Friday, October 18, 2013

A Girl Like Me... is what?

My family.

We're all quite... something. Very interesting in our own ways. Bright. Insightful. Crazy. Funny. Strange. Competitive. And smart.

The young ones - my nieces and nephews - are carrying the same smart-crazy-insightful banner, and I'm so very proud of them.

Recently, though, as I waited to see 'Gravity' (OMG, see that movie), I read an INCREDIBLE poem penned by my fourteen-year old niece Ryan. And as I read, my jaw dropped, and I held my breath as I read, and then, I jabbed my husband David in the arm for him to read it, to read it now, damn it, I don't care if Passbook isn't working, you gotta read what Ryan wrote RIGHT NOW.

Her piece truly struck me (even after reading it for the sixth time today). As you'll recall, back in August, I posted thoughts about Strong Female Characters.

And as a writer of The Strong Female Character, and as s Strong Female, and always questioning what that means, Ryan's essay completely overwhelmed me. The ease of her language, the sarcasm, the anger, the thoughts behind it, knowing the type of young woman Ryan is today and who she will be in seven years... Right then, I emailed my brother Terry to ask Ryan if she'd let me post and share it with you all. And Ryan agreed.

Background first: Ryan and her classmates have been discussing gender roles, with reference to a piece by Jamaica Kincaid. The kids were told to write in her style.

And here is what Ryan wrote:

Girl by Ryan H.
Don’t scream or play in the mud. This is how to dress up like a princess and like the color pink. This is how to raise your hand enough, but not too much. This is how to think boys have cooties and sit at separate lunch tables. This is how to wear dresses and be a daddy’s girl even though you have shorts underneath. This is how to be a girly girl or a tomboy. Never in between. This is how to have ‘fastest’ always followed by ‘girl.’ This is how to avoid contact and talk behind each other’s backs. This is how to be nice. This is how to smile. Don’t raise your voice or tell people what to do.

You would never want to hurt anyone, would you?

This is how to be a victim. This is how to need saving. This is how to exist for others and make other people feel needed. This is how to need others because I know you will. This is how to define yourself as strong because it isn’t implied. This is how to let others define your worth until you drift into becoming someone else’s. This is how to be his sister, his mother, his wife. This is how to be a mother because I know you will be.

This is how to be pretty and wear makeup. This how to be delicate and soft-spoken. This is how to listen first and pause before you speak. This is how to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. This is how to apologize when someone else has done something wrong. This is how to precede sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ even if nothing is wrong. This is how to use pretty language and giggle and flirt with your eyelashes even though you think it looks foolish.

You want to be ladylike, don’t you?

This is how to pretend you are half the person you are.

People like that.

See?! I told you! It's... DA BOMB, right? Gives you hope for the future.

Smart Girls.

Thinking Girls Who Know Gender-Shenanigans Are Afoot And Cock Their Eyebrows At Your B.S.

I absolutely love it!

Thanks again, Ryan, for letting me share!


  1. Okay, Rachel's AWESOME website brought me here! But Ryan is REE DICK! For real! When I was fourteen, I thought I could write, but man! I really hope she is in a class for writing or something cause that is some real talent.

    1. First, thanks for stopping by the website - I'm thrilled with it! And second: Ryan. Right? Crazy, right? Really: when I first read it, I cried - for its beauty, its frustrations, her talent, her... everything. I'm so proud of her! Thanks again!