To my daughters: 15 truths about being female

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avniainsleyI was convinced I was having a boy. Complete strangers at coffee shops predicted it too, confidently sharing with me their unsolicited predictions while I was carrying my first baby.

Prepared for conversations full of gory villains and disgusting bowel movements, I imagined our closets would be filled with a tiny wardrobe of grass stains. In a few months, I thought I would comfortably hand off the leadership reins to my husband for him to share lessons of chivalry and tie tying, while sneaking in a few pointers about how to use cologne without smelling like a sock.

Later that September, I gave birth to a baby girl. I suddenly felt unprepared and quickly realized it would be my job to teach our daughter what it means to be a strong, independent and caring woman in a world filled with never-ending stereotypes, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy diets. Dove recently conducted a social experiment and showed just how critical women are of their own beauty.

Fast forward two and a half years. We have welcomed another little girl into our family and our toddler has no trouble wearing grass stains. While I know society will do its part to leave an impression in their young minds, I can only hope some of the advice I share with them about being a female in our society stands out a little more.

  1. It’s OK to get dirty (even in a skirt). Throw a baseball; dig for worms; sleep in a tent. Your clothes can be washed and won’t last forever. Memories will.
  2. Clean and cook because you want to, not because someone else expects you to. Knowing how to do both well will give you peace of mind.
  3. Don’t expect flowers.
  4. If you’re hungry, eat. It’s important to take care of and listen to your body. Eating will keep you healthy (and much happier!). Splurge on some chocolate every now and then, too.
  5. Be who you are. If you like science, great. If you would prefer to write a poem about the purple flowers blooming outside your window, that’s fine too. But, whatever you do, don’t be who you think others want you to be.
  6. Invest in a good bra.
  7. There’s only one man who loves you the most. Your Daddy loves you in a way no other man can. Even if he doesn’t always seem to know how to connect with you, he still loves you.
  8. Men don’t get it. They don’t understand females and it’s likely they never will. It’s hard enough for us to grasp the idea of periods, child birth and mood swings. It’s best to give them a break.
  9. Challenge yourself – physically, emotionally and mentally. Your body is more resilient than you can imagine. Find ways to test your limits and allow yourself to fail. Once in a while you might be surprised and do something you never thought possible.
  10. You will cry – sometimes for no good reason. There’s also a good chance you will fail to cry when others expect you to. Bring eye drops and thank your hormones.
  11. Speak up. Share your thoughts without apology and instead exhibit confidence, respect and tact. Anything you believe in is worth the fight.
  12. Be alone. Live by yourself and find out who you are. Find happiness and success by standing on your own two feet.
  13. Find an older brother. Well, not really – but, really. Every female should grow up with an older brother, and since you don’t have a biological older brother, find a male to stand in. While their pranks, burps and punches might not seem like an advantage now, you will thank them later.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes.  
  15.  Age is just a number. We are all in this together. Whether a teenage girl or a woman in her 80’s, all females share a common thread. You can choose to reject our differences or embrace the similarities.

I will always be a few decades older, ready to navigate this world alongside of you.  But for now, I am going to work on removing the grass stains.

 

There’s a funny thing about aging; finding the hidden benefits

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When a group of women more than twice my age gather in a coffee shop to chat, it’s hard not to listen. It becomes even more important to pay attention when they begin dishing out advice and sharing wisdom about the benefits of aging.

After a round of gossip at the table about who is getting divorced for the second time, the women began talking about updates in their lives while giving and seeking advice from the others about various topics.

“You need to be on the Facebook,” the one said while the others politely smiled. “That is where all of the fun is happening.”

The chattiest of the bunch leaned back in her chair as if feeling defeated and started sharing the struggle she’s having with her teenage daughter.

“The coffee shop down the street is hosting trivia night Friday night. They’re even playing songs from the Beetles and ask guests to request,” she said. “My daughter will be home from college and I’d like to take her, but I know she wouldn’t want anything to do with ‘old people’.”

The women laughed and moved into a discussion about the benefits that come as a result of accumulating years.

“There’s a point you get to when you realize age really doesn’t matter,” one woman said. “I’ve decided to stop counting at 69.”

The conversation continued, with a list of important aging benefits trailing close behind.

  1.  Discounts at grocery stores
  2. Cheap Frosty’s at Wendy’s
  3. Ability to say what you want; and
  4.  An unsaid societal license to use the word “dead” without sounding to harsh, when speaking about those who have passed on before you

The best of the advice, though, was that from the last woman to leave the table.

“These are the perks of getting older. We need to take advantage of them because we’ve earned it!”

Blog Action Day: Girls Rule!

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What if I said there is a woman out there who is concerned about her weight because she doesn’t want her kids to be ashamed of her? Psst… I said it.

Today is Blog Action Day 2011 – an annual online event, uniting bloggers around the world with blog posts about a global issue. Today is also World Food Day; therefore, the topic for discussion this year is food. Follow the coversation on Twitter, using #bad11.

I was recently in a coffee shop and overheard the conversation between two woman I consider a global issue because, well, this issue is there regardless of race, culture, region, family or any other of the ways we can categorize ourselves today.

My ears perked up in the conversation when one of the woman began talking about how girls in her daughter’s class had started to call her fat. The girl is 6 years old. This was heart-breaking, yes. But, what was even more was where the conversation went next. The concerned Mom started sharing her own struggles with food and weight. Her daughter’s experience had struck a chord and now, as a grown woman, she was concerned about her weight and struggles with food because she didn’t want her daughter to be ashamed of her Mom.

This story leads me to believe, as adults, we are still children, but playing on a different playground. A playground with secret tunnel clubs, monkeybars {these ones serve alcohol} and [emotional] rollercoasters. We still have the same struggles, worries and dreams for the future.

For women, weight continues to be an issue around the world – too big, too small, eat too much, not enough access to food, poor nutrition.

The story above showcases two examples of how this global issue has affected female lives. What will it take to make a positive shift for women around the world? I’ve posted a few of my favorite inspirations for change below, but please share others in your community or around the world.

And, as always, thank you for reading!


Promoting Change

  • Girls on the Run (GOTR): A positive youth development program which combines an interactive curriculum and running to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls.
  • Dove® Real Beauty Workshop for Girls: Building a movement in which women everywhere have the tools to
    take action and inspire each other and the girls in their lives. (Also watch http://youtu.be/iYhCn0jf46U – an eye-opening Dove® advertisement)
  • New York Times article “Weight Issues Around the World“: A look at how the issue of weight is perceived around the world.
  • MSNBC.com’s coverage of the ‘Girl Project’: Coverage of a project comparing weight issues of teenage girls today and stories of women from 30 years ago. [hint: there’s not much difference]