I consider myself extremely easy going, but I insist dinner be “unplugged” and gadget free. We were gathered around the family dinner table when my exchange student tried to take a sneak peak at her cell, at least that’s what I hoped was going on. The prospect of her looking down at her crotch and smirking was pretty frightening. She then jumped up and informed us that the boy she was seeing was in the driveway waiting for her. She proceeded to head out the door in the pouring rain toward his car. Now wait a minute! How did we as a society get to this point?
At the risk of sounding like I am heading toward comfortable shoes and low impact stretching, things were different back in my day. Anyone dating me lived through a version of a Survivor reality show. First obstacle was the front porch where two males of similar age would just happen to be sitting in their football uniforms. To my prospective suitor’s surprise, instead of gladiator-like behavior they would totally humiliate the poor guy by saying to each other, “Oh, he’s cute! Is he here for you? No? Gosh, why does she get all the handsome men?” If he managed to continue forth into the doorway, he was met with the most terrifying of all creatures, the German father. His line of questioning would begin with a, “Do you play ball? Are you thinking of attending college? Did I ask you if you played ball?” Coming downstairs, I would wink at my date and tell my dad not to worry, that the person he was interrogating just returned from active duty and hasn’t seen a woman in 8 months, but that I’d be fine! After my dad realized I was joking, the poor guy was forced to eat overcooked green beans, unrecognizable meat, and “homemade” canned German potato salad. It was brutal. I did get the message loud and clear from my less-than-subtle family. I was valuable, and worthy of respect.
It has been a constant challenge to combat the images that saturate my children’s world. It is difficult to hone in on the message that women are more than a form of entertainment. Reality shows demonstrate that females must jump through hoops (or at any rate be REALLY flexible) and use their sexuality to snare the male. As long as the man can fog a mirror, has a pulse, and some monetary claim to fame he’s good to go. Are we doing our daughters a disservice when we glorify woman like Snooki? I know Snooki is proficient at using a beer bong and the “F” word as a verb and my personal favorite descriptive adjective followed by a noun as in “F”ing “F”er, but can’t we girls strive for more?
My Gram would always tell us the “apple theory”. She would say, “The apples at the top of the tree are the best. The fruit on the ground is not as good but most people pick it because it is easy to get. The fruit at the top thinks something is wrong since few make the effort to climb up, not realizing how amazing they are. The top dwellers need to wait. The right man will come along with a ladder.” Even in a world where it seems that cleavage has more clout than kindness, I have the honor of knowing some “top dwellers”. I also know a few that have fallen, bruised but not squashed, who come to realize their worth and sweetly ripen over time. These young women give me hope that not everyone is out to get “Snookied”.
Mary Helen can be reached c/o firstname.lastname@example.org