Monday, March 10, 2014

Surfer Girl

On a beach walk one morning, two groups of children caught my eye. The first was a group of boys, with a fairly large age range, maybe 6-16. They were little surfers, hitting the morning Pacific waves with spirited tries.

Next I came across a smaller group of tween girls participating in a makeshift photo shoot. Clad in cute tops and short shorts, hair and make-up done, they jumped in the air and splashed in the surf, flirting with the photographer, while the sand-mounted camera flickered away.

Encountering these two groups of kids cemented for me how differently we socialize our children to be in this world. We tell our sons to be active and have fun, our daughters to look flirty and be cute. Boys are taught to do; girls are taught to be. And it's not surprising that so many girls grow up to have body image and self-esteem concerns, as we all but coach them to equate their identity with their appearance.

But each one of us can do something about this now. If you have a daughter or niece or favorite little girl in your life, teach her to surf. Teach her to climb trees, sing loud, ride bikes, chase the moon, and get dirty on a Sunday afternoon. Teach her that she's capable of doing and learning and being a presence, rather than just an image, in this world. She might cast a glance at a camera every once in a while, but she'll be too busy to look for long.


Meliss said...

sad. great post. our values are skewed. thanks for writing.

42117c96-a942-11e3-9c13-000bcdcb8a73 said...

This touched me in a sadder way than it would normally. I was one of the girls who played with the boys, who did boy things, who was swimming rather than looking cute next to the pool (I didn't grow up near an ocean).

And now I'm lonely and I have to learn to do makeup because I'm doing online dating and several experts have told me it will be more effective if I use makeup. So I've taken makeup lessons and I'm learning to put on makeup at the age of 44. Learning to put it on isn't hard, but learning to deal with the inner voice that tells me I'd rather be surfing, and the inner voice that tells me I really screwed up by being an active and interesting girl, and the inner voice that questions whether I would want a man who requires me to paint my face, is not so easy.

Meliss said...

funny, at almost 50, i've stopped wearing make-up. and ya know what, men are just as interested as ever. i WISH that i were active and more interesting. don't listen to "experts". they're usually single.

Megan Raymond, ASW said...

I very much appreciate your observations and your honesty. It is so important to recognize the impact of the words we use to guide children. I linked your blog on the website of free clinical tools that I am compiling. Thank you.