As a toddler, I was the epitome of a tiny, grown-up lady.
We have so many pictures of little me after I dressed myself: sunhat, dress, covered in play jewelry, perched precariously atop a pair of oversized heels. I would religiously watch my mom put on her makeup and I loved everything about our dressy tea party outings except the tea.
To save lots of little anecdotes, suffice it to say that early on my most noticeable quality was my delicate, feminine nature.
But puberty is a hell of a drug.
There was never any intentional pushback against feminine things, I simply changed. Today, my interest in everyday makeup is nonexistent (apart from a tiny window in my cycle near ovulation), hats look terrible on me, tea has become tolerable, and I only wear dresses because it’s easier than trying to match a shirt and pants.
It’s not fair to say I’ve become a tomboy — I’m far from athletic and I don’t like the standard rough-and-tumble things associated with that word. I’m not a sporty girl, a girly girl, an artsy girl, a hipster girl, an emo girl, or even a tough, biker girl. I’m just…Forest. (Which isn’t even a girl name, for heaven’s sake!)
People around me also seem uncertain which category of “girl” to put me in. I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian an unreasonable number of times and always with weird explanations like, “You don’t talk about boys much,” or “There aren’t very many products in your shower.”
(For those who are wondering, I’m engaged to a handsome young man who, ironically, is frequently mistaken as gay. God just kind of works these things out.)
So, what has this mystery-of-a-human learned about womanhood?
First, it’s not wearing makeup and dresses and being girly — although it can be expressed through that.
It’s not having lots of empty bottles of conditioner in the shower — although that’s not an uncommon sight in the homes of those endowed with this particular type of ingenuity.
It’s not even being good at making girl friends or liking babies.
It’s called “genius” precisely because it’s nothing anyone can try to do.
The very definition of the word emphasizes its intuitive nature: “an exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.”
That’s key. It’s a natural ability with only one prerequisite: to be a woman.
In other words, the feminine genius is intrinsic to every woman — no matter her particular mix of traditionally masculine or feminine tendencies — without her even trying.
In his book Holy Sex, Dr. Greg Popcak drops this helpful explanation: “Being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ refers to living out all of the virtues that make me human through the body God has given me” (48).
The brilliant spark of the soul of every woman is naturally expressed through her body, her personality, and her heart.
The more herself a woman is, the more brilliantly this genius shines forth. And what makes this gift even more incredible is that every woman — no matter her particularities and differences from the next — articulates and gives breath to that same feminine essence.
This essence is identified through fundamental traits which, though present in men, have a very particular expression in the female body and soul. You can find more about that here, but some of the main ones include receptivity, sensitivity and generosity.
It’s not hard to see — just in the female body alone — how effortlessly these are expressed!
Like everything else God created, femininity is simultaneously as collective as womanhood and as particular as each feminine soul. The creator of such a wonderful, mysterious paradox could be nothing less than genius.