Butterflies, hearts, soft hues of pinks and blues. Visual stimuli that lift my spirit, soothe my soul and quiet my mind. Girly things.

I don’t know how these things became synonymous with ‘girly’ – an insect, a body organ and colours. But society has given them that label none the less. And there they sit in the realm of femininity.

Now there’s a conundrum – ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’? Are they the same? If so, why does one jab at my psyche while the other simply floats by like a fluffy cloud?

Society has published its opinion on “girly girls’. How many have been shamed for their penchant for pink? Or disparaged by the words, “You’re such a ‘girly girl’. I myself have uttered the phrase at various junctures. A girl walking along the beach in stilettos, a woman not joining in an activity in case she broke a nail. But there is a line that needs to be drawn – a pretty pastel pink line – on the extent to which we ridicule ‘girly’ attributes.

It wasn’t until my late forties that I fully accepted and embraced my ‘girliness’– a relative latecomer you could say.  The underground whispers of opinion and judgement had crept into my mind at an early age.

Don’t Be Such a Girl

“Don’t be such a girl.” Those words were always a little confusing. Wasn’t that exactly what I was? Perhaps it was because I hit my teenage years when heavy rock and punk were top of the pops. Girly just wasn’t ‘in’. The rise of feminism was in full swing too. Pink and pretty were the uncool kids left rejected in the corner of the playground.

The seed was well and truly planted. As the glass ceilings began to splinter, girls like me, learnt that to be successful you had to hide those ‘girly’ elements. The slightest whiff of it would imply a lack of intelligence, lack of strength and certainly a lack of any professional credibility.

So, forthwith into life I ploughed, making sure to never admit to being what I was or liking anything that may incriminate me. Giving birth to three boys gave no respite. No excuse to buy pretty frilly dresses or to play dress ups with barbies. The nearest I got to pink was the icing on the Tic-Toc biscuits I used to help teach the boys to tell the time.

For the Love of Butterflies

Now jumping ahead to when I was 47. Divorcing, moving out, and finding my own apartment. The previous six months had been turmoil. To leave or not to leave?  And here I was.  New furniture, new home, new life. Like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon. Drying my wings and preparing to fly. Though my essence was still what it always was, at three years off a half-century, I emerged embracing all things ‘girly’.

White furniture, flowery bedding, turquoise butterfly cushions, pink scented candles, hearts and pretty dragonflies adorned my new space. Pinterest and Instagram provided a never-ending fix of inspirational quotes immersed within pastel pink hues, soft emerald dragonflies fluttering on an array of pink petals. I could get a pink girly fix at the touch of a button.

 Labels and Boxes

As a society, we are learning that labels are often not helpful. But as a society we create them. We like things to fit nicely into boxes. Change is a tiny undercurrent beneath our feet. But just as the sand between our toes has taken millennials to form, so seems the speed at which society learns its lessons.

Gradually, we are starting to reject the rows and rows of only pink toys in the ‘girls’ section. That is progress. It’s great. Boys and girls, both can play with all types of toys, and they can be all types of colours. But let’s not go too far again. Let’s make sure girls are still ‘allowed’ to like all things pink. In fact, while we’re at it, let’s make sure girls and boys can all like pink if they like. Let’s concentrate on letting them be whoever they feel they are, liking whatever they like. Moreover,  let them grow and know from an early age there is no particular box they have to fit into, or label they need to identify with. 

Be Who You Want To Be

Which brings us back to me. I’ve read that ‘girly’ is for under 25’s. That it means you are superficial, you’re not outdoorsy, you’re shallow and an over-the-top stereotypical female. Those are just a few comments I’ve read. Apparently, after 25, you are just ‘feminine’. This makes no sense. Do you see the difficulty with labels and boxes? It’s ludicrous.

We need to just be us. As we are. We need to learn from a young age that we are enough. It needs to be reinforced in school and it needs to be reinforced in society.

Can we be just who we want to be? Fewer judgements, fewer labels and fewer boxes.

So I will continue to like ‘girly’ things, the things that lift my spirit and soothe my soul.  And as one classy woman said before me,

“I believe in Pink” – Audrey Hepburn

… and so do I.

What do you think about the terms ‘girly’, ‘feminine’? What are they? Where you ridiculed for being ‘girly’? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.