A friend of mine just found out that her breast cancer is back. It’s not life-threatening at this point, but it is life-impacting. She writes long, lovely letters to me, and it’s one of the things I most treasure about our friendship. She doesn’t vicariously watch my life on Facebook, she interacts with me in an old-fashioned, lovely way. It is slow and sometimes infrequent, but I love it when I see her name in my inbox. She is single like me, and her thoughts turn at this time to the loss of her femininity because she may lose a breast this time around along with her hair. It’s an unfortunate reality that men are more attracted to women that have all of their parts. If there’s already a connection, it may not make a difference, but all of us girls know the pain of not being visually acceptable.
When I first met you – and I don’t know that I even remember how I met you – you struck me as one of the most feminine and lovely women I’d ever met. And, even though we’ve gone through tough times in our friendship and loads of time, I still think that about you.
The first time I went over to your home I was so impressed. It was one of the few homes I’d ever seen that was owned by a woman, and it was feminine and pretty and quaint. Your kitchen was always full of wonderful smells, and you were always generous and gracious with your hospitality. I met you at a time when I needed a role model to be single, and you were a great one. You taught me that even on a single woman’s budget, I could make a home, and I could make one that was truly special.
I have watched as over the years you have dated and been disappointed with love. It’s difficult at our age to put yourself out there and continue to be hopeful but not desperate. I’ve seen you cull out the worst and give it a try with the better apples in the bunch. You always stayed strong and true to yourself. You expressed your anger, and you released your sadness. You’ve never settled for less than you deserve. You always seem to be grounded in the fact that you are a force to be reckoned with. You don’t need a partner by your side to get involved in community, travel to wonderful places or try new hobbies. You are a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore. I know that sometimes that’s a hollow compliment. It was not the life we wanted. It was the life we were given.
I cannot imagine what you are going through with your cancer. You got through this once and now it’s greeting you again with its wretched insistence of tripping you up and stealing your womanhood. I am not going to minimize the impact that the loss of a breast might have on you. You already know how to keep your chin up and survive. I don’t need to tell you that. But, I will tell you that – in my eyes – a breast is only an outward expression of femininity.
For most of my life, I hated pink. I never understood the feminine girls who liked it. I was a tomboy, and I wanted nothing to do with the powerlessness of the powder puff pink that signified girliness. I equated femininity with weakness. I equated it to being second-rate to the male gender and of being soft. Just today I was telling my boss about my relationship with pink. I – standing there in my pink and black dress – told her how I hated it until I went to a Woman Within workshop where the volunteers were doused in pink. I thought I was at a fucking Mary Kay convention, and I wanted to bolt. I wanted to spend my weekend trying to find the power to break loose from a destructive relationship, and I certainly didn’t need to become girl-like. I needed to put my warrior on and leave my weakness behind. It took years before I was able to step into my feminine power and proclaim my proper place in the world. I backed down and came up fighting many a time. But, it was my femininity that drove me to seek out powerful women who were making their own way for support. It was my softness that allowed me to touch the deepest part of myself and mother it with loving kindness until it blossomed like a vibrant pink rose. A couple of years after my workshop, I found myself buying pink clothing. I was compelled to buy a hot pink purse. Pink and black began to feel like power colors. The acceptance of ‘pink’ mirrored the realization that feminine power came from inside my soul. It had nothing to do with whether I was a woman or not.
You knew all of that all along. I don’t know if you will ever have a partner just as I don’t know if I will. But I know that your life will always be filled with women who long to be in your presence. I know that you touched my life and inspired me to have a full life whether I was in a relationship or not. You inspired me to create beauty in my life regardless of my budget. You inspired me to walk with my head held high, change my name if I wanted to – just because I wanted to – and to be a creative feminine force in the world.
You may end up with a single boob and no hair in the next few months. Here’s hoping you don’t. But if you do, I know that the feminine goddess within you will rise to the occasion, and your femininity will explode through your being. Your body – and your wounds – will be invisible to anyone that is truly attracted to the feminine. Because femininity is not flesh and bone. It is an energy and a force that cannot be denied or contained in an earthly package. Salma Hayek is quoted as saying, “I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do.” I say it’s hard to find a man with the balls of a woman who has been tested by the fire. We aren’t born that way. We are made. And, you, my friend, are up to the task before you. Just be soft and kind and gentle to yourself during this time. Feel your feelings. Femininity is stoked over a low, gentle flame. You’ve got this. And the rest of us pink ladies will be right here by your side cheering you on.