The term femininity has a variety of implications.

I’m not talking about gender identity, feminism, or the word’s obnoxious pronunciation, but the role femininity has played in my upbringing and now my marriage.

If you grew up in a southern home, you’ll know what I’m talking about. “Absolutely not, young lady” and “that’s not ladylike” were just a few of the dreadful expressions that were thrown around. Even reading the word ladylike on my screen makes me cringe. This particular, ambiguous adjective is almost painful.

I’ve already explained in detail the role that my three older brothers played in my social and emotional development. They were never required to be ladylike, a deep-rooted point of resentment.

During my last year at Baylor University, I even spent a semester researching and writing about the effects that sibling gender ratio has on one’s social development. There hasn’t been a ton of research done on the topic, and if I had any desire to go back to school, I would probably spend my time on topics like these because of the dramatic effect it’s had on my life.

Zach grew up in a female-dominated family. We were opposites in a lot of ways because of this. Feelings and emotions were validated in his family, in mine, you sucked it up or you’d get made fun of- one of the better examples.

I wouldn’t call myself ladylike simply on principle. I’m not impolite, but I frequently forget how to sit when I’m wearing a skirt. I’m not masculine, but I don’t like wearing makeup or high heels. And occasionally I chew with my mouth open. My dad used to ask me what the difference was between a teenager chewing gum and a cow chewing its cud, to which I’d systematically respond “nothing,” fully aware of what he was implying.

So what I’m discovering is this: my husband is a fan of femininity. Who knew?

I recently went to buy makeup, and he took the opportunity to tell me exactly that. Zach is a wise man, and I’m sure he already thought about my potential reaction to any plea for more ladylike.

I truly do give my mother props for instilling the feminine qualities in me that she did. She had a lot of forces working against her. I am completely aware that it was nothing short of a twenty-year-long, uphill battle.

But if the seven-year-old version of me could see the way I cry during sentimental television shows, she’d probably kick me in the shin.