Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back in the Day

I remember being fifteen. There are not many memories that don't seemed tinged with the unrequited yearning for my life to be something different. Yearning – that feeling of wanting something undefined; looking for some feeling or person or experience to make me feel good about myself. That's what I remember at fifteen. And yes, it had a lot to do with boys. I sure wanted to feel loved. Just sometimes those boys had odd ways of wanting to 'love' me.
Most of what I did as a teenager was never shared with my mother. Oh, she knew that I went to school, got good grades, spent a lot of time with my friends and had boyfriends to take me to dances and on dates. I didn't tell her about the parties, the dramas or close calls. She had her hands full with other family issues and I was happy to simply manage my way through one episode after another.
Now I have my own fifteen year old daughter navigating the landscape of boys, parties, friends and dramas. She has few qualms when it comes to telling me what is going on in her world. I would never say that I know everything that goes on in her life – thank god – but I know enough to be reminded of my own yearning at her age and the trouble it got me into. Sometimes uncomfortable, often unsure of what was right. I want to tell her to elbow the jerk who dares to touch her when she has asked him not to or speak up when a guy makes a sexist comment that borders on harassment. Walk away, push back, take any one down who dares to make her feel powerless.
Because I couldn't.
And I stop the words from coming out of my mouth. I drag myself away from those awkward, frustrating memories formed in that horrible world of high school peer pressure and let her talk it out.
Even if I want to hire a hit man – I sit and listen and feel with her.
I stew and worry, wondering what awaits this child of mine in her future – and take a deep breath, letting go of any wild ideas my mind is creating about a future that has yet to unfold.
It is her future. It isn't a moment to give her a list of 'you should haves' - it is a space to let her hear herself say that she felt horrible and frustrated. I feel bad that 'feminism' is a label in my daughter's world that means social death. I had hoped that would have changed by now.

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