We raise them to be good girls, to nod politely during fine conversation, carried on during respectable hours, with respectable people.
We raise them to be pillars of hope; encouraging others in their struggles. We hug them and cradle them from the womb to teach them that they, too, should hug others.
Pearls of sweat always wiped away before becoming visible, to be the tirelessly devoted caretaker.
We raise them with their kitchen play sets and plastic burgers and fries to prepare, to toil, to serve those near and dear, insistently offering heaps and dollops of crème fraiche flavored, affectionate nurture.
We raise them to banter upon the midnight keys of the baby grand, to cajole the audience with a fine melody. High-five the little entertainer.
Pat, pat upon your severely strewn locks all wrapped up in an impeccable bow, “you are such a good girl.” Oh, indeed, she hears you, her tiny countenance aglow with your praises, forming a map, a how-to manual which will beckon the praises of all of the others; a lifetime of others. A heavily laden backdrop of nodding, and “yes sir” and “yes ma’am.” Discipline and structure abounds her omnipresent, formative years. She will please and she will shine.
This little essay is for all of those good little girls, turned to women, who must learn how to say “no, sir” and “no, ma’am.”
Here is the boundary that draws distinctions between people.
Sometimes she must say “no” and nod “no” for nobody else other than her and her own self-interest. Sometimes she must walk away still being a “good girl” because she is learning that her obligation is to nurture herself, too.
Here is to the good girls who have traded in their bright-eyed baby dolls and longed, instead, to sit in solitude, sometimes for hours on end, strewing together words upon words, which offer semblance to their own pale logic.
This is for the good little girls who leave those plastic frying pans, those dull golden rubber buns; left to acquire a lifetime of mold.
This is for the little girls who are too busy collecting grasshoppers and salamanders, head to toe crusted in mud, smelling, not like perfume and soap, but like straw and finely decomposing fall leaves. Yes, little girl we love you, too.
This is for the little girl, come lady, who screeches out an alarming melody, a protestation, a vigorous:
“No! I don’t want to wear your dresses, I won’t be a good little girl, I want to listen to crickets and cicadas and feed the goats in my denim jean coveralls! Someday, I want to be the CEO and walk about with ease in a simple pair of flat shoes meant for utility!”
For the little girl who doesn’t want to smile and nod, on some days she wants to stomp and to curse a big, “F*ck you, world!”
She wants to say it and not fall from her imagined place of grace, clinging to all of this sturdy awareness, panicking that she has careened over the invisible line, teetering on becoming a very bad girl, indeed.
Yes, good and bad and all of these startling dichotomies. Black and white pervade in a world of pastels, blues and greys; there must be something beyond the stark definition, the deft appraisal, and no girl wants to be tossed to the bad girl side when it comes to such grossly serious matters.
Even with messy hair, smeared mascara, no mascara, when we have stayed up too late, when we can’t wake up in the morning, when we have allowed cruel words and actions to rush passed angrily contorted lips, we still want love.
When we have shattered our picture perfect with heaps and doses of vapid reality, we still want to be loved, we still want to be a good girl turned woman. A woman worth loving and we want to fill up our own hole that reeks of neediness, the irrational desire for love which we know needs to be sustained by our own self-love, a love that remains beyond these tendencies of fluctuating moods, beyond good girls and bad girls.
To reach the place of total acceptance, the point of compassion for our own humanness. Yes, right there, that space of self-nurturing. Maybe we are good girls turned woman, after all.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Stephanie McCracken
Apprentice Editor: Leah Krol/ Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock