I was startled in the bathroom the other day, having just stepped out of the shower and finding myself standing face-to-face with a person. And this person looked like me, as if she was making desperate attempts to be this girl I'm sure I am.
Of course, my first thoughts were to judge the bits of her that were giving into gravity, or life even. I couldn't help but notice the places on her skin that weren't so even any more, and especially those stretch marks spidering underneath her belly and around her hips like a permanent, suffocating hug that isn't wanted but must be endured. The lines of her figure were womanlike underneath, but each curve also seemed to possess a curve of its own, like femininity adding on and on and on like the awkward sunroom addition on the back of an old house.
I watched her closely as she moved with me, smearing on all those creams and lotions and pulling thoroughly through tangles in her hair, all steps in a seemingly failed beauty routine. I watched her sad smile as she did all those things, so aware that all her best physical features were being replaced and yet proud of all the change somehow.
And when the process was done and she was as beautiful as she could get right then, she straightened her back and she squared her shoulders and she stared boldly back at me, baring herself bravely, willing me to look on.
In her fierceness, she reminded me of me. She reminded me, too, that where I was expecting to see only a girl, I now have the privilege to see a woman. Every day I can see this woman, stronger than the girl I fancied her to be. She is a woman more capable than the girl I fancied her to be. She is a woman who has seen more and done more and understands more than the girl I fancied her to be.
Suddenly the youth I'd been anticipating seemed an immature thing. The woman before me, though I saw her as battle-scarred, was carrying trophies of all that she'd seen and done and become. She had trophies of living and knowing and creating and giving life.
And realizing that, she told me that there would be more, that the changes would come faster and they would be greater and sometimes harder to swallow. But the point wasn't in preserving what used to be, rather gracefully accepting and even glorifying what everything new about her meant.
So I've quit avoiding her when I see her in the bathroom or the hallway or a dressing room at the store, even though some days it would be easier to. Instead, I smile at her, I embrace her for who she is, I congratulate her on all that she has done and will do.
She's no longer a girl. She is a woman.