The Nebulous Passage Into Womanhood

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The Nebulous Passage Into Womanhood

Credit Charmaine Poh

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For many people, the moment that marks the onset of adulthood can be difficult to pinpoint. The milestone is seldom clear immediately or neatly, and many of us simply come to a point where we realize we are living in adulthood, yet wondering when we actually crossed into it.

This was on Charmaine Poh‘s mind when she found some family photo albums and looked back at images of her grandmother, aunts and other women in her family.

“I began to think about how the roles of women in Singapore had evolved over time and what it means for me as an adult,” Ms. Poh, 27, said. “I thought about the roles expected of me by my family, and the sexism imposed on me by men I had encountered.”

Ms. Poh, who was born and raised in Singapore, decided to pair one of these images with a poem she wrote, which she shared on Facebook:


Charmaine Poh’s aunt, surrounded by children from her neighborhood. Singapore, ca. 1960s.Credit Courtesy of Charmaine Poh

This is how you walk in heels.
This is how you dress up for a date.
This is how you laugh to not show your teeth if you can help it.
This is how you sit: up straight, back strong, an anchor to yourself.
This is how you smile when he says he wants someone more beautiful.
This is how you look at yourself in the mirror: up front, then left and right.
This is how you weigh yourself: in kilograms, in educational certificates, in achievements.
This is how you give up.
This is how you stay, as you have seen your mother stay.
This is how you accept a flower.
This is how you secretly think flowers are underwhelming.
This is how you shed four tears.
This is how you dab them away — delicately, so as not to ruin your makeup — and open the door.

To her surprise, the post was widely shared. That led her to ponder how to visually examine womanhood,…

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