Love means freedom.
Love means independence.
Love means respect.
Malala Yousafzai’s father
Salma Hayek told Oprah a story: When she was 10, there was a neighborhood flasher. This man accosted her and exposed his full frontal nudity. “I was terrified, just so scared…” She went home and told her grandmother who then gave this advice (Hayek offered a disclaimer – she is by no means telling little girls they ought to do this) BUT…
“The next time that man flashes you – even if you are terrified and alone – LAUGH at him. Point at his groin and LAUGH.”
The man DID flash her again. And little Salma stopped. She felt her entire body tighten with fear. But she remembered her grandmother’s advice. So she stared, pointed at his groin and laughed.
“He ran away, he cowered and ran away!” Hayek says, still incredulous.
You can always choose to reclaim your power.
Recently, I (wo)manned a booth at our school’s International Festival. We were making maracas using empty toilet paper rolls, duct tape and (uncooked) beans and rice. Kids of all ages and sizes came to make their maracas.
After just one hour, I realized something: six and seven-year-old girls came up confidently and chose their colors without hesitation. “I want blue! And red! And green!” They taped their rolls, scooped up rice, taped again and smiled radiantly.
Teenage girls, however, hemmed and hawed, wracked with indecision. “Ummmmm. I dunno. I dunno what to choose! Ummmm…” It took them far longer to decide and even after they decided, they second-guessed their decisions and did not seem entirely happy with their results.
What happens to girls?
While pregnant with her, the most astounding thing happened! I would put food in my mouth and chew. She’d kick like mad before I even swallowed. This occurred every time. I was incredulous – what a baby!
When she was two, she had chocolate cake. She kicked her feet high in delight. The frosting was all over her face and her eyes shone with joy.
At four, she had pizza. How she held it in her tiny, pudgy hands!
She’s had many meals since then. With girlish abandon, she eats what she wants when she wants: warm bread with butter, garlic mashed potatoes, steak, ice cream sundaes and healthy food, too.
She. Loves. Food. She likes high quality food. She can discern whether ingredients are fresh and she doesn’t like gristle on her steak.
She also loves dance class. She loves to learn challenging moves and practice them over and over and get good at it. She’s made such progress! Her body is lithe, supple and strong.
She’s my baby. She’s 15, but she’s my baby and I want her to be happy and healthy. I want her to love eating, dancing, laughing and playing violin all the rest of her days. I want her to enjoy life!
But our culture wants to destroy her. American society wants her mind to be cloudy with insecurity and a bit of self-hatred. Air-brushed models are in magazines, surgically modified celebrities are on TV, the Internet and film.
Even family members make comments. Grandparents plant seeds of doubt when they caution against weight gain. They compare sisters to each other, silently massacring dreams and self-confidence. They undermine the strong sisterly bond that exists. Well, they try anyway. These girls have each other’s backs, thank goodness.
If she were my son, would you tell him to watch what he eats? Would you scare him and tell him he might get fat if he “puts that” in his mouth? Would you comment on his figure as he stands in front of the fridge?
Please…I implore you…stop it. Stop with the comments and the body shaming. Stop trying to exert control through fear.
Let her enjoy all that life has to offer.
Mr. B. came to our door. “We are expecting friends from France. They have girls your ages. Do you think they could play together?” “Of course!” I replied. “They don’t speak any English,” Mr. B. stated. “No worries!” I replied. Ava added, “We can always communicate via Google Translate.” Brilliant!
The girls came. They were beautiful and shy. I had prompted Josie and Ava to be prepared with some ideas and games. Of course, when I suggested board games, they wrinkled their noses and chorused, “Boring!” So I allowed them to plan it on their own.
The girls started by opening a laptop with Google translate on. They typed and communicated what they were going to do. First thing: origami. Josie laughed as one of the girls accidentally ripped her paper, looked at Josie and then threw it over her shoulder!
The play date continued, communication largely facilitated by the translating program, but occasionally by means of facial expressions and key words.
The French girls then suggested that they play dodge ball. They all went to the park a few blocks away and played, sharing an iPhone to continue their dialogue. Upon their return, they played a game of billiards and then joined us for dinner. The night ended at 10pm – way past their bedtime. But all the girls had a fantastic time. “I wish they lived on this block! It would be so fun!” Josie lamented this morning. The guests depart for France on Tuesday.
Josie and Ava are composing a letter (with help from Google!) and are assembling a farewell gift.