Damali Elliott, the young entrepreneur behind Petals-N-Belles, an organization dedicated to the mentorship and guidance of young woman said,
“There’s a point for [boys] when they’ve ‘reached manhood’ and can say, “I’m a man.” There’s no definitive moment where a girl becomes a woman. Except a Sweet Sixteen which isn’t really womanhood. I think that’s something that needs to change. We need to teach girls that there are times when you have to become more serious about things. How to handle yourself in business. How to present yourself, just in general. Women stay in remedial positions and seem to accept that. They don’t reach for anything higher. No one really ever says, “You’re a woman, go for it! I want to help my girls [in Petals-N-Belles] to make decisions that will prepare them for that transition.”
I agree with that sentiment immensely. In observing girls, women my own age and even myself nowadays, the general consensus among many young women (black or otherwise) seems to be that in order to be a “grown woman” you need to have a few ideas of your own, any amount of income (stable or not) and a “relationship.” It’s funny to me because I never thought of myself as “grown” until I reached college, living outside of my mother’s household, making many more of my own decisions than I ever had to before. But looking back on those college years, I can see how ill-equipped I really was to deal with love, life and all the intricate matters in between. I thought I had it TO-GE-THER, honey. But I couldn’t balance a checkbook, had low self-esteem, didn’t know what my capabilities were in life, and had issues that prevented me from being functional within a relationship. I was a hot mess, but I thought I was “grown” and was just glad to be living on my own. Hmph. Life sure taught me a thing or two.
It’s fair to say our vision has been skewed, perhaps by the lack of examples. Or maybe society’s about-face toward materialism has stifled the standard that once was. There was a dignity and class about women back in the day that is absolutely RARE today. But perhaps it’s time to redefine what “grown” looks like and hop on the good foot to get back to it.
“Grown” has nothing to do with having your own place or engaging in sexual intercourse. “Grown” isn’t contained in how many men can buy you gifts and how many clubs you can bounce around to within a week’s time, or simply how many bills you pay and that you pay rent on a little somethin’ somethin’. “Grown” is a much more internal thing that can’t help but to be manifested outwardly. If you know your worth, that’s where it all begins. If you know and accept your responsibilities, that’s another step on the continuum.
I can’t allow my home to go lacking so I can purchase this season’s Louboutins. That’s not a “grown woman.” I can’t watch every trash reality show and comment on each character but refuse to find the time or will to finish my degree. That’s not a “grown woman.” So many young ladies whom I have mentored within past years have had grand ideas and flowing declarations of what they were going to do with their lives and also what they refused to do. I had to sit back in awe as I recognized so much of my younger self in them–a lot of brass but little brain to back it up. Becoming a “grown woman” demands that we count up the cost, get our ducks in a row, think ahead, be prepared, do the little extra, because in its very essence, that’s what it means to be a good woman, a GROWN woman. Grown women do what they can where they are even when they DON’T FEEL LIKE IT and they work to become whatever they need/want to become. We revel in our femininity but do not use it to seduce. We nurture and cultivate. We know and uphold our priorities. We go the extra mile and enjoy a few pleasures as a reward for their efforts. We choose the road less traveled when we’ve reached true “grown woman” status because we know that our lives are unique and we need to shine a light for those who come after us.
What constitutes a “grown woman” to you? How has your perspective changed through the years?
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.