In Israel I kept walking past a photo of Golda Meir. A photo of her with a slight grin, taking time out, I suppose, to ponder the world. Every time I saw the photo I stared at it. It resonated with me, not because she was the first female prime minister of Israel, though that’s what makes the photo poignant. In this particular photo, Golda Meir’s hair is pulled back and she is smoking a cigarette.
Golda Meir governed an entire nation and she smoked with a plain head of hair. For many women, appearance and expectations are everything. A man in our lives is the pinnacle of completion, and too often the opinions of others override our own gut instincts and happiness.
Expectations driven by race and gender norms shape our lives. Instead of following our dreams and finding ourselves, we do what everyone else has done out of fear of being ostracized. But one day I asked myself, what would life be like without the chains of expectations … expectations that had nothing to do with me? What if instead of shrinking, I expanded beyond those illusions? I asked and I put one foot in front of the other, no longer taking into consideration the wheelhouse of other people’s opinions and expectations of my race or gender. The truth is, it’s not easy, but I’m a freer woman for it. Free to have plain hair and a cigarette while I create my place in this world.
Patrice Worthy is a correspondent for the Atlanta Jewish Times who recently returned from Israel.