These days, the phrase “becoming a woman” brings up a whole range of ideas absolutely brand new in the history of the human imagination. I’m referring, of course, to the idea that a man can “become a woman” simply by denying his male nature and bodily reality.
But this very phrase has been much on my mind lately. For the past few months, I’ve been watching someone I love become a woman — and this in the very real, biological sense.
My youngest daughter is growing up. She is no longer, physically, a child. In times past and in most cultures, she’d be readying for her own adult life: wife and mother of her own family.
In our modern age, she is only entering what is sure to be a long adolescence, a life phase that is also new in human history. In any case, it’s a difficult process, this natural “becoming,” and my heart is filled with an aching tenderness, watching her.
In childhood a girl lives for years oblivious of what lies just around the corner. If she is very fortunate, she is protected by her mother and father like a hothouse flower as she grows. She is kept safe not only from ugly realities but even of their mention.
Her innocence, the purity of her clean mind, are shielded from the scandals that plague humanity — the mess of sexuality untethered from true love of the “other” and the way men and women use one another remorselessly, to get ahead or just to feel OK.
How many times, as parents, have we shushed one another, or a friend, when we knew that the girl with the seashell ears was nearby? She was not to know, not yet, that people don’t keep their solemn vows, or that they are capable of ending the life of their own son or daughter for the simple crime of being inconvenient or unexpected.
And then it happens — the becoming.
The outside changes first, and girls start to hunch when they used to stand tall and sword-straight. They are embarrassed by their breasts, and disconcerted by the glances that slide down from their faces to their chests. This had never happened to them before.
Then the inside changes and the indignity begins. That first trembling phone call to mother from school: “Come and get me, Mami!” and the trip down that aisle in the pharmacy, eyes shifting furtively, hoping that no one she knows is watching.
The cyclic pains begin, and also the terrible embarrassment at the inevitable accidents and contretemps. It feels like a betrayal on the part of one’s body, a body that one was comfortable with, and could trust.
Mother’s insistence that it’s natural and good, that this is the way God prepares us for our most spectacular womanly feat — the carrying of a beloved child within us — does not begin to console.
This process I’ve described is only the very beginning of “becoming a woman.” There is so much ahead that is difficult that a mother cringes to think of it. The little hothouse flower will have to learn to bloom where she is planted, whether that be scorching desert or teeming jungle.
It is very likely that she will be taken for granted just when she is most vulnerable, and that her innocence will be squashed unceremoniously, and painfully. She will be judged strictly on her appearance, and how closely it matches with whatever unreachable standard of beauty is in vogue.
The lovely girl will likely spend years thinking she is graceless and ugly. If she is again, very, very fortunate, and her child training has been excellent, she will not take herself at the world’s valuation. She will know that she was raised like a princess because she is one — a daughter of the divine King himself.
Nothing but knowledge of that fact can protect her from the ignoble plans the world has for her. Because even a loving mother and father can’t walk with her everywhere to fight off dragons.
I started off by talking of men “becoming women.” You see, I’ve been feeling resentful. Watching my little girl inevitably, inexorably, start her own difficult “becoming,” my soul is stirred with pity.
We ought to have a culture that treasures and protects these vulnerable, budding women during their difficult transition, that “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.” But we don’t. Instead, we have a coarse and deluded culture that pretends to find womanhood where it doesn’t exist, and at the same time does its best to stain the delicate purities that are our daughters.
“Becoming a woman” is hard to do, and for a mother who knows just what is in store, hard to watch. But, unlike the false “becoming” of a man who denies his very real self, it is a natural process that takes the girl-child to graceful womanhood with all its beautiful possibilities.
My daughter and I are getting used to living in this time of transformation, and I, for one, am starting to look forward with great eagerness to the woman she is becoming.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, coming to the U.S. at the age of 11. She has written for USA TODAY, National Review, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, Telemundo, Fox News and EWTN. She practices radiology in the Miami area, where she lives with her husband and five children.
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