Operation Caffeination

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“Go away from me!” the six year old girl wails. “I don’t play with boooooys!”

Rainbow tights, a tutu and leotard combo decked out in sparkling sequins, a tiara perched precariously on top of her woefully average, dishwater blonde hair. She must be freezing, but she has spent the last hour wiggling her hips around on the tallest platform on the playground, swishing her hair and demanding that everyone else throw glitter like Ke$ha.

She is just a kid, I think to myself. What does it do to kids to literally grow up believing that they are literal ballerina princesses? What will happen to her when she develops stretch marks, saggy boobs, spider veins? How will she cope?

I turn to observe her father. Mid-forties, shoulder-length brown hair, full beard, hairy toes spread out comfortably in Chaco sandals, his whole outfit shows total disregard for the forty degree weather…definitely your typical Seattle dad.

Do you think about what you do?

I’m brought back to reality as I hear the young princess bellow out in her so completely average voice, “I told you to go away from me! Girls can only play with girls and boys can only play with boys! GET OUT OF HERE, YOU STUPID BOY!”

My three year old son is still standing determinedly next to the slide, still waiting for his turn on the playground equipment, still hanging in there like the champ he is. I can see hurt growing in his eyes as the prima donna continues her rant. She is just that sure that the world is her oyster, that she calls the shots, that she reigns supreme in a society full of benevolent worshippers. Do her parents realize how poorly they are preparing her to inhabit a world where only perhaps 6% of rapists do jail time? This is not empowerment. This is not right.

It is not my place to speak to this child, but I hear my own voice cracking through the noise in a sharp, angry bark:

“YOU. You will think about other people before you throw your words at them. Think about what your words do to other people on their insides.”

I’m yelling at the wrong person, and I know it. The little girl seems to shrink in front of me, and I can see that I’ve caught her off guard, maybe scared her a little. I glance at her father, fully expecting a very loud and very negative reaction to my outburst. But dad is still seated, smiling uncomfortably, but apparently not moved to stand up for his daughter. I don’t know why I find that surprising. Everything I’ve seen this afternoon indicates that this little girl is being raised by the media wolves; if he won’t stand up for her in front of the tv, why would I expect him to defend her from strangers, sexist teachers, douchey boyfriends, vitriolic politicians?

I wonder if he thinks that he’s teaching her to be independent. You know, a “real rebel”, like The Little Mermaid or Jasmine from Aladdin. I feel a little sick as I watch her scamper away. My son is staring at me.

“That kid doesn’t like boys,” he frowns.

“That kid hasn’t had a chance to find out what she likes yet,” I reply loudly. Dad squirms and tries to avoid looking at me. “That kid is just playing games. I don’t like those games because they hurt people. She probably learned that one from something she saw on TV, and she won’t have very many cool friends if she doesn’t learn a better way to play very soon.”

“I’m going to go play with a boy instead,” my son informs me.

“Good idea,” I reply. “Play with a nice boy. Or a nice girl. Or a nice DUCK. Or a nice ALIEN.”

“Moooom!” Three years old, and already with the eye rolls? “Mom, you’re just being too crazy.”

“Am I being too silly for you?” I smile. “Go have fun. Find someone cool and nice to play with and stick together.”

Less than ten minutes later, my baby is happily dragging branches across the playground to help his new friends, Max and Ariana, build a clubhouse that will serve as base during hide-and-seek.

The girl who thinks she’s a pop star is angrily refusing to play with another little girl because “your game about dimensions and fairies sucks! I don’t play stupid kid games!”

Dimension girl abandons her to join in the hide-and-seek, and the pop star demands to be driven home. She and her father depart, miserable.

And maybe that’s the key to this whole mess. Misery does love to have a bit of company, doesn’t it? That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. Perhaps this explains the pressure I feel to conform, to view my sex life as dysfunctional, my eyelashes as thinning, my pores as enlarged, my teeth yellowed, my hair dulled, my skin damaged, my face wrinkled, my body ruined and in need of surgical correction. Perhaps the voice I hear all around me, all the time, the voice that wants to sabotage my self-confidence and make happiness into something I have to earn and deserve…perhaps that’s just the voice of all these miserable, miserable people who really would like to join in my fun, if they could just figure out how.


Written by GRSeim

March 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm

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