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Lessons for Girls Who Want to Grow up to Be Strong, Successful Women

February 22, 2013

I shouldn’t let shit like this get to me. I write for teh Interwebz myself. I know that you have to make provocative statements and start flame wars in order to get pageviews if you’re writing for one of the giant sucking vortices of online “news” sources like, say, HuffPo.

But I found myself grinding my teeth when, courtesy of STFU, Couples (a blog that I check regularly, probably to no one’s surprise), I found this piece by Raluca State on big, important, life lessons for her daughter and herself. It inspires me to invent exciting new obscenities and walk down to the liquor store on Colfax for their biggest, cheapest bottle of vodka, time of day or my state of (un)dress be damned. After all, I’ve taught adult students before. I know that the vast majority of the legally-able-to-vote population cannot distinguish the opinion of one woman who clearly read too much Cosmo, watched too much Sex and the City, and got too much goading from an editor desperate to feed the reader stats from a personal, secular bible that should naturally be the highest code of every woman, everywhere.

Granted, there’s some decent advice on this woman’s list. Don’t smoke? Yeah, that’s not cool anymore. Besides, I’m allergic, so I can totally get behind that one. Don’t suck up to the cool kids? Agreed. I count one of my fellow nerds in high school as my BFF, and many of the popular guys and gals are now married with one or more small children. Great if you’re into it, but I have to wonder how many of them settled down fresh out of college simply because that was what all their friends were doing.

But then there are the tidbits about splurging on shoes and handbags. On thinning your eyebrows (but not too much). On it being okay to wear makeup to bed. And, most offensive of all to someone who is in a male-dominated industry herself and would like to see more women succeed in the equally gender-imbalanced STEM fields, don’t worry about math. It’s hard. Tee hee.

So I’ve written a new and improved list for Raluca State’s daughter and any other young girls who feel confined to Barbie Dream Houses and Easy-Bake Ovens. The ones that I felt needed particular attention from my bitchy-red editorial pen are in bold. Enjoy!

Lessons for girls everywhere, especially the daughters of Raluca State and her ilk:

1. Don’t smoke. Or do, as long as you know the risks. I’m a firm believer in the policy of, “My body, my choice,” and that goes for the whole body. Just be considerate of those who don’t smoke.

2. Don’t date or marry a man or woman who doesn’t respect you on major lifestyle choices involving your body like smoking, drinking, or abortion.

3-4. Don’t worry about any boy or girl, ever, at any point in your life. Your happiness should never be contingent on some other person, no matter how smart, funny, or attractive they are. (Y’all knew these two would seriously get my goat.)

5. Math is hard. But it is also useful, even if you become a writer or artist. Even the social sciences require statistics. So take your time and be patient with the subject, and remember, there are tutoring resources available if you need extra help. It’s okay to not get straight A’s in math and science, but never give up on those subjects completely.

6. At your wedding, should you choose to go that route, spend money on the food and the open bar–after all, isn’t part of the point of having a big wedding making your guests feel like part of the ceremony? Save what you would have spent on a dress for a down payment on a house or the honeymoon.

7. I actually agree with this one–don’t get in cars with drunk people. Although there are also cab companies and public transit systems so that you don’t have to call dad–not your parents, just dad, apparently–constantly.

8. As discussed already, I also agree with the sentiment behind not sweating about the cool kids. I’d add that it’s important to find friends who share similar interests to you and won’t pressure you into doing things that make you uncomfortable.

9. Intern, if it’ll help you make connections in your field of interest. Otherwise, Craigslist has a pretty good supply of both long-term and one-off jobs in your field that will pay money.

10. I agree that it’s important to learn how to hear the word “no.” I’d also add to ask for advice on what could turn that into a “yes” at some point in the future. Unless we’re talking romance. Then no always means no.

11. Fuck this tip. I hate it. I’m going to chuck it and do a full rewrite: You’re beautiful as you are. Don’t stress the physical beyond basic hygiene and whatever makes you feel good. Don’t let anyone bully you into waxing/shaving, wearing uncomfortable clothes, or putting on makeup if that’s not your thing. If a potential date doesn’t like you as you are, they can literally go fuck themselves. Focus instead on being a good person and having fun hobbies that will make you a good friend and fun conversation partner. Oh, and if you decide to wear makeup and fall asleep before removing it, know that there is a strong chance your face will break out, and you will definitely have to wash your pillowcase the next morning. 

12. Be nice to your family members. Sometimes they make awesome ski and/or other sporting activity buddies when you grow up, especially if you’re similar in age. But if your family members are physically, mentally, or sexually abusive, you are fully in the right to cut them out of your life at a minimum and call the cops at the maximum.

13. I do agree with the philosophy of work hard/play hard. If you can find a way to combine the two, all the better.

14. I also agree that you can’t change people. They have to want to change themselves. If there are serious flaws that they refuse to address or even acknowledge, fuck ’em.

15. I also agree that the right music can change any mood, but I’d also say that there are sometimes where I want to be down in the dumps, dammit. A bout of self-pity, as long as it doesn’t last too long and isn’t accompanied by deeper issues that need to be addressed professionally, is good for the soul.

16. If you want to travel and can save enough money, backpack around the world. There are cheap enough hostels and good enough deals on transit that you can spend money on food and museums, and as long as you display common sense, you’ll be perfectly safe. If you want to travel but can’t save enough money, take a job teaching English abroad or work for the Antarctic program. You’ll get airfare, accommodations, and a stipend.

17. Spend money on quality clothing that makes you feel good. Yes, Nordstrom can be more expensive than Macy’s, but the former’s jeans will last longer. And don’t feel like you need to go blow a whole paycheck just because Cosmo or Carrie Bradshaw or some idiot columnist on HuffPo told you to. 

18. Create a memory box, keep a journal, or start a blog. Or don’t. Your friends will probably post a metric shit ton of photos of what will become your most awesome memories on Facebook anyway.

19. Learn to cook. Like math, some people are better at it than others, but also like math, it’s a skill that comes in damned handy.

20. You can be angry at your loved ones sometimes. But if you find yourself truly hating them, there are serious problems that need to be evaluated, possibly with the help of a mental health professional.

State did address some issues she herself would like to work on, even if I would like to swap a few out (I think lesson # 5, “There is no need to learn to drive a stick. Don’t let people pressure into thinking there is,” should be replaced with, “Stop feeding into society’s arbitrary and often archaic notions of what womanhood entails”), so I’ll oblige and share a few goals I’m currently working on. There aren’t 20 of ’em, though. I’m clearly much closer to perfection.

1. Carve out more time for creative writing projects. I feel pretty damned accomplished now that I’m getting paid to write for OutdoorEquipment and Colorado Collaborative Divorce, but my head is chock-full of stories that I need to get out there, even if it is just in shitty first draft stage for now.

2. Keep pressing forward with the creative work I’ve written. The illustrator I’m working with for my graphic novel is making progress, which means I need to start contacting publishers! I also need to find more resources for my full-length play, even if there are about fifteen more characters than most venues want to see from a burgeoning playwright.

3. Attend Beaver Creek’s PSIA Level 2 Cert Clinics. Then sign up for the clinic/exam itself next season.

4. Unless I finally commit to it and go spend a season working for the Antarctic program. Then I’ll take the Cert 2 the year after.

5. I don’t even know what a blow-out is. But I’m sure it’s not worth it. In fact, I’m sure my hair looked worse after I let my grandmother talk me into getting it styled a bit–layers do not look good under a ski helmet. So the lesson is to take the stylist aside and have her do something to my hair that doesn’t involve any actual changes to it while still making Grandma think it looks better.

6. Practice more with my dad’s manual transmission when I visit him next. Fuck you, Raluca State.

There. I fixed it. Even if it won’t generate the pageviews or comments the original piece did, at least I can take comfort in knowing that there is an extended middle finger to this outmoded line of thinking, should people choose to sweep deeply enough through the dirt and trash that floods the internet to find it.

 

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9 Comments
  1. smart and funny. thoroughly enjoyable read.

  2. Take comfort if you like, in knowing your message got to Australia! Well said and well done!

    • Thank you, I will definitely take comfort in that! Especially since I wonder if the author who inspired this realizes that the US is pretty much the only place where automatic transmissions are the default in cars…

  3. Ashley permalink

    Hiiiii where did my comment goooo? DID IT EVER EVEN POST? love youuuu. SAPPHIC DESIREEE *sorry, almost lost my cool there*

    • Not only did it apparently not post, it ate my reply along with it! DON’T MAKE ME SPEW INTERWEB BILE ALL OVER YOU, WORDPRESS! (I totally lost my cool there. Grrr.)

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