Don't call attention to yourself. Don't smile at boys. Always be ladylike. Don't laugh too loudly. Don't run/jump/ride a motorcycle/take chances because you could hurt or disfigure yourself, and then who will marry you?
We, as girls, keep getting told that we should let other people's expectations define us. That we should be careful about our behavior, so we don't cause negative, derogatory or lustful thoughts in other people's minds.
My older daughter and I had a wonderful time while watching the musical Waitress last night. As entertaining and funny as it was, it brought on some pretty strong emotions because of the underlying theme of battered women - some emotionally, and some physically. Jenna, the main character, is stuck in an unhappy, controlling marriage, where she does everything she can to placate her abusive husband on a daily basis. Her only outlet is in baking - specifically, baking pies with true-to-her-situation themes like Betrayed By My Eggs pie - when she finds out she is pregnant.
Happily, I am not in an abusive marriage. But, the message of burying oneself to please others definitely dredged up the words, thoughts and old wives' tales brand of wisdom employed in my upbringing, and in the upbringing of almost every other girl I knew. And as I sat there watching, with my daughter at my side, and thinking of my younger daughter at home, I realized that to some extent, I had tried to teach them the same things that were taught to me. Not to repress them, but to protect them. To keep them safe from culture and society's portrayal of women.
But safety never has, and never will be in just staying home. To stay in a box made of society's expectations. We are safer when we are vocal, together. When we have each other's backs. While I observe plenty of young men who follow centuries of rules for the roles they are expected to play, I've encountered enough teenage boys who don't follow those rules. I see them treating young women as equals, and with dignity. Being open with their own feelings, and being vulnerable to getting hurt. Recognizing that while they might be physically stronger than some girls, they can't hold a candle to a woman's inner strength. And for that, I thank their mamas. The ones who changed the dialogue. The ones who taught them that paying attention to a girl's feelings doesn't make them weak, it gives them a partner. And to the dads, who are raising boys and teaching them how to be men of character.
I think I need to make a Time For Change pie: two equal layers of dark chocolate and white chocolate mousse on a baked graham cracker crust made just nutty enough with ground toasted pecans in it. Topped with a mixed berry compote that is sweet and tart, for fruitiness. Finished with cloudy, cardamom scented whipped cream, for the dreamers.
Is this post a little over the top? Yes. Do I hear my mother's voice in my ear saying, "it's too much, you're going too far, don't call attention to yourself?" Yes. Am I posting this anyway, for the women who won't, or can't say anything? Yes.
Oh, and Happy Mother's Day.