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Pink and blue.

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I love Look At My Happy Rainbow. He is my kindergarten counter-weight to where all sprouts begin–I am at the other end of the spectrum in 8th grade, where the sprouts are at their awkward “just about to blossom” phase?! Oh dear – yuck. That’s an awful analogy.

And though right now I am about as hyper, distracted, and antsy as any boy who’s forced to where his Sunday best when he’d rather go fishin’, his post reminded me about one I said would write about the particular care and feeding of girls. I have a big project to finish over spring break, and I don’t wanna. And that’s the thing about boys — they tend to do what they want to do. And I’d rather do this. Just write for myself.

DO NOT misunderstand me, please. Men can be responsible, dependable, trustworthy, heart-ful souls. At least my husband, father, sons, and male friends I’ve had and have. Respectful, chivalrous, and brave. And carefully protective. My husband does not open doors for me, nor does he remember anything about toilet seat positioning, but his ‘absent minded professor’ demeanor is pretty endearing.

But how did these strong caring men become this way?

Gender issues in classroom, the work environment, and the world are complicated. We are all still parceling out roles and identities.

But I can tell you from a female perspective, there is one thing that never seems to change, no matter how many Dove beauty product commericials try to convince us otherwise, is most of us have a very distorted view of our physical selves.

So–maybe this is about two things: how girls get in the low self-esteem pitfalls, and how boys help push them in. How we all push each other not-so-gently into roles we’d rather not act.

We’re still reading Absolutey True. The chapter we left on is when the love interest, Penelope (PENELOPE? Sherman Alexie – Penelope? I don’t think there is a big case of caucasion girls being named Penelope in the states, but it’s your story, your character), and Junior discovers her big secret: she is suffering from bulemia.

Now, my second period class is famous/infamous for grand discussions. Whatever I thought I might have planned is directed by this group of highly inquisitive students. There is the full barage of personalities, even for a small class. I adore them.

I decided to share a personal story, one I have not shared with anyone, really, about my tiny, small brush with an eating disorder in high school. I had only ever heard the word “anoerxia” but never bulemia. When I was a sophomore and dating one of my first serious high school boyfriends, his passing comment to me was something to the effect that I had a big behind. Six words: “Your butt looks kind of big.”

Let me paint a picture: I was, am, close to 5’9″ (not quite), and weighed 128-132lbs. I don’t remember what size I wore, but probably around an 8/10. My figure was not boyish, but I was pretty thin.

This sent my fragile self-esteem into a tailspin: I went on the Scarsdale Diet, and went down to 117lbs.

Now, the boys in the class shocked me–this is definitely a generational/cultural perspective: they said that my boyfriend meant it as a compliment. I said, “Oh no–he most definitely did not.” When I was in high school telling a girl she had a big caboose was definitely not ‘junk in the trunk I like big butts and I cannot lie’ kind of thing.

Now Happy Rainbow said the comment (and I am paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to look up the exact quote), that even in kindergarten girls are more concerned with being cute than smart. I would caution Happy that any label can lead to a fixed mind set. No girl wants to be the “Velma” if she can be “Daphne.” I was kind of hoping we could be both in our brave new world. The Velma would be considered attractive, too, and Daphne’s IQ would be raised.  (Huh – no one ever worries about Shaggy or Fred, do they?)

Girls (and women) do not hear the same frequencies boys/men do. Let me explain. I proceeded to tell the boys in the class to be very, very careful in their comments to girls. If they want to be a gentleman and tell a girl she looks nice, say, “you look nice today.” Do not comment on particular body parts, shapes, etc. Some of the more, um, blunt boys said “what if we mean it in a nice way?” I could promise them, guarantee them, that it is never nice. And many of the girls quietly agreed. Their voices were muffled. But I looked them in the eye and told them that no boy’s comment is worth one’s self-worth.

My favorite uncle, who is wonderful, but complicated, said once that it was a shame that my grandfather wasn’t still alive because he kept everyone from getting fat with his comments and remarks. But I also remember my grandfather as being a gentleman, too. But my uncle is right – though I am back on track, if my grandfather had seen me in recent years there would have been tears. He would not have commented on my degrees, successes, triumphs– he would have commented on my weight. He’s not even on this astral plane and the inner dialogue is resonating.

Those sorts of hurtful side comments are lingering, poisonous dialogue in one’s head. Consider the hundreds of messages we are sending to both girls and boys about how their worth is measured.

So, little girls, big girls, and all in between, and to the boys who are their friends: be kind to each other.

The embed code is only available upon request: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

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