Let me say, I am NOT girly. I wanted to be a boy as a child. I wanted to everything boys could do and the worst insult anyone could call me as a child was “girly.” My grandmother was one of those traditional southern women who believed in curtsies and frilly dresses while sharing afternoon tea (two cubes of sugar and some milk please).
My sister was happy to engage in this sort of behavior. My sister liked being girly. She loved dressing up and playing with dolls. She wanted to be the epitome of sugar and spice and everything nice that little girls are made of. I wanted to be left to my devices wearing the same pair of jeans I’d been wearing for three days in a row, soaked in dried mud with a layer of wet mud on top. Yes, I thought it was okay to use the crystal glasses to house my new found friends, the frogs, lizards, and worms. (I swear, there was another lizard and two more worms in this cup when I brought it inside…hmmm, what happened to those missing creatures?) I dreaded Sunday mornings because I knew that somehow my family was going to wrestle me into a fancy dress and TIGHTS! Oh the humanity! And shoes with heels? How was I ever supposed to play tag once Church was over in heels?!
I should have known I was expecting a girly girl while I was pregnant. Suddenly, I enjoyed wearing pink. When had I ever enjoyed wearing pink in my life? Suddenly, I took to simple walks in the gardens over running through at break-neck speed. Why did I one day wake up and think that the corn snake in my yard was gross and not cool? I should have foreseen that the ultrasound reading was wrong, I wasn’t 30 weeks along with the little boy the Dr. had promised. I was 10 weeks away from meeting the girliest girl in my life.
Being as how we thought we were having a boy, everything we had was boy. I didn’t see the point in replacing everything we owned over a gender fact, who cared at this age, no one would know the difference. Plus, my daughter’s name has a masculine sense to it and anyone who hears the name without seeing my little one thinks I’m talking about my son. I just didn’t think switching out wardrobe over gender was important. Our family…did! Within a month we had TONS of girl clothes. A friend of my daughter’s father had just given birth to a boy so we passed all the boy clothes on to her and indulged in some gender stereotyping. I didn’t know that it was going to stick.
Now, I have a daughter that will cry and refuse to leave the house if she thinks her pants don’t look good with her shirt. She’s not thirteen, she’s three! She brushes her hair and teeth because they “look pretty” not because I make her. She puts her dirty clothes in the laundry because “Mommy needs to wash them so I can look like a princess.” Just this morning, I told her she needed to finish her breakfast…”Why?” She asks. I answer, “So you can grow big and strong. So you’ll have energy to learn what you need to know and be able to have lots of fun playing.” Then she says, “So I can be a ballerina or a singer? Will I be pretty if I eat my food?”
Is our society’s importance on beauty and femininity that pressing that my three year old aspires to be a female career like pretty ballerina? Is she just naturally this way and I should encourage her
facination obsession with tutus while still telling her that I think she’s smart and capable of being a scientist or a leader? When she says, “I want to go to college to be a dancer” should I just be happy she wants to go to college someday?
The feminist in me cringes every time she puts beauty as the most important part of her life. And my grungy t-shirt, baggy pants wearing self wonders, how did a girl with a mother like me become so girly?