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Permitting Girls to Admit What They Want

“You wanted chocolate chip cookie dough, honey, not chocolate chips, right?” said her mom. Claire: “Yes, but it’s OK.” The server overheard, smiled, apologized for the error, and said she was happy to remake Claire’s cone. The little girl again said she was fine with chocolate chips.

This isn’t a story about ice cream, of course. It’s about a girl self-monitor- ing so as not to inconvenience, embarrass or annoy others. Or…it’s a story about a girl content within herself, who doesn’t get worked up about the small inconveniences of life. More complicated, it’s a story about a mother trying to figure out how to teach a daughter to stand up for herself, but also to be grateful, be gracious and not feel entitled; at once appreciative of what she has and able to say what it is that she deserves to have.

Claire’s mother is a strong woman, outspoken in her feminism. At the same time, she will be the first to say that she often chooses what seems easiest, the path of least resistance, at the expense of what she really wants.

And often, women fear seeming too demanding, bitchy, needy—too female. There is also the fear of sounding privileged. And so, we keep our mouths shut. We allow ourselves to remain misheard, we agree to do things we don’t want to do, we accept less than what we paid for, earned, deserve. And we remain unfulfilled. Our daughters see this. They hear us say, “it’s OK, don’t worry about it,” and they eat their chocolate chips with no cookie dough, accept lower salaries than their male peers, get talked over in meetings, let others claim credit for their ideas. And we weep, for failing our children in ways we didn’t see coming.

How do we preserve a relaxed contentment in girls who are lucky enough to have those qualities by nature, or instill a sense of gratitude in girls who don’t, while ensuring they don’t turn into women who too easily sacrifice their needs and wants to the needs and wants of others?


 

Elizabeth Mandel on the Lilith Blog. 

© 2011 Lilith Magazine