chessmaster who despised all weakness (the cynic), and the kind, gentle peacemaker who just wanted everyone to be happy (the sensitive). My two personalities, as I described them. I knew I didn’t have multiple personalities, of course, but that was the best way to explain it. When I was experiencing negative emotion like anger, sadness, hurt, fear, whatever, I tried to emulate the first. Shut down my true feelings, raise an eyebrow and make a snarky remark. When the emotion was positive, I was the second, laughing at myself, making jokes at my own expense, slipping on ice and taking a bow. But sometimes, I fell through the cracks. I’d cry. I’d fly off in a rage. I’d scream when I saw a spider. And the cynic side tried to tear me apart, angrily telling me how stupid and weak I was, while the sensitive side cowered before that rage.

Depressed people have described feeling like they have two voices in their head. One, always berating them for the stupid things they’ve done, and the other, constantly apologizing for living and wondering what they could do to make things better. This was me in a nutshell, for most of my life.

The problem: why were they both male, in my mind?

In the past, I’ve described myself as a tomboy. But maybe that’s not altogether accurate. I’m not really the sporty type. I hate almost any sport that involves a ball, as a matter of fact. No, what I am is terrified of femininity. The trap of masculinity, as I’ve called it in the past.

So, yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I’m friggin’ effemiphobic. Dean Winchester’s line, “No chick flick moments,” might as well be my motto.

It’s a hard concept to explain. Effemiphobia is the word commonly used across the Internet (especially Tumblr), though it’s mainly used to describe men, especially gay men. It’s got nothing to do with misogyny. I don’t hate women. I am one. I don’t even hate femininity—forgive my language, but I’m fucking terrified of it. It’s a message I inhaled from my first teacher, Hollywood. Feminine women need a hero to rescue them, while they stand around looking terrified. Masculine women (and guys) are the ones who save the day, and kick the bad guy’s ass. Maybe it was also because I idolized my dad and action heroes, but the only feminine role models I really had were either damsels in distress or my mother and sister (who were both their own brands of crazy). Masculinity, to me, was sane. My dad was masculine. He was sane. He was smart. He was rational. My dad could fix things. My mom and sister knew how to mess them up, and let their feelings get in the way.

And the more masculine I acted, the more my dad acknowledged me. The more he wanted to spend time with me. The more I wanted to be his son, not his daughter. Anything was better than being my mother’s young lady. Because my batshit crazy mother wanted me to wear dresses all the time. She wanted me to be the proper young lady. Her golden child. Her perfect little girl. I rebelled. My sister is far more feminine than I’ll ever be, and that was not the way it started.

I have guilty pleasures in anything remotely romantic or soft. I love fluffy animals. I’m decent at amateur romance scenes. I love analyzing every romantic moment of my favorite movies. Heck, I love a good chick flick, and I’ll occasionally pick up chick lit. Sometimes, I just want to eat a salad and listen to music that’s described as girly.

But all that sucks. Know why? Every time I engage in one of these activities, I hate myself for it. I don’t want to be the romantic. I don’t want to cry when I see a mouse get killed. I want to consume the entire double bacon cheeseburger, and I’d drown it with beer if I drank. I watch horror movies, I read and write the most horrific, gruesome things I can devise. I can burp on queue. I bombard myself with action movies. Because they’re safe. They’re not weak. They’re not feminine. They make me strong.

I have a different perspective than any guy who’s effemiphobic, obviously. I can’t escape femininity completely. I can deny all the aspects of it I want to, but in the end, I’m still a girl, physically and mentally. I’m still attracted to men. I still want them to notice me. To find me attractive. But I’ve been told I’m beautiful more times than I can count. I’ve been told I’m awesome, smart, funny, cute, whatever. I’ve been told I’m soft, and I can’t stand to even think about that. The highest compliment I’ve ever received was being told by a guy that I was more of a man than he was. Because that made me strong. That meant I could protect myself, that I didn’t need anyone else to protect me. I need that assurance as surely as I need to breathe. I need to be strong. I need everyone to see that I’m strong.

But I’m still a girl. I wear flattering clothes and jewelry and makeup and fix my hair. I own a lot of shoes. I like to cook, and I love to dance. But I haven’t worn pink in years. Lace is disgusting.

It’s like constantly being at war with yourself. Wanting so badly to just be a guy, but at the same time, realizing how much that would suck. Wanting to enlist, but knowing you can’t get in because of depression. And even if I could make it in, I’d wash out during basic training due to depression. I know that. And I hate myself for it.

But, oh well. Life goes on. First step to fixing the problem is admitting that there is one, and I’ve come a long way toward fixing it already these past few years, even without having a word for it. I’m pretty happy being the way I am, honestly. Effemiphobia doesn’t control me. . . most of the time. And when it does, I just need to blow metaphorical raspberries at it, because I’m awesome. Right? Of course right!

Thank you for tuning in to the Rantings, Ramblings, Ravings and Musings of Mac. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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Homeschooling and How It Is Appropriate For Young Ladies

My mother was born in the fifties, and always taught how to be an appropriate young lady. Me, I’ve always considered the fifties to be a neo-Victorian age. So many rules. Women didn’t leave home without their hats, and their shoes had to match their purses. Family and husbands were the most celebrated things. Boring.

But growing up in the nineties, she was still trying to push these ideals on me and my sister, her two daughters. My half brother, her eldest, had already left home, the angry child of a green beret. So me and my sister were her chance to start anew and do it right. We weren’t girls—we were Young Ladies, and it was her solemn duty to teach us the Appropriate Ways to behave.

My sister, who’s two years older, was lucky. She got to go to public kindergarten. But, when my time came, I was not sent to school. Instead, my mother sat me and my sister down one day, and gave us a spelling test.

I was five years old. I had no idea of the concept of a test, and blinked in confusion as my mother handed us sheets of paper and pencils and started a stop watch. And she named off the first word—the.

Sitting there, frozen, I was still hopelessly confused as the seconds ticked by, and Mom called out another word. Then I noticed that my sister, sitting in the chair next to me, was writing them down, so I looked over at her paper, hoping I could glean the secret of this weird thing called a spelling test from her.

Of course, that’s when Mom yelled at me, thinking I was trying to cheat.

That was only the beginning. Except Mom had this horrible habit of forgetting about our schooling, believing that we should be able to keep a set schedule, ourselves. But how many young kids will willingly sit down and do school work when they’re left unsupervised? No, much of that time was used to develop my creative side, making up games that my sister and I would play, writing the stories before I’d ever thought of being a writer.

But on some awful days, Mom would crack down, forcing our noses into the incredibly boring Pathway Readers (lots of good morals, but lacking an interesting plot)—which were her main focus. Because she didn’t just want us to learn how to read, she wanted us to learn Amish values: girls wear dresses and work in the kitchen and house, boys get to work outside and be rambunctious. Her only other real concern (besides our religious education—we didn’t get enough on Sundays, apparently) was Math, which was only focused on every now and again, with an annoyed explanation of subtraction here, and a yell of “Do the workbook!” there. If we really didn’t get it, she’d send us to our Former Math Major dad—who is good at math, but was never able to teach it.

There was also music. We were started on learning to play a recorder. That didn’t last very long.

Oh, and because we weren’t getting and PE at home, Mother enrolled us in ballet and tap classes, overriding my quiet objections that I’d rather take Tae Kwon Do, because my delicate bone structure would never be able to handle it.

And how could I forget knitting and sewing! Mother, taking us with her to knitting classes. Buying us yarn and needles and all the things a beginning seamstress needs. She’d show us patterns of pioneer dresses and tell us how one day we were going to wear dresses like those every day, complete with aprons.

Our drama classes came every summer, when we participated in the local historical pageant, where Mom took great joy in making us several of the dresses she dreamed about.

If we were lucky, or if we fulfilled Mom’s varying expectations for the day, we got to learn from Dad when he got home from work. He’d teach us about computers, and let us watch him play computer games. He’d quiz us about geography, with a big map of the world on his bedroom wall, until we knew almost all of the countries and their capitals, as well as all fifty states and theirs. We got to watch him fix cars and do yard work, if Mom didn’t want us kept inside. And every Christmas, we got to help him repair and put up Christmas lights. When Mom was away, he was also the music tutor, teaching us the beauty of classic rock.

Before Mom began this insane indoctrination,  I’d been lucky enough to see outside that box. My grandmother was a huge fan of action movies, so when we went to her house, I’d sit in the living room with my parents and grandparents and watch such movies as Speed with a mouth open in awe. Sure, I didn’t understand them, but they were still awesome! On TV, I’d get to watch Spider-Man and Batman taking out bad guys by the dozen. Also, I saw a lot of Xena, Warrior Princess. The action genre, it’s fair to say, was my first teacher. And those values would not be uprooted by Mom’s traditionalist fantasies.

Still, she persisted. My most humiliating experiences as a child were when she would force us to go in public on a regular day in our church clothes. Once, we had to go to the city dressed like this, because we were going, of all places, to a computer store. Another time, at a church activity, I remember arguing with Mom hopelessly how none of the other girls would be wearing dresses. But those pleas fell on deaf ears. My sister embraced the experience with a bubbly smile, telling me it would be fine, and it was fun to get dressed up. In the picture of the three of us they took at that activity, my sister is on one side, beaming. Mom is in the middle, a calm smile on her face, an arm around each of her young ladies. I sat on the right hand, my face a portrait of misery.

But eventually, Mom started to give way, between me, my sister, and my dad—mostly because she couldn’t stop us. She decided that nail polish didn’t make us look trashy. She allowed our normal clothes to be those dingy camping clothes—jeans and t-shirts. And after years and years of rebuffing my sister’s requests, she allowed us to pierce our ears.

It took the persuasion of my overbearing aunt, though, to finally break through the worst of those bars, and get us into public school, where I rejoiced when I discovered that division was possible.

Here is the story of my mom’s failure. She tried to turn me into a lovely young lady of good worth and quality—a treasure for my future husband. Well, I’m not. I’m a half-goth metalhead who spends my summers working at a scout camp, my Octobers at a haunted house, and my winters at a ski resort. I wear men’s clothes unapologetically, and will not lower my eyes from anyone’s gaze. I don’t speak in half-truths and riddles, and I can be very loud. I play violent video games. I watch those evil horror movies. I drive too fast. I rock climb and snowboard. I can burp on queue. I tell my friends to get their minds out of the gutter so mine can float by.

How’s that for ladylike, Mama?

Defensive Measures

Ah, life. The great tragic comedy.

As per my usual introspective complaining, I have trust issues. I just don’t trust people. I’m scared they’re talking about me behind my back. In relationships, I feel like the guy’s just waiting for the right moment to say it was a joke. I don’t tell my friends about my personal life, because I’m afraid of being the whiny little crybaby again. So, I toughened up. I worked at a haunted house, where I learned to put on a pretty good Mormon goth persona. When people at school annoyed me, I let them know it, and never talked to them unless they talked to me first. If they ever were stupid enough to enter into my personal bubble, they knew it.

I was a snot.

Somehow, though, the most annoying guy in my graduating class, Scott, befriended me. He didn’t annoy me as much as he did everyone else, for some reason. But after high school, we started talking more, went on a few dates, etc. Now, he’s “in love” with me, like a brother to me, and WAY too close for comfort. He knows things about me that I’ve never told anyone else, and he pisses me off like no other. He knows me beyond the act, and laughs at things that are deadly serious to me. If he ever decided to try something, I wouldn’t be able to stop him, because, skinny as he is, he’s still stronger than me. That’s terrifying.

And I can’t get the idiot to stop being “in love” with me, no matter how hard I try.

What’s most annoying is that I promised I wouldn’t stop talking to him, otherwise I would’ve gotten him out of my life a long time ago. Unfortunately, I seem to be a woman of my word. So, instead I get to listen while he talks about his exploits with other girls (why he tells me, I don’t know), and talks about how hard his life is, and how many temptations he has to go through, etc, etc, etc. I mean, I’m trying to help him be a better person, but he’s dragging me down in the process.

And he’s too freaking close. He knows too much, and I can’t get away from him. A part of me’s sure it’s my sister all over again.

Tomboy Blues

You know what sucks about being a chick who never stopped being a tomboy? Relationships, to start with.

For instance, two out of three of the guys I’ve had relationships with have called me soft.

Soft.

Not a compliment.

Actually, one of the worst insults I’ve ever gotten, and I’ve had some lulus. I’d rather be heavily scarred than be called soft. Because scars are cool.

The first genius I dated once told me to take off my jacket because he couldn’t see my feminine curves.

Fail.

The last genius I dated thought it was funny and flirty to poke and tickle me. He laughed during our resulting battles, when I was trying my hardest to give him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget.

Tickling isn’t flirting. It’s war.

Second problem: clothes. I wear guy’s clothes more often than not. It’s more comfortable, practical, the pockets can hold more, and there isn’t a trace of pink, sparkles, flowers or hearts in sight. Bet you can guess how often I get asked on dates. Even though, you know, I’m freakin’ gorgeous, and I look good in everything I wear.

Third, people have assumed that I’m a lesbian. Sorry, but guys are way too hot for me to even think about it.

I know, I know. I have issues. I still go through days where I wish I’d been born a boy. Well, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be the Bella Swan or Princess Aurora or even Galadriel. I’d much rather be Indiana Jones!