The antebellum period was the era before the American Civil War. At least, that's the official definition of it. I have a different definition, AND a different spelling.
I am in my own personal "Anti Belle"-um period. I have lived my entire life trying to be the person that someone else wanted me to be. My mother and grandmother used the term "being a lady" so much when I was very young that I got it all confused with my potty training and until I was five years old, if we were in public and I needed to pee, I would tug my mother's sleeve and tell her I had to "go be a lady." I was filled with warnings and admonitions of what a lady did and didn't, would and wouldn't do. (Wetting your pants was then, and I assume is still, one of the things on the "don't do" list). One of my mother's pet phrases that she could use out in public was "my little Southern Belle." She was so disappointed that I grew up wanting suspenders instead of ruffles and preferred barefoot to teetering heels. I tried, but some things even I couldn't do. I pushed my little square peg of a self into the round hole as much as possible, but there was a little bit too much of me to fit.
I was always chided when I was too loud or too quiet, if my jokes were too off color. My skirts couldn't be too short, my hair couldn't be too long and my choices of boyfriends was always too wrong. So, I grew up thinking that being "too much" was a bad thing.
When my life changed recently, once I'd stopped crying (which took a bit. Everyone grieves differently, and I grieve as hard as I love and live. A little "too" much maybe?) I took a good long look at myself. At who I have become, who I thought I would be and who I want to be. So very little of "me" is present in either my outward or my inward appearance. Over the decades, especially this last one, I've lost much of the spark that made me "me." One of my dearest friends and I discuss the fact that the magic has gone from our lives. And it has nothing to do with age itself, it is what life has done to us as we aged. What we allowed it to do. We stood back and watched while the magic died, and inside we grieved while on the outside we still smiled and laughed and lived. And pretended that it was all ok. Because, that's what ladies do.
No more. I am 58 years old. I have no clue who I'm going to be when (if?) I grow up. I have started the journey of self-discovery the same way I have gone after everything else I've ever truly wanted in my life. Looking it straight in the eye and charging ahead. It worked with cancer (twice). It worked with businesses I've begun. It worked with relationships (sort of). The only difference now is that I'm not armed with the warnings and threats and admonitions of husbands, parents, friends or anyone else. Only my own words in my own ears.
"To Thine Own Self Be True." Not my parents, not my grandparents, not my cousins or uncles or aunts. Not my brother or my sister or my pastor or my teachers. Not husbands or lovers or friends. Only "Mine Own Self."
I Want To Meet Me.
I think I'm going to like me. I like the inward changes I've made. They don't show up on the outside yet, but they will. I've joined a gym. I'm expanding new work and social horizons. I'm taking a deep breath and jumping off of docks before I stick a toe in the water. I am jumping on the faith that the water won't be too cold, too deep, or running too quickly. If so, that's ok. I know how to swim.
Little by little, I can feel me changing. Like a fuzzy caterpillar that feels a change going on and prays that it is wings starting to form, I too pray. Because I am ready to fly.
I was very sick of the all-grey look of my hair. Grief turned it almost totally white almost overnight. Certainly in the month between haircuts, it was apparent to my hairdresser and I that things, they were a changing. So, today I got a bit of my natural dark brown woven in among the grey. And in one tiny spot, an almost imperceptible streak of purple. Nothing bold or brassy. A tiny outward display of major inward changes.
I want to do the things I've always wanted to do and didn't because someone else didn't want to, or didn't want me to. I want my body back...the one I had before I let myself go, in what I realize now was likely an attempt to make myself unattractive so no one would notice me and I wouldn't be tempted to cheat.
I want to learn to appreciate good wine. I want to learn how to blow glass. I want to drive across the country. I want to stand on the top of a mountain I've never seen before and yell into the wind that "I made it." (Even if I have to drive there to do it). I want to remember how to dream, and learn how to make them come true. I want to have another man look at me with passion and love in his eyes someday. And I want to return the look. I want to laugh and cry and live.
In a most decidedly "Anti-Belle"-um way.
There's a definite place for Southern Belles. Some of the most wonderful women I know fit that description to a T. But, I don't. And I'm tired of trying to.
My name is Bobbye, I am neither a lady nor a Southern Belle. I am a strong Southern woman, with roots that go deep and wings that can fly me to the stars. Nice to meet you. It's taken me a long time to get here, but I'm glad I came. It was worth putting pants on for.
THAT'S MY STORY
I've never been normal. I've never tried to be. I can't imagine anything more boring.
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