Guest Writers Week | How to Be a Girl in the World

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By Liz Furl

Others may be women, but I still think of myself as a girl. A married girl. A girl with mental health issues. A girl in her t-shirt and skinny jeans and hiking shoes she bought for her honeymoon. A girl wearing aviators she found in the street.

Women are stable creatures, even in their instability. They wear clothing made of linen, and maxi dresses when it gets warm. Their winter coats are made of wool and lined with silk. Their boots are pristine because snow, sleet, and rain haven’t touched them. They carry umbrellas or good shoes in their bags.

Women have taken out their nose rings and a cut and color isn’t a splurge for them. They have healthy nails without dirt beneath them. Their hands and arms aren’t crossed with cat scratches, or knife scratches, or oops-I-fell-down-again scratches.

Women have savings accounts, even if nothing’s in them. Women plan for families, even if they don’t include children. Women have achieved dignity and grace that girls don’t possess.

I’m that girl with dirt under her nails, and I use my canine teeth to get it out. My clothes are made of cotton, unless I’m going for a job interview–then they’re second-hand. My peacoat is dotted with pills and greyed by cat hair. The velvet on my JCPenney boots has worn off.

I’m the girl who just got her nose pierced and wants to Manic Panic her hair purple. Instead of carrying an umbrella, I just get wet. I’ve never been inside a Sephora and all my new clothes come from H&M or my mother’s consignment shop. I wear all of my husband’s old skateboarding sweaters.

I’m the girl who has plenty of scars on her legs from shaving too quickly in the sink. I have a job, but am on disability from it, and hate it besides. More than anything, I’m a writer, but I question the worth of my words every day. I’m questioning these ones now.

My husband is 11 years my senior, and has been where I am. He wants me to wear skirts when I’d rather wear jeans. He tells me writer’s jealousy is unattractive. He questions how often I’m on Twitter. (I’m also the girl who’s constantly tweeting.) He loves me very much.

But I feel like a grown girl, with the bills and responsibilities of a woman, but an imposter trapped inside. Who let me have a credit card? Don’t you know I’ve never read Joyce?

I’m the girl who swims like a frog because she never took lessons. All that kicking seems beside the point. I’m the girl who can cook miraculous things, but has just tasted cottage cheese and doesn’t care for it much. I’m the girl who feels like she repeats herself too many times, that she doesn’t have what it takes, who has nightmares like a child.

To some, on some occasions, I may seem like a woman. I earn money. I get jobs. I have (some limited) wisdom. I landed a man. In those moments, I feel like an imposter, a little girl in her mother’s oversized shoes, pearls hanging too low, lipstick bright and smeared at the lip line.

I once felt like a woman, but whoever she was got lost somewhere. I’m not sure she’s me, or if I care to find her. If my roots show, they show. If there are holes in my clothes, there are holes. If my fabrics are cheap, I don’t apologize.

Eventually, I’ll look in the mirror and see a woman there, but today the reflection is a girl. Not “just” a girl. Not “only” a girl. But a fully-formed, work-in-progress, mending-my-own-pieces girl.

She’s into fashion and good film. She’s read (and loved) Infinite Jest. She’s created a business and breathes life and love into it every day. She’s unhappy and uncertain, but finding a path.

She’s a girl who isn’t spouting excuses or proof, or yearning for some glamorous version of womanhood. She’s putting foot in front of Converse-donned foot.

She’s moving on her way.

Liz graduated from the University of Rochester in 2011 with Honors in Creative Writing and Distinction in English. She currently works as a freelance writer for Rochester Magazine, The Liberty Project, and Ravishly, among other publications. In her free time, you can find her working on her first novel, some vaguely misshapen scarves, and through most of the stacks of the Rochester Public Library. She hopes to one day be a full-time freelance writer, and published novelist. Follow her on Twitter @LizFurl.

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