I couldn’t stop thinking of this story this morning and I thought it might be appropriate to share on International Women’s Day. I’ve questioned my power for years based off of this story, and I’m tired of holding it in.
For Christsake, please stop telling your daughters that he is being mean to her because he likes her.
It seemed innocent enough, but I got that response from a few trusted women in my life when I came home distraught one day in third grade. I was upset because I had seen a boy at snack time bring Gatorade in a juice box, and I’d decided I would take any excuse to drink my favorite blue flavored (my favorite flavor is still blue) Gatorade at school, so I got my mom to buy me some! I brought my juice box goldmine to school and enjoyed myself, but my juice box enjoyment brought absolute terror to Snack-time Boy. I overheard him tell his best friend, “Taylor brought the blue Gatorade to school! She copied me! That’s it, Taylor has a crush on me!” I walked away defeated.
Snack-time Boy was the first boy who ever made me feel terrible about myself. He was the first kid who taught me that not all kids might not have good intentions, and they might not want to be your friend. He was the only boy in class who chose not to be nice to me because I had a distinct style of walking, and my distinct walk was my single defining trait. In the years since Snack-time boy, I’ve had male friends, boyfriends, and well-respected men point it out to me. There was a time where I sat a lot at school so people wouldn’t have to watch me walk around. I get it. Please stop pointing it out to me.
I would go to trusted adults and recall stories about my bully and they would respond something along the lines of “you know he’s picking on you because he LIKES YOU! He has a crush on you!” I think at this point I internalized that boys who spent time and energy saying awful things to you which make you question your worth, are worthy of your time and affection.
I lost faith in the Gatorade commercials at the time, which featured a man and a woman arguing “anything you can do I can do better!” Words of encouragement, lessons to embrace myself for unique qualities, and reminders to remember how powerful I was for simply being a GIRL were ignored, and I spent years living in the cobwebs of bullying which played a huge role in defining my self-worth.
I went through the rest of elementary and middle school as your painfully shy sidekick. I wanted nothing but for you to look past me because I believe I wasn’t worthy of your time and attention unless you were pointing out my flaws. In my mind, I would internalize complaints of Bully Boys and file them away for the purpose of bettering myself.
I want to have a daughter. I want to teach her to be extremely aware of the power she holds to set the world on fire. I want her to know that she has her own narrative which is exclusively hers to write, and if someone is making her feel less than zero, she should exclude them from her narrative and never let them define her as anything less than strong and capable. Most importantly I want to teach her that love is never built on anger or negativity. I want to show her that she is full of power and free to make the choice to take Gatorade to school in her lunchbox.