In a physical sense, true awareness of what it was like to be a woman sprouted from various experiences beginning puberty. Like when I was told to avoid wearing spaghetti straps despite me liking the outfit because it was ‘too revealing’ making me self-conscious of my body from then on. Or when I felt weird with having bigger hips compared to some of my friends who can wear shorts without a care. Or when I felt confused that I needed to wear a bra where my first experience of wearing one was one of the most uncomfortable, to the point where I felt the need to cover the hooks with tissue paper. All these might be relevant to some, while obscure to some. But ultimately, at least for me, or so far, the epitome of being a woman was after experiencing my first menstruation.
After a false alarm a year before my actual first, the daunting realization that I would have to wear an additional piece in my outfit or that I could get pregnant haunted me. At that time, I felt that the confirmation of being a woman was weird considering how other women seemed fresh and put-together. The first two days were the worst as I did not have a clue as to how I would adapt to this new experience. I needed to be a little more conscious of my actions because I met get ‘tagos’ which I did get anyway because I had no clue as to when I would change. But come third day, after being quite adjusted to the feeling, it felt relieving to know that it was the body’s way of releasing the dirt inside my body. I guess that fact made me feel ‘okay’ with having my ‘buwanang dalaw’ knowing that it is a form of cleansing. I was honestly awed that it stopped after the fifth day because it felt like it would not, days before. Now that I think about my first time, coupled with extreme hunger or loss of appetite, occasional abdominal pain, and extreme laziness, I am relieved to have quite adjusted to the whirlwind of feelings and accepted after realizing that I am not alone. This bodily experience is an uncomfortable yet enlightening confirmation of my womanhood.
While the blood that is released every month is a reminder of me being a woman, I never truly reflected as to what I really am in terms of my body. Usually, the question of my identity is asked in the context of my personality, abilities, achievements – all intangible things that matter more than the tangible ones, or so they say. While I do pay attention to my physical body in terms of my health and fitness, I see it as a mere beholder of the spirit or soul or the things mentioned above which makes you who you really are. After watching the film, Her, the importance of the body reminded me of its increasing irrelevance due to the various alternatives or alterations brought by the advancing technology. While I take for granted my body and its capabilities, some might feel the need to alter their own to be designated as another. Some might even have no control of what happens to their body constrained by the decisions of others. The discussion on the sexualization of the women in advertisements reinforces the question as to the view of others on a woman’s body. These things are what I have realized in reflecting my identity in relation to my body. While nature controls what happens in an anatomical sense, I am able to control what happens to my body – how I look, what I do, and why I do it. Somehow, my body reflects the choices I have made whether pressured by society or by myself. When it comes to womanhood, the determination of such through one’s body may not present a rigid answer as it did before. However, if you were to ask me based on my monthly cycle, the contrasting experience brought by such somehow suffices my being.