inThis has been on my mind for a while and I haven’t had a chance to get it on paper. With today being International Day of the Girl and with me being wide awake at 4:23AM, it seemed like a good time to pen the story.
Raising two girls, I have always tried to give them equal access to anything they would like. They have trucks, cars, trains, and tools along with dolls, castles, play dresses and hair salon toys. If ever I hear someone use the phrase “that’s a boy toy” or “that’s a girl toy” I am sure that they hear, “Toys are toys and can be played with by anyone.” Interestingly, both of our girls are pretty girly, particularly Elly who was practically born with a clutch in her hand and a pair of wildly uncomfortable yet gorgeous shoes on her feet. Even Lila is finding her path to femininity. It could be nurture, it could be nature. It may be a mix. Either way, I’m as ok with them embracing things that are girly and pink and frilly as I am with them wanting to get dirty and climb things and play football. (Just invite me to do the former please, not the latter.)
A few weeks ago, Lila asked me for lip balm as we were driving home from school. Lip balm, like Play-Doh is one of the items that needs to be kept and doled out under supervision because though she will proudly say “You don’t eat lip balm.” or “You don’t eat Play-Doh” it is usually with her mouthful of one or the other. This day, she slathered her lips with enough lip balm for six people and then said, “I put lipstick on. I so pretty now. Now I can’t dance with Daddy.”
As much as I loved the adorable imagery of a little girl feeling like a princess at a ball, taking her dad’s hand on the dance floor in the grandest setting, my heart sank a little. I was really bothered that my three year old already had preconceived notions of “needing to be pretty to dance” and even worse needing to be pretty to dance with Daddy. I immediately tried to redirect with “Lila, you don’t need lipstick to make you pretty. And you don’t need to look pretty to dance with Daddy. I like lip balm because it makes my lips feel so soft. Are your lips soft?” She rubbed her two lips together between the quarter inch of lip balm on her and said, “Yes! So soft!”
As we drove, I couldn’t help but wonder where she could have got these ideas. Again, I love doing girly stuff with them but never as a limitation. Funnily, Elly wouldn’t go for a manicure/pedicure with me for the longest time because she deemed it a “girl thing”. “Boys don’t get manicures and pedicures, Daddy.” I would always respond with “Nails are nails and it’s nice for anyone to take care of them whether you’re a boy or a girl.” She would still politely decline my offer. But now guess who is the first to ask, “Can we get manicures?” If I suggest that I do her nails there is always a quick response of “No! I want to go to the salon.” Of course you do! Point: nurture.
Lila loves to watch Sofia the First. So of course there is frill there. But as a Disney show, there is also more balance than something like Barbie. Elly has recently started to watch Barbie though I try to redirect her to something different. Barbie has always grated my nerves for how it can impact a girl’s body image. A while back, Galia Slayen, a student who battled an eating disorder recreated a life-size Barbie. She was 5’9” tall, had a 39”bust, an 18” waist, 33” hips and wore a size 3 shoe. She weighed 110 pounds and had a BMI of 16.24. None of this s positive modeling for our girls. I love the idea of Barbie being a drag queen. I think she’s perfect like that. And since Ken is quite likely gay, it goes along quite nicely. Barbie is essentially what some drag queens spend hours on – she is an illusion. Huge hair, huge boobs and exaggerated features none of which mirrors the natural form. All work perfectly for brunch and mimosas with a Donna Summer soundtrack but not for what we want our girls to aspire to. Well, except for the brunch with mimosas and a Donna Summer soundtrack. I do want that for them. I mean, come on.
Labeling and limiting can hurt. You’ve heard me speak (ad infinitum) about my experience with “run like a girl” and how that limited me for 36 years of my life. Coincidentally, today is the one year anniversary of my first run. The day I decided to stomp on what that teacher said to me and make my own destiny. I love even more that I didn’t realize it was on International Day of the Girl. My first few runs I was self-conscious of what i looked like trying to catch glimpses in either the mirror at the gym or windows of buildings I ran by. The funniest part was it was about two weeks after I started that I realized I didn’t even give it a second thought anymore. I carried the weight of the world like Atlas for years and then within weeks I shed it like a Golden Retriever sheds its coat.
I want our girls to be whatever they want to be. Whoever they want to be. The only limits that they should place on themselves are ones bound by morals and kindness. So Elly and Lila, put lipstick on because you want to be pretty for You. Put a fancy dress on because it makes YOU feel good. Don’t do it because you think you need to for me, Papa or anyone else. Daddy and Papa love you precisely as you are. If you surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are, you are already winning. Now, speaking of pedicures, I think that might be a perfect idea for later today.