|My mother used to read this to me. (from When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne)|
If you are an eldest daughter, born in the 1950's, chances are you were a "good girl". You learned to speak quietly, reply politely and do as you were told. If your next sibling followed quickly (my brother is 14 months younger than me) it is likely that your mother was very busy.
|Little girl with a little curl|
I learned my role as "smart girl", conscientious, quiet...Hardly anyone ever noticed me or remembers me from school. I was always afraid that the day would come when I would be unsuccessful academically. Since I believed myself inadequate in every other field of endeavour, I would not survive in the school world. Catastrophizing ....
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
Our socialization plays a significant role in our participation in the world. As a very mixed-up young woman, I married the first man who asked because I might never get another offer. I'd be an unattractive, klutzy file-clerk for the rest of my life. Marriage is a life goal (maybe) and as in gym class, I would be chosen last. A wee bit of catastrophizing !
| The message is that little girl looking after others is good, little girl who spills her porridge |
is horrid. Who could have dreamt that one up?
Chimananda Ngozi Adichie maintains that the worst thing that we have done to girls is to change them into beings who have turned pretense into an art form. Girls learn to hide their negative feelings, to smile, to avoid disagreements. Through these deceptions, a girl will (supposably) win the competition for a husband.
This conditioning has caused me unhappiness throughout my life. In trying to follow the rules, I have caused myself pain. The people who set the rules have forgotten them or blame me for having chosen to follow them. It is made apparent to me that I no longer please as much as others whose lives were never dictated by this code.
If you are an eldest daughter of the 1950's, do you recognize some of these insecurities? Did you have a breakaway event in your life? It's liberating to know that no one dies from disapproval.
I wish I could have said this:
I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.
– Coco Chanel