September 9, 2017
Posted in View from the table
Round about this time fifteen years ago I was toughing it out on the labour ward. I hazily remember finding myself in the kind of self-induced, silent trance that a Scientologist could write a manual about, shusshing anyone in the vicinity in case my weird, unexpected, spell be broken. No drugs (no time for them), no birth plan – no point in my opinion – you can’t really plan for pushing a baby out of your body, and I guess, if I’m honest, no clue either. Clueless as I was, I did something right and hours of weirdness later there she was, all blue eyes and a mass, and I mean a mass, of jet black curls.
Then I sort of blinked and fifteen years whizzed by and my black haired, blue eyed girl became a dark brown haired, bright green eyed teenager. She runs rings around me every single day of the week, she has me wrapped around her little finger – she has THE knack of bringing out the absolute sucker in me. She’s strong and so scarily capable, I’ve said it before, but I sort of forget who’s the adult very, very often around her. She could arm wrestle (and beat) a pub full of navvies, hands down – I would not be at all surprised if she casually told me that she regularly did. She’s smart, SO god damn smart and she doubles me up laughing with her bone dry, sarcastic sense of humour that’s scarily a little too sophisticated for a fifteen year old.
Or maybe it isn’t, because I’m no more sure what a fifteen year old is supposed to be like than I am a 45 year old?
What I do know is that our girls have so much shit to contend with; I think that boys do too, but I’m a woman with two daughters from a matriarchal, female-centric family, so I only have my perspective to view from. And this is no ‘girls-are-better-than-boys’ rant because they’re not, we’re all equal, but we’re also not. I know we’re not. While we have gender based pay divides, while we have countries where girls are not deemed fit to be educated, where girls are married off before they’ve even hit puberty, where rape victims are blamed for their choice of clothing when the attack happened, where a woman’s body and age are classed as far more important than her achievements in our mainstream press – actually just every way a woman is portrayed in our mainstream, right wing press. Then I know we’re not. And I know that the fight continues – and it’s a fight fought by men and women, no lazy sexism here.
But for a teenage girl, man, it’s hard; body shaming, the intense pressure to ‘grow up’, photoshopped unrealistic expectations of what we should look like, sexualised at every turn and all under the never-sleeping, never-ending glare of social media. I don’t know how to navigate these choppy waters, I’m learning as I go along, but I do know that it’s BRILLIANT to be 15, that shiny life is just waiting to be lived, worries (should be) few and you’re in that great space between being a kid but having more autonomy. I also know a few things I what to tell my girl:
- Give a damn about the world around you. it’s where you’ll be spending your future, and you CAN make a difference to it. You can’t vote yet, but you can start to dig a bit into how the world works.
- Have opinions. You’re more than entitled to them.
- If you don’t like things, change them. You are entitled to do that too.
- When I say, ‘sweet Jesus, what are you listening to?’ Smile at me, in that sarcastic way you do so well, and kindly tell me to do one. Your influences, your taste, what makes your heart beat faster is your choice – not mine.
- Be kind. Always be kind. You have no idea what other people’s lives really look like, behind the facade.
- Don’t settle. You’re better than that. If it doesn’t give you butterflies, then wait for the thing that does. It will happen, and you’ll be ready to embrace it.
- Don’t be fooled by social media, don’t compare your looks, your body, your prospects or your life to other people’s Insta feeds. Nobody’s life is that good, that blessed, that perfect. It’s a crock of poo, I promise you that.
- Aren’t you glad that you listened to me when I told you not to mess with your eyebrows? You’re welcome.
- Don’t get hung up on boys. Ugh, you’ve got a lifetime to do that. Hold that back, please. Please.
- Don’t smoke and don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s a good idea to drink 3 litres of Frosty Jack.
- Re: the above – Do as I say, not as I do – hahaha. (I have never drunk 3 litres of Frosty Jack…)
- Embrace the stupid. Make more brilliant videos running around with Pringles tubes on your head, please. Be as ridiculous as you possibly can. Aim for close call in peeing your pants laughing when you’re with your friends.
- Don’t strive to be ‘grown-up’, it’s not all that. You have to pretend to know all the answers and not look like you want to kill yourself when you’re food shopping on a Saturday, getting a good car insurance deal and choosing an electricity tariff.
- Aim to see as much of the world as you possibly can.
- Try hard at school, do your very best. School will be over in a flash, but the exams you leave with can make the rest of your life a whole lot better.
- However, don’t stress your beautiful head – there’s nothing that can’t be figured out, sat again, re-visited. You shouldn’t even know what the word ‘stress’ means.
- Standardised exams and tests do not define your intelligence or capability.
- Don’t feel bad about not knowing what you want to do for the next 70 years, it’ll fall into place when it’s meant to.
- If anyone tells you that you cannot do something because you’re a girl then you have my full permission and blessing to snap them in two.
- Care about other people. Treat everyone with the respect you’d like to be shown yourself.
- Keep on championing people who are not as lucky as you are.
- Take no shit, but don’t be a dick about it.
- Get angry about stuff. Then figure out how you can change it for the better.
- You are so beautiful right now. You won’t realise it or believe me until you’re mid-40s and battling to keep your sweet butt the right side of your knees. You’re amazingly, dazzlingly, beautifully perfect.
- Drink loads of water every day. Trust me on this one. Perfect skin is not accidental.
- Look after your teeth.
- Look after your friends. They’ll do the same for you.
- Please keep talking to me. I don’t have all the answers, I’m figuring half of this lot out with you, let’s do it together. With Pringles tubes on our heads.
- Be nice to your sister. She adores you, and if you’re as lucky as me then you’ll be best friends for ever.
- Listen to your mother – she’s usually right. Usually.
- And when we fight about music in the kitchen and the car let’s always sing it out to this. Happy birthday my darling.