“I would like to punch that person in the throat for being so stupid!”
This girl’s comment was the first thing that came to mind after reading an essay by Lisa Bloom written in 2011. It brought up a lot of other things as well: Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” a student’s sliced up arms, as a teacher being a mandated reporter. How honest do you be?
Bluntness is always a choice. One woman’s truth is another man’s opinion.
My first day teaching in a US school, I was 45 years old, proctoring study hall. A girl, a senior, approached.
“Is it always going to be like this?”
“Like what?” thinking Really, you are asking me this? Someone you don’t even know? A stranger?
“Stress, tests, failing. Friends stabbing you in the back.”
“Ahhh. That.” A pause. A moment to consider. But comforting has never been a really easy style. “Yes, it will be.”
“It will always be different. You’ll get used to the testing. You’ll have performance reviews at work. That’s a kind of test. You’ll get to be the judgy one yourself.”
“And you’ll get to choose where you work, and who with. You can always walk away from those friends who are just mean.”
It helped. It didn’t always have to be grim.
As much as bluntness, whacky humor is important. I howled at the girl who created a possessed green PostIt note that plagued the mop-up guy at the Seven Eleven.
Being a fashionista isn’t always bad. Amidst all the Einsteins, Gandhis, and Hillary Clintons chosen as the most wished for dinner partners, there sat Coco Channel. She would never have crossed my horizon, but I knew she was a perfect fit.
Open research papers always got the share of instant make overs, chocolate delivery systems, and the like. But it also brought out questions like:
“If I really wanted to own a monkey in Maine, what would I have to do and how could I take care of it?” (It turns out that moving away is the only choice for monkey owners).
“If I wanted to raise a family here, what things would have to change for me to feel safe?”
“How can I accurately measure the oil in my engine and not burn it out again?”
“What is a decent water delivery system for a multi-horse trailer, so I don’t have to lug buckets to fill it up?”
Girls need honesty and they need space to ask questions. Most of all they need to learn that the right sort of competition is against themselves, tweaking their own self-image until they can become the person they always knew they were.