My Hate/Hate Relationship With the Term “Lady”

This blog post has been brewing ever since the time I was four years old and couldn’t stop donning a black sweater with stitched pickup trucks. I think my grandfather didn’t realize he wandered in to the little boys section of the department store or maybe he just couldn’t see that those were trucks on the sweater. Or maybe he just didn’t care. Either way, this clothing item became a prized possession on my teeny tiny kindergarten body. And thus began my struggle with gender norms. Or something like that.

I took a women’s studies course during my freshman year of college and anyone who has taken a women’s studies course knows feminism and all that just freaks people out. I spent a greater part of the semester feeling terrible for the one guy in our class who always came late and ate Subway while simultaneously wondering why the hell bell hooks didn’t capitalize her name. So, I’d rather not write some thesis with feminism as the backdrop. I’d rather just speak freely. Let’s begin.

There are two recent distinct instances where I was called a “lady.” One was about a month ago when I was sitting in the hair salon with a gaggle of giggling girls. Hot Chicago Man was standing in the doorway and the girls weren’t too discreet about commenting on the silhouette of his package. I laughed awkwardly because everything I do is awkward. On my way out, HCM commented that I was “Such a lady. Wow, such a lady.” Ok, dude. I guess.

The second instance was not too long ago while I nursed a beer with a male friend of mine. Because I am not one to quickly imbibe any form of alcohol thanks to an acute awareness of my light weightedness, I guess this read as code for being a “lady.” “Wow, you drink like a lady. That’s good,” he commented.

Both instances stand out because 1) I don’t exactly think of myself as a lady and 2) I think most people realize that and would agree with me. I don’t know what being a lady is. I don’t know where it begins and where it ends. But, I do know if you were to look it up in a dictionary, a photograph of Tyece probably wouldn’t be anywhere in sight. In fact, I’ve been told (and would also agree) that I emit really masculine and ballsy energy which has a tendency to make guys want to pee in their pants and run away. So much for my blossoming dating life. Every now and again, I try to soften up and do some cliche shit like “Let a man be a man.” But, my ability to string a sentence together coupled with an affinity for dropping F bombs doesn’t exactly make me the most dainty being on the planet.

Yes, I like to wear heels. I like to wear dresses. I like to be complimented on my eyes or my smile or my legs. I am not above that shallow feminine shit. Beyond that, I don’t think I’m fitting the lady bill. If there’s anything I’m aware of, it’s that I’m a conglomeration of wit and damage and idiosyncrasies. I am an unpredictable missile. I am not easy to love. While most people neatly peel their life layers, one by one, until they are confidently standing there naked and unvarnished, I do the opposite. I wrangle them off like a four year old abandoning a wet swim suit. I shed my layers rapidly and toss them in a corner like pre sex panties. I yank them off as though they are burlap scratching my skin to the point of near insanity and all I want is for someone to see me without my clothed perfection.

I speak too freely. I think colorful lace bras are a sin against functional clothing. I can probably cook 3-4 decent meals and I probably only cook them 3-4 times a month. I have a difficult time pouring liquids without spilling them; gravity is not exactly a friend of mine. I’m a hard layer of experiences and doubts, successes and failures, peaks and valleys. But you crack that layer, and I am soft. And vulnerable. And permeable. But, a lady? A lady I am not.

Maybe it’s like one of my friends said: “You just are.” Maybe I don’t need to be a lady or not be a lady. Maybe I just am.



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