Dear Daughter, I Hope You Never Act Like a LadyMonday, January 23, 2017
I've had a pretty exciting childhood. I remember spending a lot of time outdoors, at the nearby playground as well as climbing trees. I often ran with the neighborhood boys and never thought I was any different from them. I always asked to join cops and robbers even though I was often rejected. I would also join races to see who could run the fastest. I often won.
One of my fondest memories was holding a tennis ball and hurling it at someone's back (often a boy) as hard as I could while chasing after them at the same time. It was a mix of tag and hide and seek but the version that got you bruises afterwards.
My parents gave me a lot of space to play whatever game I wanted and I seemed to have a lot of energy. I sometimes played the usual "house" games with my sisters and other girls but I often ran, biked, and got dirty. I could never have imagined things would be different. But one day, it all had to change.
I had been at the school yard as usual, on top of a large pile of logs. My school uniform, a red dress, was starting to get muddied and my shoes were scuffed with dirt. I was trying to roll the logs under my feet and was succeeding. My father observed me for a while when he arrived to pick me up. I smiled from where I was perched.
He took my hand and started to speak to me in English and not in our local dialect. That always meant he had something important to say:
"You can't play like that anymore. You have to start acting more like a lady."
I was twelve.
More like a lady? I did not even know what that meant. I started to look at the father I loved and respected a little differently. What was he asking of me?
I knew then it would be the one advice I would not follow.
22 years later, I had done many things. I left home, quit my job many times and moved to many places I had never been. I learned to play sports that were seemingly "just for boys" like surfing and tennis. I traveled with friends, traveled alone and even lived by the sea all on my own. I survived traveling to countries that were deemed unsafe for women. I walked into slums and trekked deserts and no man's land on many occasions. I've climbed mountains and jumped from cliffs. I took boat rides, plane rides and train rides across continents. I saved myself from rip tides, strong currents, massive waves and reef breaks, countless times.
I had done all of that. And I never managed to act like a lady.
My dad, along with my mom, had done everything they could for me and they raised me in the best way they knew how. But now that I myself am raising a girl, I know I would never ever ask her to act like a lady.
I would let her run as fast as she can. I would give her as much space as she needs, to move freely and expend all her energy. I would never wilfully show her those fairy tales where the woman waits for the man to save her. And that's why anything marked "Disney" is banned from our house. Her toys are a mix of odds and ends, dolls and balls, pieces of cloth, cooking utensils, cars, trucks and bikes.
I avoid calling her "beautiful". Not because she isn't. In fact she is, but she is so much more. She is strong and brave and funny and smart and amazing.
I want her to know how strong she is and teach her to never set limits on herself. I would never want her to think that boys are better than her, or that she is better than them.
I want her to realize her own unique potential. I want her to see herself as that wonderful, magical being that she is and always hold the best image of herself. I hope she never stops having fun. May she continue to play, to always find joy, and be herself for the rest of her life.
And I hope she never acts like a lady.