Don't Look At Me

When I was younger, I used to hate wearing a ponytail because it made me feel like a boy. I hated going to ballet classes because I became a paradox, a young child who moved gracefully like the wind while I eyed myself in the rehearsal mirror, thinking that I looked like a boy playing in the schoolyard. Any person would say that this is because we are born into a world where gender norms shape the way we perceive beauty, and I have to agree. I think that being separated into two worlds, one where pink is the best color and the other where pink is despised for its femininity, places a lot of barriers between self-expression and performance.

But now I'm 19 and I'm living the college student's dream. I'm surrounded by people who question my beliefs while they re-evaluate their own. Whose identities change every day depending on the people they encounter and the professors they learn from. Sexuality, gender, and so much more suddenly become malleable whereas in the small town where I grew up, we all stayed relatively monotonous.

But at the same time, we are all looking for human connection. For someone to please us in the same way we please them. To have someone thinking of us every second of every day, who will always prioritize our needs before theirs because they love us so much just for who we are.

So tell me: why do the same people who tell me that I have been shaped by gender norms and who tell me to be free and be myself flirt with me like I'm a woman.

I identify as a woman, I will not deny it. But why do they compliment my physical appearance, as if beauty and presentation is the first thing on my mind? And why do they abandon me when I do not reciprocate right away because flirtatiousness is a virtue of a woman? In fact, my friends tell me that I do not flirt enough with the people who express interest in me which is why they run away. I understand that.

But I also understand that my sphere of performing as a woman in everyday life does not include bashfully receiving every man who comes my way.

My independence is what drives me and my identity as an Asian American female. Sure, you can throw in arguments about the model minority and how that is also molding my mentality, but I am trying to focus on the priorities of the society-made woman versus the woman that a lot of us strive to be.

I don't pay enough attention to my gender since my race has always come before. I've never really considered the uncontrollable consequences of the intersections of my identity. But I think that this is the source of some of my wounds, where my emotional life struggles while my academic life soars.

I can't find the right answer that will drive away the players who claim that they don't believe in short term flings but then leave overnight, even without meeting them in-person. I don't know how my self-expression will ever align with the forces of gender expectations that shape the way others navigate me.

The intentionality behind it all isn't matching up with how I hope to be treated. I'm not asking for much, just for a person's patience to rediscover what feminity and power are within my own body and how I present it to others. It's really difficult to shed previous beliefs and to relearn what you thought you knew before. It's literally asking others to shape their reality without any solid tools to guide them.

But gender norms and expectations are having a huge consequence on how we find solace in others if we can't pursue a relationship with our own selves at the same time. We evolve every day - there's no consistency to personality and compatibility.

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