Hello all! I’ve been maintaining radio silence for a week or so, as life has been pretty busy. For a start, it was my birthday - meaning that I spent some time travelling around, seeing family and friends, getting my hair done, painting my nails and generally having a nice time. I’m now 28, and as my little sister is fond of pointing out, this makes me two years off 30. She likes to tease me, so I pretend to mind.
The other day a few friends and I were discussing when exactly we should appropriate the term ‘woman’ for ourselves instead of ‘girl’. I think we were talking about the HBO series Girls, which we all enjoy watching – possibly at least partly because we are now older than Lena Dunham’s characters and (hopefully) ever so slightly more ‘together’. Yet we were unsure about this term ‘woman’. Could we honestly say that we felt that different from our younger selves? And come to think of it, is there that much of a difference between ‘girl’ and ‘woman’? Does it depend on who uses it?
I don’t think we came to any significant conclusions about this, but the general consensus seemed to be that we felt that we should be able to use ‘woman’ but that we’d also like some sort of external confirmation that we qualified! Many of us are in our late twenties and early thirties and we still have trouble definining ourselves – and I think that this will probably continue all through our lives (at this point a friend said ‘There aren’t really any grown-ups! There are just kids who’ve got older!’). I don’t think we should take ourselves too seriously (we have far too much fun being silly!) but at the same time, I have started to feel like I should take ownership of ‘woman’. I’m not a teenager; I’m not in extended adolescence just because I’m a postgraduate research student (anyone who’s ever been a PGR will know what it’s like to come up against that attitude!). I’m at an early stage of my career, I don’t have children, but I have a life and a partner and a cat and we have a home. It’s not a permanent residence, but neither is it temporary – and it’s certainly not a ‘student house’ in the model of, say, The Young Ones. Like many other writers and academics, I spend a lot of time reading – and watching box sets.
Oh yes, the box set. A while ago I read in the Times Higher Education magazine that boxsets were particularly appealing to academics as tools for switching off after a hard day’s work at the University.
And thinking about definitions of girlhood and womanhood, one of my favourite TV series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which has its own Wiki page. I have discovered Buffy relatively late. When it was first on TV I was a young teenager, and for some reason or other – possibly because I wasn’t in charge of the TV, or I was doing homework or having piano lessons – I didn’t watch it. So this past year or so I’ve been making up for that particular gap in my education, and working my way through the collected box set. It’s fabulous.
Firstly, you have a heroine who is pretty, gutsy and saves the world regularly. Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar at her finest) is small and strong and fierce. She is intellectually and emotionally independent, and she kicks ass. She is also unapologetically feminine – even though those nineties fashions are sometimes far too close to the bone for my liking (cropped tie-dye t-shirt, anyone?). And Buffy fights the forces of darkness with a combination of martial arts and kickboxing.
Recently, my friend Laura and I have taken up kickboxing fitness at our gym. Every Sunday, we go to a class run by Gareth, of Peake PT. He’s brilliant – and oh, so patient with us. Because while in our heads we think we look like this…
We actually look like this…
(I didn’t have a photograph of us kickboxing, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!).
Laura and I have been improving steadily, and we quite enjoy kicking and punching each other. We are getting fitter and stronger, and we often go for tea and cake afterwards. I think a significant part of womanhood involves using and accepting your body in all its strength. So we’re going to continue channelling Buffy, and start calling ourselves women.