Lesson for my daughter: No, all women don’t look like that, or act like that
When I was growing up, I never really believed that I would be affected by peer pressure or media imagery, but when I think back to all the issues I had with my body, there is one place I can lay blame (well, two): Magazines and television.
If I hadn’t been reading teen magazines I never would have thought I was too hairy or there was something wrong with my boobs, or that my glasses were maybe the reason I didn’t have a boyfriend.
Without teen dramas I never would have suspected that I was somehow abnormal for being 16 and never having kissed a guy, I never would have thought that I had missed some cut off point for losing my virginity.
Now that I’ve been around for a certain number of years, I understand that, where women are concerned, there are no universals. And I am very lucky to be surrounded by women of different colours, different skills, different body types, different beliefs – all fantastic people with great things they could teach my daughter. I know women who have made all sorts of different life choices and taken all sorts of different paths, and I will use them all as examples for her.
I’m already starting a collection of books that I remember as being good for me so they’ll be available when she gets old enough to read them – Paula Danziger was one of my favourites; Gordon Korman writes strong girls in his Macdonald Hall series; Judy Blume, of course. I have every season of Gilmore Girls on DVD and I fully expect to get through every season with her. I’ve been considering buying Golden Girls on DVD because I heard someone credit those ladies for her healthy attitudes and, having grown up watching them myself, I can’t say I disagree.
I’m not saying I’m going to forbid her from owning Barbie (though I’d like to avoid it) and I’m not going to ban the colour pink from the house (it looks great with my skin tone), but I am going to introduce her to the parody of it all. She can watch all the cheesy romance movies she wants, but she’s going to see the parodies too. She can listen to the likes of Taylor Swift if she also understands the beauty of k.d. lang.
I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a boy band or princess phase in her future, but she’s going to be exposed to punk rock and roller derby girls too. When she asked me to start shaving her legs or wearing make-up – if she does – I’m going to make sure she knows those are choices and not something you have to start doing at any age.
When she asks me to sign off on her first tattoo, I’m going to tell her to think about it for a year and if she still wants the same thing, she can go ahead.
I’m going to entertain all her career goals and let her figure out when she’s settled on one. I’m going to tell her that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to land on one, as long as she has somewhere to live, she has food to eat and she’s happy I know she’ll get there eventually.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my lifetime, and it took me a long time to get there: Fate will take you where you need to be – you have to make the right choices, it’s going to be really hard sometimes, and you have to learn the lessons along the way and try not to make the same mistake twice, but it will happen.
In the end, you just need to be yourself because you’ll never forgive yourself if you’re not.