I have been incredibly blessed with a couple special girls in my life. They are like daughters to me- although not, making it, in some ways, even better. They are very important relationships. They learn from me and I learn from them.
They are all girls to be reckoned with. They are not wilting flowers. They are not afraid of much, certainly not the things that scared me at their age. They are powerful. And yet, they are girls. A concept completely foreign to me.
I spent most of my childhood dressed as a boy, wanting to be like a boy, fighting like a boy, playing hard like a boy. Before you go down the lesbian-in-training road, I did it out of a sense of urgency. Being a girl in my house wasn’t safe.
I dressed in my brother’s clothes as often as I could. He taught me how to play sports, pushed me hard- there was no room for crying. I could play basketball, and play it really well. I knew all the sports scores, and stats of players from baseball to basketball to football, where they played college, what pro team they were on… I memorized the sports pages.
My girls, they are different from me. They are feminine and strong. They have long hair and muscles. They wear nail polish and don’t care when it gets chipped. I watch them in awe. They have achieved a balance both boys and girls should strive for- an appreciation for the best of both genders. And in doing so, they are smashing old roles and creating new ones.
They all played with Barbie’s, often wear pink, and two of them have a deep love of sport cars. They play sports. They dance. They whisper and giggle. And one can stand up and sing out loud, on stage, fearless, sans microphone, her voice filling the hall. They care about what their clothes look like and they wear sweatpants and hoodies. I nod in appreciation when Anya explains the retro-chic layered look she’s going to wear for the Kelly Clarkson concert. I have no idea what a retro-chic layered look is but I am sure it makes her happy.
I love their freedom.
Early this summer, I took [girl] up to Maine with me for a special trip. I have known [girl] since before she was born. She is now the ripe age of ten- almost eleven. We have always had a connection. When she was a little baby, I could make her smile- even without the Twinkle-twinkle song. A couple of years ago, she declared herself my daughter. You need a girl, she said. I’ll be your girl. I’ll be your daughter, okay? I was honored.
The rest of the clan was joining us for the weekend but she and I left early. Just the two of us. And the cat howling in the back of the car in her crate, she reminds me.
We got there and after unpacking, we wandered down to Perkins Cove to go shopping. I tend to go in a store, see what I want in thirty seconds and if not, I leave. I don’t try things on. Instead I hold them up and eye them for the correct size. In short, I hate shopping. But my girl wanted to shop, so we shopped. She picked out a small, metal garden sign that said “Queen.”
Get this for you boss, she said.
She had heard me on the phone on the ride up with my boss who was frantically trying to figure out the postage for an airmail letter to Canada. I answered the phone YES MY QUEEN, as I do when I see the caller ID and know it’s her. The process of getting the 63-cent stamp and the red “AIR MAIL” stamp on the envelope took three phone calls. She’s a brilliant investment manager. The details… well, that’s my job.
[girl] not only remembered what seemed like a completely off the cuff remark from me, she also recognized it in another form in the store. She heard my laughter in talking to my boss. She looked at me wide eyed after the conversation, hearing my quick answers to what seemed so foreign and grown up. For me, it was just a stamp and a moment to joke with the Queen.
And as girls often do, she took in the feelings, made the connection and pointed out the sign. It was profound to me. Touching. Thoughtful. Sweet. My boys are often sweet but I have never seen one of them make that kind of connection. It’s work to get them to think outside themselves in a way as girls, we are trained at an early age to do.
She’s still a kid- we went and picked out a sweatshirt for her and had ice cream cones on a bench by the rocks. We sat. Watched the tide come in. We talked. Just about stuff. I didn’t have to pry or pick up a baseball glove and toss a ball around to have a conversation. She talked about her feelings.
You don’t get to do this with the boys, do you? she asked me.
No, I smiled. Never.
Yet when the boys arrived, she was flying down the zip line, playing tag, throwing balls, laughing and being rowdy. She climbed rocks, jumped in waves, played four square- often better than the boys.
She has the best of both worlds.
In my own way, I’m learning from her, from my girls, what it is to be a girl. I have had a complete make over with an entire container of blue eye shadow to provide the perfect dramatic look and expert instruction on how to apply mascara- thank you, [girl]. I have been pampered at a salon, with beautiful, bright pink nail polish selected for me, my hands dunked in hot wax- thank you, [girl]. I have been slowly introduced to hair products, the idea of using them, to the art of blow-drying my hair- Thank you Melissa.
I’m not going to work in a sparkling cocktail dress but I have done a fabulous rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” in one. I’m never going to wear make up on a daily basis but I have watched it transform my face. I am never going to wear pumps but I learned how to turn gracefully in them. For the birthday song.
I love these silly acts. I love sitting on the bench and just… talking. I feel sadness for what I missed as a child and a joy in discovering it now.
My girls are showing me gray in roles I thought were black and white.
Chipped nail polish and all.