(not) Working It

There is a cost to hiding.

When I am wearing my pretty clothes, I need to figure out, for example, how to go out and grab the paper. Mowing the lawn, well, that takes going back into hiding.

And this isn’t just around the neighborhood. Too many employees around the women’s room in Wal-Mart? Look elsewhere.

No wonder I find it much easier to go around in the world in hiding. No wonder so damn many of us find it easier to go around the world in hiding, either as the gender assigned, or in an attempt to perfect presentation.

The cost of stigma is high. If a woman my age goes out in something less than flattering, something that doesn’t conceal her flaws, well, she just looks like a woman. If I go out in something less than flattering, well, then I can easily look like a man, and more, a man acting shamefully, a man acting out of control, a man who shouldn’t show that in public.

When you feel you are already living on the edge, it’s very tempting to play small, to try and minimize risk by hiding.

But that hiding has a price.

This week I have been reminded that one of those prices is the cost of not getting important work done, because you shrink from the engagement and conflict it takes to make it happen.

This was one lovely thing about SCC. You were just out, anyway, and that was OK, so you could concentrate on the work rather than on navigating the stigma.

Normative people don’t worry about this. A friend was concerned, worked hard to conceal the scar from her heart bypass surgery when she wore a dress. Another friend, born female, told her that she was silly to worry, and showed her scar where it lay in plain sight at her neckline. On the cover of Sick Girl, Amy Sliverstein shows her heart bypass scar proudly, and writes about all that scar signifies.

But we worry. We are trained to hide, and that hiding has a cost that cripples us.

I think this is what TBB recognized when she was in the front row at that concert last night. Sure she wanted to be pretty and sweet and normative appearing when she was with her galpals, but if she didn’t stand up and challenge that weatherman, who would?

You can’t both hide and work it proudly. Hiding has a cost.  And to overthinkers like me, who hold the gift of carrying history with us, that cost can be high.

And I, still hiding, am getting sick of it.

But as Rachel would happily remind me, being sick of sickness is never sick.

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