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The women who shaped me

Watching a few favourite movies and realizing how the characters helped shape who I am as a woman. This had me looking at a few other women in my life growing up that helped shaped who I am. Have you ever sat and thought about who influenced how you interact with your gender?

My mom is an obvious choice, I spent ALL my formative years with her and she taught me my life skills. From how to interact with people, to core beliefs, to the religion I was raised in. She taught me life skills like cooking, baking, canning, sewing, knitting, shopping, cleaning, etc. I have often thanked my parents for being a great influence on how to love one another (even if annoyed) how to raise strong and independent children in a loving and supportive manner, and how to be kind humans.

I have an aunt whose house we went to each year for Christmas. Roughly 30 to 35 people varying from infants to seniors would all descend on their home for 3 to 5 days. The kids would all play together, sleep in big rooms together, the parents did whatever parents do. They had a large farmhouse and the kids could do almost a day without seeing their parents, felt like freedom and so much fun with all the cousins. The part that helped frame me was the sheer organization of the feeding of the groups. Different families would be different dishes, obviously organized ahead of time. There were always platters of breakfast food on the table when we woke up, those would get cleared after everyone ate, or at a set time. These would be replaced by other trays of snacks like crackers and cheese, baked goods, veggies, fruit, etc. so people could nibble all day. There would be a full lunch, more afternoon snacks and a full dinner. All this planning and the timing of everything was certainly influential on my love of hosting events with ridiculous amounts of menu and timing planning. I love hosting dinners and theme parties that are very organized run quite smoothly.

As many women in my generation I was highly influenced by the show Sex and the City. However I was not influenced into loving Manolo Blahniks or Birkin bags, as a fat woman I don’t fit into the current high fashion world and am very ok with that. The influence I took from it was women of different personalities and how they existed in relationships and careers in a male dominated world. 

Samantha and her no nonsense ‘I will live and fuck for myself and no one else’ attitude. Prioritizing herself and her needs over all else occasionally backfired, but ultimately she knew how to be loud and proud with who she was. I took this as a wonderful way to live and work at it every day. I have struggled most of my life to prioritize myself and my needs and it is an ongoing challenge every day. I look back to the end of the first Sex and the City movie where Samantha is leaving Smith Jarod and she says “ I love you, but I love me more” The thing we aren’t supposed to say but sometimes we need to.

I was also inspired and influenced by the determination and strength of Mirandas character in Sex and the City, particularly in a male driven career industry. She was viewed as cold and demanding but in actuality she was strong and determined to be recognized for her skill. She was overlooked at the office, judged when she took time to be parent, and spoken over by her bosses. She knew her worth and wasn’t afraid of being judged as cold or cruel in order to get what she deserved. This inspired me to stay focused on my goals and not to be afraid of what others thought of me.

I have an aunt I was very close to when I was a teenager and we were involved in our church a lot. She went through a divorce, sort of went off on her own for a bit, married an idiot, came back into the family, thankfully he didn’t last all that long and they divorced. This aunt was a great inspiration over the next few years. She was in great debt and not a great space when she split from husband 2. She worked very hard to live in a way to get out of debt and get back in control of her life, she worked hard to rebuild her relationship with her 2 daughters. Her resilience to get to the life she wanted to have showed me that no matter how down things can be, you can pull yourself out and up. She now has a wonderful partner, owns a home, has a vacation space, is healthy, and a wonderful giving person.

There is a character in a favourite movie of mine that reminds me of my resilient aunt. Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun was told by her husband that he wanted a divorce and to keep their home. She then went on a vacation to Italy and while there she fell in love with a house called Bramasole. She buys it on a whim and moves to Italy to undertake renovating this home. She was inspiring as when she was sad and down she made a huge choice and rebuilt a life for herself in a spectacular place. She created a community and got the house she wanted. I dream of moving to Italy and creating a life there, but without the heartbreak ideally.

My paternal grandmother is such a wonderful example of a true Christian, a kind human and someone who can see the good in everyone. Her ability to open herself to others perspectives and trying to understand why people behave less than ideally. Her compassion and ability to spend time with people who have different views than her is a great example that it’s possible. This didn’t mean she was a pushover, she has no problem speaking her mind in a kind way and establishing boundaries around what she will and will not discuss, while still be willing to spend time with people. Her ability to love people no matter what was a great example of her Christianity and belief in how Jesus loves. She has always been a wonderful woman and I learned compassion and acceptance from her.

Another character that really informed a specific part of myself was Kat from 10 things I hate about you. She had been hurt by a man and it turned her quite cold and unapproachable.

This isn’t what inspired me, but through this she was able to walk away from being the demure, placid, pliable, woman society expected her to be. She prioritized herself and did nothing simply because others expected it of her. 

She didn’t just giggle and play along trying to be desirable, in fact at one point when a man says she has probably thought of him naked her response is “I want you, I need you, oh baby, oh baby” in a dry sarcastic tone while rolling her eyes. She helped me be aware of the entitlement of men in the world and how, not only do I not have to stand for it, but can fight it and still be an amazing woman.

I have an incredible set of aunts who have been deeply influential on how I own who I am in life. They are true to themselves, followed their dreams to create the life and home they love. They are both such wise women who are happy to share their lifetime collection of knowledge to anyone who wants to learn and share in similar interests. They have always been generous in opening their home and lives for visits and vacations. One of the most powerful ways they have influenced me is their comfort in being unapologetically who they are. They have a taste for quality and expect a certain standard when paying for higher priced items. I love them for not apologizing for this, for being who they are and I use this as a wonderful example on how I can live this way.

I am grateful for all these women, real and imagined/written. They gave me examples of how to be a woman in todays world and society. They also inspired me to be the very specific, non conforming, powerful, fucking the societal boxes, independant, outspoken woman I am so damn proud to be!

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