One of the things that my daughter’s impending teenagerhood has brought into sharp focus for me is my frustration with finding the balance between society’s messages about what it means to be female, my own experiences growing up, and the ever-looming fear that somehow there’s a “right” way to foster good self-esteem that I might be missing. We have entered the days of “I need to look a certain way” and “Those are the Pretty People” and “It doesn’t matter to me except that it does.”
Tricky waters, this. Does anyone get out unscathed? I feel ill-equipped to aid in navigation, particularly as I’m not entirely convinced I’m not still lost, myself. All I know for sure is that I want her—both of my children, of course—to be happy. And I don’t think that happens without a healthy measure of self-awareness and then, self-acceptance.
So when I was approached about a new site dedicated to women speaking their truths to gain clarity, to clear away shame and “shoulds” to make way for happier girls everywhere, I said right on. I’m going to be contributing to Off Our Chests probably once a week, but I’m kicking it off with a story I’ve only told little bits of, here, before. Part one is now live and the second part will go up tomorrow.
Come on over. Join the conversation. I think we’re going to have a lot to talk about.
Wow, what a great idea for a blog — heading over now!
I’m going to leave a comment over there, but I’m going to leave one here, too. This is certainly an area fraught with land mines. I’m not sure any of us get out of it completely unscathed, but I think as long as you’re there to provide a rudder for Chickie she will come out the other side perhaps bruised, but maybe not irrevocably damaged. With maturity (and it will come!) will come the self-awareness and the self-confidence you want for Chickie.
I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and one of my favorite parts was when she finally came to terms with her unconventional appearance and gave in to dreadlocks. It was about finally accepting who you are and realizing that we are more than appearance. Its message is something I try to internalize on a daily basis.
Kindly send me Boris’s name and address so I can go punch his lights out.
I have wondered if MTV and such aren’t backlashes against feminism. Just when it seemed like we were making some headway, the music videos came on strong with the bimbo/ho messages. It seems young girls today are too busy fitting that mold to even think about careers.
Just read Part 1.
You hold him down, Dad. I wanna hit him. HARD.
I just had a conversation with my daughter this morning. She will be 12 in a matter of days. I reminded her that a year ago she didn’t care at all how she looked. I would tell her to brush her hair before she went to school and she would look at me like I was insane. This year, 6th grade, she is completely over the top worried about her hair looking perfect and which are the “right” clothes to wear. (She is also very sensitive to how her clothes feel, just to double the challenge!) So today she was freaking out about how her shirt looked. I told her that she needed to find a balance between not caring at all and caring too much. She should stop dressing for others and wear things she likes and that SHE thinks look nice so she can take pride in her appearance. She stopped freaking out and I patted myself on the back. 5 minutes later, I could not get my 9 year old son out the door because he didn’t like how his hair looked. I told him it didn’t matter because he had to wear his hat anyway and it would just get messed up. He started crying and said “But I don’t feel PROUD of how I look.” I just can’t win….
Mir, you’ve got to check out ‘Operation Beautiful’. It’s a note on this subject!
Love your dad. I’ll hold him down too. Deserves to be kicked until he begs for death.
I too would like to assist in the bludgeoning of Boris. What a colossal asshat!
Dad = Hero
I’ll comment there, too, but had to say WOW. “I was sure my grades had suffered because I wasn’t pretty.” What a complete douchebag. Definitely gives you good experiential bases from which to draw as a parent, but what a complete jackass.
I know that there’s a part II to the story, but I think that this part illustrates a lot of what we can hope for as parents/ aunts/ role models – giving the kids in our lives enough self-assurance so that they don’t take the Borises of the world to heart when it comes to issues of self-worth. (For acting, sadly, he’s a bit more on-target as to what casting directors will look for). These years are rough, though, and there are so many days where it feels like all of the work you put into helping your kid out is getting brushed off completely – here’s to the love that it takes to slog through it all.
Wow. The worst thing one of my college professors ever said to me was that I was “a lagger in the caravan of life” and I totally had it coming because I was always late to his class.
I’m awed by your writing. And your honesty.
And the only exciting thing that happened in college was my religion professor trying to make a pass at me.
Just read parts 1 and 2 – wow. The story, yes, and your writing is wonderful.