Lavinia is back after a long absence and we are all glad to see her up and writing again. Lavinia and I are two different types of women, to be sure, but there is something beguiling about her posts, about luxuries that I know little about. She's unabashedly feminine. I'm a woman, but that fact has always come in somewhere after all the other adjectives in my life. I work at Tim's side. I'm a mom. Now I'm a student. I'm a writer. I guess that I have to say that out loud, although every time somebody refers to me as the writer, well, it makes me laugh a little. I'm the cook, and the house cleaner, and the world traveler who travels via the New York Times and blogs. I will tell you a secret. I have never spent a lot of money on myself. It's not only that we don't have it. It's also that I am ashamed to do it. I don't feel 'worth it'. I have never spent a lot of time on myself. It's not just that I don't have it, it's also that it makes me feel guilty about my vanity. My strengths have always been that I am a worker, and that I am smart. I have never spent a lot of time clucking over clothes, or longing for pieces of jewelry. I don't collect teddy bears or dolls. (I do have a pretty nice collection of rocks, and I collect bird figurines). I'm a woman, and I know it, but I've never felt especially feminine, and I've always wondered what that would be like. Sometimes I meet a woman who's confident and the very epitome of feminine, and I wonder what makes a woman that way, why I am not that way, if I could be that way.
Cancer has changed a lot of perceptions about myself. A cancer that appears in the most obvious 'woman parts' makes it kind of hard not to see yourself in a more womanly light. Although I know men who have had breast cancer, the overwhelming majority of us are women. I was encircled by women, supported by them, encouraged by them. As we shared our fears and our concerns and our feelings, I began to see myself in a different light. I discovered that I was one of them. Suddenly, I found that wearing dangly earrings and high heels was a great mood booster. It makes you feel differently about yourself. It makes others see you differently.
Yesterday, getting ready for church, I fussed with the scarf Bush Babe sent me a couple years back. I gave my hair a final approving touch up. My dangley earrings brushed against the sides of my neck as I turned my head to survey my make up. Like I said, cancer has changed me. I find myself spending more time on my appearance, and not feeling ashamed or guilty about it. I primp. I take the time on myself. Not huge amounts of it, because I still don't have it to spare, but I do spend more time on myself. I use scented soaps in the shower, and I have lotions for when I'm done. I spend more time fussing with my hair maybe because I'm so pleased to have hair to fuss with again. So something has changed, and even though I can't really express it, not well, I am a much more feminine woman. I am still all the other adjectives. I'm still what I was, but somehow being a woman is now coming up higher on the list of things that I am than it ever has before in my life. What does this all mean? Shoot. I don't know. I couldn't tell you. All I know is that I really like the way my husband looks at me when I am done, when I walk into the living room to shrug into my long red wool coat. I like his looking a lot.
My Valentine's Day was different than Lavinia's. Tim and I exchanged cards. He bought me a new pair of dangley earrings. (That after we had agreed not to exchange gifts. I had only bought him a package of marshmallow hearts. He loves chocolate covered marshmallows.) We went to church together, we worshiped together, and then we went downstairs to join everybody for soup and pie luncheon. I chattered with a bunch of women at the table as Tim and Rod talked about rentals. When we were done, we came home for a moment to get the dog out, and then headed out again, to drop off a valentine. To take scholarship information to my sister. We drove through the snow, big swirling flakes of it, and Tim and I talked easily and comfortably, sometimes holding hands. When we got home, the smell of chicken filled the air, and I fixed pasta to go with it, and garlic bread. We had a quiet supper and then sat on the couch together watching 'Camilla'. And then we headed to bed and lay talking in the dark until someone fell asleep first. I cannot tell you who that was, actually. It was a very nice day, and as recipes for romance go, I think that it is a good one.