Girl, You’ll Be Womanly Soon

(or Soft, Ladylike, and Matronly, According to the Synonym Finder)

For the past month I have been rewriting last year’s NaNoWriMo project, since an editor I pitched to at the LERA conference I attended in November expressed interest my manuscript.

Yeah, I’m kinda doing this:

The thing with revisions is that, unlike the unfettered pouring of creativity that happens during NaNoWriMo, when I come to a word that just isn’t right, or that I’ve already used two times in the last two paragraphs, I can’t just say I’ll fix it later and move on.

Now is the time I got to fix it.

I was working on this scene where the protagonist is trying on her first pair of sexy, grownup shoes. I needed some words to describe how she felt while trying on the sexy, grownup shoes, words other than “sexy” and “grown” because I had already used them. More than once.

Pulling out my Synonym Finder, I looked up “womanly,” thinking that would be a good place to start.

Silly me.

Here’s a sampling of synonyms for womanly.

  • womanlike (kind of the same as womanly, but sounds clumsy)
  • muliebral (what the fuck does that mean?)
  • gynecoid (ditto)
  • matronly (yeah, not what I was going for)
  • soft (nope)
  • delicate (double nope)

Then, just for kicks, I looked up manly.

  • masculine, male, manful (okay, comparable to womanlike only three times as many)
  • virile
  • potent
  • strong
  • powerful
  • mighty
  • athletic
  • bold
  • courageous
  • daring
  • audacious

You get the picture. The synonyms for manly are more varied, more plentiful, and a hell of a lot more flattering than the ones for womanly.

I tried the same comparison for feminine . . .

  • soft
  • lady-like
  • submissive
  • docile
  • deferential

. . . and masculine.

  • manly
  • robust
  • muscular
  • energetic
  • lusty (oh, heaven forbid lusty be associated with feminine)
  • bold
  • dynamic
  • brave

and on and on and on.

But I wanted a word to describe this feeling.

What kind of bullshit is this? I was looking for words that I had come to associate with some of my favorite female pop culture, social, and entertainment icons such as Xena, Nikita, and Jessica Jones, and Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, and Gloria Steinem.

The Synonym Finder didn’t help me out with that at all. Not at all. Except to offer a clear illustration of the historical devaluation of women. It’s enough to create a complex about women’s worth and wonderfulness.

So what words did I finally use to describe my female protagonist’s emotions?

A combination of slang, and a reference to a Prince song.

Which, actually, kind of makes a lot of sense.

P.S. Muliebral, or muliebrity as found in the dictionary, means “femininity,” and gynecoid means “typical or characteristic of the human female.”

Yeah, I won’t be using either of those words in a sentence in my novel anytime soon. Or, ever.

gif source: GIPHY.COM

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