“Remember in grade school when the boys would snap your bra strap against your back?” Several of the other ladies looked at me with a knowing glance. Yes, they remembered.
Recently, a friend was talking about how excited her niece was to get her first training bra. My mind immediately transported me back to that awkward time of adolescence when I was half fired up to begin wearing the badge of womanhood and half totally embarrassed. The latter feeling mostly stemmed from the fact that the boys in my class were also noticing this milestone. And their way of letting us girls know they were clued in was to come up from behind, grab and pull back our bra straps, then swiftly let them go so they smacked against our backs as they ran away laughing.
Can somebody tell me when little girls started becoming teenagers at age seven?
My daughter may look like a seven-year-old. She may still dress in clothes from Gymboree and have crooked teeth not quite yet ready for braces. But she has the sass factor of a sixteen-year-old. And frankly, I am a little tired of it.
I have recently been relieved that I am not the only mother struggling with this. I have witnessed the behavior in some of her friends and have heard exasperated “I-can-not-take-this-anymore” ventings from other moms. And just the other day, my friend Heather said of her young daughter, “I think she just finds being difficult an acceptable hobby.”
Well, that made me laugh out loud, of course. Yet it also confirmed my worst fear: we are facing an epidemic of sass among little girls. This is likely a by-product of years of letting girls in elementary school dress like teenagers planning to give it up on prom night. Little did we know that teenage fashion was simply the gateway drug to teenage attitudes.
I, for one, am not going to stand for it. I will not be made to feel irrelevant by my daughter until she is AT LEAST in middle school, like in the good old days. So I took immediate action.
And my immediate action wasn’t very successful. I can’t imagine why. Whenever my dad stopped dead in his tracks, glared at me with white-hot anger, and bellowed, “WHAAAAT did you saaaaay?,” that was enough to keep me on the path of straight and narrow. (My grandpa was also successful using this method the time I had just seen Little Shop of Horrors and decided to quote Audrey II’s line, “tough t*tties” to show my lack of sympathy towards one of my cousins. In my defense, I was too young to know what that meant. In grandpa’s defense, he didn’t care.) But apparently my fury does not strike the fear of God in my daughter. Instead, she ended up crying that I was”hurting her feelings,” then she went to her room, slammed the door, and proceeded to say sassy things about her horrible mother behind my back.
Well, that backfired.
Next I tried the extremely mature tactic of sassing her right back. You wanna go down this road, little girl? Because you have no idea who you are dealing with. Not only could I post some major sass points in my day, but I also used to teach rooms full of teenage girls, some of whom were very privileged. Rich, spoiled teenage sass is about as top-notch as it gets. So between my own natural-born talent and my ivy league education in the art, I believe I have earned the equivalent of my B.A., Master’s Degree, and Ph.D in Sassology. But I guess the fact that I don’t use these degrees very often anymore (because I tend to communicate like, um, an adult) made me a little rusty. Grace matched my sass every time…and then raised the bar.
Admittedly, part of me wanted to throw in the towel. But that is not what moms do. So finally I decided to try a more thoughtful approach. Maybe I need to create that magical little panacea called a “teachable moment.” Grace’s usual defenses when she has done something wrong are “I didn’t realize I was doing it,” or “It was an accident.” While I know this isn’t true all the time, I can also give my daughter a break in realizing that sometimes the sass probably does fly out of her mouth before she has time to thoughtfully construct her words. Heck, that happens to me…and she is only seven, after all. So I came up with a plan.
I told Grace than whenever she speaks to me or anyone in a disrespectfully sassy tone, I would give her a warning by simply saying, SASSAFRAS. That is her cue to change her attitude, and if she doesn’t, then there will be a consequence. Pretty smart, if I do say so myself. My hope is for a gradual training in appropriate attitudes towards people. And I was certain Grace would be appreciative of my calm and reasonable treatment of this matter…
Grace: “Sassafras????? I don’t even know what sassafras is!!”
Me: “Right now all you need to know is that it means you are being sassy and you need to stop.”
Grace:”Why don’t you just say Miss Sassy? Sassafrasis stupid.”
Me: “You are doing it right now. Sassafras. Stop being sassy.”
Grace: “When I have a daughter, I’m going to use Miss Sassy. And she is not going to be sassy at all.”
Sigh. Despite the rocky start, I am going to stick with this plan for a while because I do think it has merit. But right now it feels like the only thing I am going to get out of sassafras is possibly a tasty microbrew.
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” – Irina Dunn
My friend Karen made reference to that quote the other day, and I smiled when I read it. I immediately had a flashback to my sophomore year of college when my dorm mates and I adopted it as our unofficial slogan, since all four of us had hopeless crushes on guys who either barely knew we existed or were masters at mind games. We were even going to make tee shirts emblazoned with the phrase, complete with a drawing I had made of a fish riding a bicycle, toting the four of us along in a side car. We never actually made the tee shirts which, in the long run, probably helped my future dating life, lest I be branded a man-hater.
And I have to admit now I sure need my husband a whole lot more than a fish needs a bicycle. In my case, maybe I could change the analogy to “A woman needs a man like a fish needs that little snail who eats all the crud off the walls of the tank and makes the place a little less lonely.” But the spirit of sisterhood the original statement implies is still something I believe in…probably now more than ever. A woman needs her girlfriends. Period.
I have amazing girlfriends. Funny, intelligent, big-hearted, supportive, do-anything-for-you amazing girlfriends. And I am lucky to not just have a few of them…I have a lot of them. For some reason, I must have been at the right place at the right time on several different occasions to acquire all these groups of women who at any given point in my life fill my bucket when too many things have been dipping into it. And they can each do it in a way that is special and unique to the certain bond that we have, be it our nostalgic high school or college experience, having kids in class together, our family ties, our shared love of music, all being married to fraternity brothers, or having worked side by side as colleagues. But they can also do it in a way that can not be matched because they are women, and we all share bits and pieces of a larger conscious, like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s over-soul: a conscious that allows certain things to go unconditionally understood.
Yet that does not keep us from sitting around a table of margaritas and Mexican food, talking about anything and everything for hours on end. My average girls’ night out dinner runs about three hours, and probably would go longer if we did not get such dirty looks from the wait staff who are trying to close up and go home on a Tuesday night. My husband has said on more than one occasion, “What do you talk about for that long? How do you sit in one place? I’d shoot myself in the eye.” Well, that’s how I feel about football, which is equally as long, not nearly as funny, and no one is wearing anything that I care to know where it came from so I can go get one for myself.
So yeah, girlfriends rock. To all my girlfriends, consider this my love letter to you. I thank each and every one of you for being in my life, for making me laugh way too hard, for talking me through things, for listening me through things, for having my back, for making me feel normal, for making me feel special, for inspiring me, for giving me role models to look to, for loving me for who I am, and for letting me know who you are. Because you are all beautiful. I feel honored to swim in your schools.
And to my husband, lest he feel slighted by this post: This fish may not need a bicycle, but I have never been a strong swimmer, and I much prefer the ride offered by your wheels.