Monday, July 25, 2011

Repaving


Now that I have my very own three year old, I can see how my past views on the girlie girl phenomenon have only heightened. Like many women out there, I cringe at Pepto Bismol-pink, princess hype and "pretty talk." I have no issue with fantasy worlds, using your imagination, etcetera -- but when the focus is all on sugary sweet beautiful girls, I have a problem.

I grew up with a slight feminist advantage. I grew up in a multicultural city with powerful working women everywhere. My mother was a successful artist, and my older sister spent most of my formative years in college and law school. I knew I could set out and accomplish goals -- that was never in question. One would think that this would be the optimum confidence formula for a girl, but it wasn't. It didn't even begin to scratch the surface of female insecurities when it came to boys, competitive girls, body image or fashion.

I was about twelve when the tough time began. I wasn't alone either. Every girl around me was checking out other girl around them. Did the back of their Keds actually have the authentic blue rubber stamp? Girls were bringing salad and dry Cheerios for lunch in eighth grade, and tormenting other girls for when they did or didn't get their periods. It was a backstabbing battleground. To this day I only have one friend that remains from that time.

High school was better, but only because I didn't care anymore what others thought. I was very happy and focused on figure skating. I had found something and did it well, and for that I am forever grateful. It was a hugely important piece of the person I am now, and I will very much encourage my daughter to find that "thing" too. It still wasn't enough though. It didn't take away the emphasis on body image that was the focus of everyone around me, and it didn't prepare me for being a strong equal to men when faced with an actual one.

I consider myself a lucky person, not because I grew up a charmed or wealthy, but because I came out unscathed from some tricky situations. As I said in earlier posts, I don't feel anyone can avoid difficult situations in life, but I do think there is a grace that can be taught when faced with handling them. I found myself in some relationships with guys where I went silent when I should have spoken up. I missed the right opportunity to prevent getting into the mess in the first place. If there was a clear smart tactic to take, I ignored it and traded it in for the taboo. I fell into bad habits with food because I wanted to look "right", and I suffered alone with these habits through my early twenties pretending I was healthy. I shamefully hid where I came from and how much money my family made, in fear of judgment (when in fact, no one cared).

If there is anything I can pass on to my little girl it will be a positive sense of who she is, and an assertiveness to protect it. I will try to encourage without pushing, and love without judgement, give my opinions gently, and support her proudly. I will make sure she knows how to scream when she needs to, and how to say "No, thank you." I will help her to see her glass half full, and help her to be there for her friends when their glasses are seemingly empty. I will help her see the give and take, the ups and downs, and the waiting it out that life can be and hopefully give her the foundation to stay strong for the downs, and hold steady for the ups.

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