Girls frighten me a little. I don’t have any experience raising up daughters. But I’m related to females, I’ve worked with them, and I’ve taught them.
I often thought, “How hard can it be?”
Then I watched Thirteen, with Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood. It’s a movie about a young, 7th grade girl, who blows guys and does more coke than a dorm full of 1980s liberal arts majors. It freaked me out.
That movie, plus my disturbingly low platelet count are the primary reasons Marc and I never tried for a girl.
I still have opinions about how to raise girls to become smart, confident, good women because the females in my family kicked ass in this particular department.
Let’s start with menstruation.
Newspapers recently reported that Prozac can help women who suffer from PMS, mood swings, and maybe even the desire to eat lots of chocolate. Obviously, if women are fighting severe symptoms every month, they should seek a physician’s help.
But after hearing women complain for the last forty years, I have my doubts.
When I was a young girl dealing with adolescent changes, my mother and grandmother taught me that a woman’s cycle is natural. They said being snippy, Mom’s favorite word for teenage volatility, was not to be blamed on our body. Perhaps as result, I’ve never exhibited a single symptom of anything that would require Prozac.
No matter what Marc thinks.
I remember girlfriends in junior high, whining each month to get out of school, work, and other responsibilities.
I was jealous of them, so I tried it.
“You’re not feeling cramps,” Mom said.
I moaned, groaned, and blinked up at her a few times as if trying to focus through all the pain.
“What?” I asked.
“Your uterine wall is breaking down and moving through your body. Reproductive organs cleanse themselves every twenty-eight days. Exercise, eat right, and drink plenty of water so you won’t feel so bloated and bad. This isn’t anything mysterious. You’re feeling your body working properly.”
I thought about that for a moment, weighing the deep desire to stay home and watch soap operas with an Algebra test scheduled that day. I wasn’t going to give up so easily.
“Tammy gets to stay home two days every month,” I said, “and keep her feet elevated.”
Mom made a familiar face. She’d crinkled her nose in the exact same way three weeks earlier when I’d asked to pierce my nose.
“Walk up and down our street for five minutes,” she said. “If it really hurts, you probably need to do something besides sit in front of the television.”
She was good. I’d give her that.
I stomped outside and walked around the block. I did feel better and hated that my mom was always right. I walked back into the house, pouting.
“I feel the same.” I lied, rubbing my tummy.
She stopped making breakfast and stared at me. I sensed a novena coming on.
“Do you believe men and women are equal?” she asked.
I thought of my favorite T-shirt: Anything boys can do, girls can do better.
I immediately stood up straight, threw back my shoulders, and said, “Of course I do. I am a feminist and I believe -”
“Then don’t ask to be treated differently,” Mom said. “Either we’re equal or we’re not. Gloria Steinem doesn’t ask for sick days every month. Erma Bombeck doesn’t beg for an extension and keep her feet elevated. They work hard every day, just like their male colleagues. You shouldn’t ask for special treatment. Don’t tell me you believe in equal rights; show me. Now get to school.”
I never complained about cramps again.
It’s amazing what a walk around the block can cure.