This One’s For the Girls…

Posted on | May 3, 2011 | 16 Comments

I will never forget the first time I felt imminently uncool.  It was the summer before sixth grade and I was playing at a friend’s house.  We’d spent the day together, one of many we spent together that summer, and as the hour for my mother’s arrival drew near, we were sitting in her living room giggling about something or other.  She looked over at me and smiled.

“I like you a lot.” She grinned.

“Well. I like you, too!” I was so happy. I loved new friends and she was as fresh and shiny as a new penny.  She sighed a little and tilted her head sideways.

“We’re going to be going to the same middle school and I really do like you so I don’t want you to have your feelings hurt when I don’t hang out with you.”

Wait, what? My head was spinning a little as the penny rusted over.  She continued.

“I just really want to be popular.” She smiled and I had no choice but to smile back.

I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t cool? How did she know that I wasn’t going to be popular? How did she already know, just from spending time with me that summer that somehow I would be a liability friend in the rough waters of middle school?

My mother couldn’t understand why I suddenly stopped wanting to hang out at M’s house for the rest of the summer.

I tell you this story because it marked a transition for me and because I have thought a lot about that moment over the years.  Up until that point, I had never really worried about what anyone else thought about me.  I always had friends.  I never felt left out or unhappy about being me.  And in one moment, all of that was taken away from me.  Something about me was just imminently and obviously uncool.  From that moment on, I felt like there must be a stamp on my forehead like in Never Been Kissed.  I was so scared about what I wore, how I smelled, and what I weighed.

Maybe other people didn’t have such a pinpoint moment that marked the transition between the glorious nonchalance of childhood and the angst-ridden teenage years, but everyone feels the sting of lost innocence.  It’s the moment when you become fully self-aware in all the wrong ways.  It is the moment that you bite into the forbidden fruit and see yourself marred by your flaws.

Perhaps Eve didn’t actually bite into any fruit… perhaps she just hit puberty, like every girl, long before Adam even realized what he was peeing with.

Being a teenage girl is a hard job.  It is a full-time terror ride of “do I look alright?” and “do I weigh too much?”  It is a tear-fest of “every woman in the WORLD is better than me” and “I will never have a boyfriend EVER!” It is agony because it is so all-encompassing.  It feels like your entire world will be shaped by what you wear and who you date before you even reach 18.  And no matter how many times someone tells you that there is life after high school, you just. can’t. picture it.  You think you’ll always be that person, whoever she is.  And the worst part about it is that you are so susceptible to every influence that so much as brushes past you on its way to the restroom.

The more I watch television and read magazines, the more worried I become for the girls in this nation.  How will they survive the onslaught of opinions being hurled?  How will they find the truth about the world and themselves if they are so caught up in the fiction of MTV, The Real Housewives, The Girls Next Door and push-up bras for 8 year olds? I wish I could just pull them all together and ask them one question.  Hell, maybe it’s a question that should be asked of all women.

Why?

Why do we beat ourselves up?  Who are we trying to impress?

Because if it’s the boy in sixth period English… why?  Who gave him the right to dictate our self worth?

And if it’s the girl we desperately want to be friends with… why?  Who gave her the ability to make us feel like we’re worthless without her?

Who is it that is out there with this important opinion of us that will be shaped by the shade of lipstick or the size of our waistband? I’d really like to know.  Because I thought women’s liberation was all about freeing ourselves from the shackles of what a woman is supposed to be.  I thought it was about making our own choices about the person we want to be… what we do, who we date, what we wear and my God what we look like.  If it’s not about that, what is it about?   You can be damn sure that women didn’t get thrown in prison fighting for the right to vote just so that MTV could air a show about 16 year old girls getting knocked up by their boyfriends who are barely out of underoos.

Here’s the thing… you are beautiful.

Seriously.

You.

I don’t have to see you to know that.  I don’t have to sit next to you in class or go to your church or join your clubs.  I don’t have to be your sorority sister or your boyfriend or your mom or your dad to know that you are absolutely perfect just as you are.  And you want to know how I know that?

Because I’ve walked in those uncomfortable but oh-so-cute shoes you’re stumbling around in.  Because I’ve sat in the back of the classroom and wished a thousand times that the guy in front of me would turn around and talk to me like he did yesterday or the day before.  Because I was a teenage girl once, with all the insecurities and “know-it-all-ness.”  Because I found out I was going to be unpopular before I even set foot on the cold concrete floor of the middle school.

Because I’ve been there.

And I survived.

The hardest part about being a teenage girl is that you can’t see your own reflection because you’re so caught up in what everyone else might possibly see. You want so desperately to look like someone else… to be taller or shorter… to have bigger or smaller breasts… to just be someone else, that you fail to see that everyone else is going through the same damn thing.  The girl you want to be? There’s someone she wishes she was.  It’s a vicious circle, being a teenage girl, because you cut other people down to try to raise yourself up and there’s always someone left at the bottom of the pile.  Most girls just try to get through the middle school and high school years without being the one on the bottom.

So what if you didn’t buy into that pyramid scheme?

What if when someone tells you that you aren’t popular, you disregard it.

What if you make your own destiny, choose your own adventure, and set your own barre.

What if you stop trying so hard to be just like someone else and just be you.

Take a moment.

Pull out a washcloth.

Wipe the mirror clean, piece it back together if you must from years of hurling stones at your own reflection.

Wash your face clear of foundation and blush.  Remove the mascara and eyeliner and shadow.  Wipe the lip gloss against the back of your hand.

Let your hair fall naturally where it will.

And then look at yourself and see what I see.

You are beautiful just because you are you. You are unique and special and perfect and loved and all of that is without the make up and the counting calories and the Sweet Sixteen birthday bash of the millennium.  You are absolutely everything you need to be just by being you.

And no one can take that away from you unless you let them.

Comments

16 Responses to “This One’s For the Girls…”

  1. Lindsey
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:23 am

    Ohhhhhh did I ever have a moment like that. A few, actually. Middle school and high school= I didn’t even TRY to be cool. They pretty much sucked.

    I was absolutely astonished to go to college and find out no one had any preconceived ideas of me and everyone pretty much liked me. It took, like, three of the most fun years of my life to really believe I could be popular.

    I don’t worry about girls. (And I have three of them). Probably because I feel like they can benefit from what I know now. Sheesh, if I could tell little me what I know now, she’d have had a lot more fun along the way. (Maybe she wouldn’t have as much character? Ah well. She also wouldn’t have suffered as much as a teenager.) I feel like because of the uncoolness I’ve been through, I know what to tell my girls about how to be cool, or at least about how to embrace and have fun with the uncool.

    I always liked the saying, “if you don’t like the rules, play your own game”. That’s what finally getting some confidence and self-esteem taught me. Now I just have to embed that into my girls while they still have time to enjoy teenagehood. Or does ANYONE enjoy teenagehood?

  2. lydia
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:25 am

    You’re beautiful too. And a ninja. You’re also a ninja. This post is wonderful- thank you!

  3. monk
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:39 am

    beautifully written. and you, monk, are just that. beautiful.

  4. Chanin
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:07 am

    You have been looking for new music. You should download Pink’s new song “Perfect”. There are two versions depending on your mood (one clean and one not-so-much). It may not be your style, but the song is very empowering and has the same sentiment as your post. Love yourself. Love J. You are perfect!

  5. Chanin
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:38 am

    You should also try Sugarland’s “Little Miss”. It is about a woman in today’s society trying to be everything to everyone. Also, Colbie Calliat’s song “It Stops Today” is about finding your own strength and happiness by just being yourself. You are incredibly strong even if you don’t feel that way now. Do what makes YOU happy.

  6. Mel
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:47 am

    A wonderful piece!

  7. Erin
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    beautifully written, as always:)

  8. Toni
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    Beautiful and so relatable. Those teenage years are rough.

  9. Hillary/BanksieU2
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    It was the same exact age for me! Right before I started 6th grade. My Dad said “are you really having another fudgecicle?” That was the first time I ever thought about my weight.

    (I told him about that several years later and turns out he just wanted to make sure there were enough fudgecicles left for my sister and my cousin when they got home from camp :/ )

  10. Stacey
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    This is absolutely wonderful. Every woman should read this. Every teenage girl should read this. Hell, everyone should just read this!

  11. Jennifer
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    I love this so much. I wish it was mandatory reading for all teenage girls.

    PS I shared it on Facebook.

  12. Texan Mama
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    Good Stuff!
    Unfortunately I was that girl who told her friend she didn’t want to hang around with her because of the desire to be popular. My years of teasing and unpopularity blinded me to the loyalty of my friend. She was very… unique. And I couldn’t handle defending her uniqueness to my new, very plain but very popular, friends. I still regret it. It was immaturity on my part and I have apologized all over myself to her for it. Still, I can’t ever undo it.

    Our daughter is 11 and pretty well-adjusted. I attribute this a lot to keeping most of the media out of our house. We have some but no cable, no magazines, etc. You’re absolutely right – it feeds the beast.

    Great article! I popped over from FB.

  13. Ashley
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

    Amen! Beautiful! Should be a required read for high school girls 😉

  14. facie
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

    What a great post. It brought me back to cheerleader tryouts at the end of 5th or 6th grade. I went to a small Catholic school and thought we all got along/liked each other until I walked behind Jackie, who was telling Paula that I was weird. Paula told Jackie to stop talking because I was right behind her. I just silently walked away, but I will never forget that moment. It eclipsed the memories of how bad I was at cheerleading (and why I never made the squad).

    I think the vast majority of women have to live through those tough years to be able to accept that we are fine just the way we are. For me, being a parent helped a lot.

    Hang in there. I hope all this blogging and everyone’s comments are helping you in some way to get through this awful time.

  15. Kimberly
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 11:46 pm

    Simply awesomesauce.

  16. Chandler Francis
    May 25th, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    My oldest daughter is headed to 6th grade/ middle school next year, and she is already dealing with so many of the image issues that are prevalent now. Like most folks, high school was a social nightmare for me, so I try to tell my M that there is life after middle/ high school, but she doesn’t listen (mainly because I’m the mom and I don’t know anything!)

    I am sharing this with her so that she hears from someone else the message I’m preaching to her for some time.

    Beautifully written!

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